In 2016, Social Security old age and disability benefits recipients will likely see no cost-of-living adjustment for only the third time in the last 40 years. The reason: low inflation. Each year, the level of the annual COLA for the following year is determined after the end of the third quarter by comparing the inflation rate (the CPI-W, to be precise) with the prior year’s inflation rate. The CPI in 2015′s third quarter is, so far, below 2014′s third-quarter inflation, and thus no COLA.
However, for higher-income Social Security recipients, there will be an unintended consequence beyond simply not getting a “raise” in their Social Security checks. Because of the way the law works regarding Medicare Part B, higher-income retirees will see sharp increases in the premiums they pay for Medicare Part B premiums (lower-income recipients are “held harmless” from such increases).
This development reflects how economics and the tax code and market performance and retirement and health care planning — all of great interest to advisors — are intertwined. It also reflects how advisors’ clients, even the higher-net-worth ones, can feel the effects of economic and demographic change.
As part of Investment Advisor‘s 35th anniversary issue, we decided to take a look at the changes that will occur in that large group of people known as the American population over the next 35 years.
If the popular, and mostly accurate, image of an advisor in 2015 is that of a white man in his 50s whose average clients are white married couples in their upper 50s, get ready for an iconoclasm.
And if you picture a typical independent advisor as a lone wolf entrepreneur who found his calling only after trying another line of work, your picture will need some serious Photoshopping as well. For one thing, he might well be a she. For another, the person (or persons) running this hypothetical firm may not be entrepreneurs but people with financial planning degrees who chose to be advisors as their first career. It makes sense that the ethnic and racial and gender makeup of advisors will change along with the changing demographics of the larger population, though most industry observers would agree that change has yet to happen (see “The Changing Demographics of Advisors”).
The Client of the Future
Your typical client will likely change as well, if demographic trends already in play continue (see “What if the Projections Are Wrong?”). It’s a mistake to think that in the United States a typical family comprises a couple that marries while young and stays together until death, raising their natural-born children in their home until said children reach a launchable (post-college?) age.
Such families — and such couples — are becoming more the exception than the rule. A 2013 Census Bureau report noted that “it is difficult to talk about a single kind of family or one predominant living arrangement in the United States,” wrote Jonathan Vespa, Jamie Lewis and Rose Kreider in “America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2012.”
Here are some highlights from that report:
Between 1970 and 2012, the share of households that were married couples with children under 18 halved from 40% to 20%.
The proportion of one-person households increased by 10 percentage points between 1970 and 2012, from 17% to 27%.
Between 1970 and 2012, the average number of people per household declined from 3.1 to 2.6.
Households with five or more people decreased by half, from 21% to 10% of all households, between 1970 and 2012, while the share of households with only one or two people increased from 46% to 61%.
Households where a single male or female lived alone increased over those same years from 5.6% to 12.3% for men, and from 11.5% to 15.2% for women.
The population of the United States is growing older every day, the percentage of foreign-born residents is getting bigger every day and white, non-Hispanic people are on track to become a minority in this country.
How the Population Will Change
A report issued in March 2015 by the Census Bureau with a typically long-winded title — “Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060” — sums up how the makeup of the U.S. population will change over the next 35 years.
“By 2030, one in five Americans is projected to be 65 and over,” wrote Sandra Colby and Jennifer Ortman in the Census Bureau paper. “By 2044, more than half of all Americans are projected to belong to a minority group (any group other than non-Hispanic White alone); and by 2060, nearly one in five of the nation’s total population is projected to be foreign born.”
We’ll get to the reasons why an older population will affect advisors and their clients and the U.S. economy and markets a little further on, but let’s first discuss the issue of the changing ethnic makeup of the country.
First, a little history. We like to call ourselves a “nation of immigrants,” but the truth is that America has had a love-hate relationship with foreigners coming to our shores well before immigration policy became an issue among the current crop of Republican presidential candidates. Among the earliest “immigrants” to this country were the Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, but also Africans, mostly West Africans, who came to the 13 colonies as slaves — in fact, 20 Africans arrived in Virginia as indentured servants in 1619, a year before the Pilgrims arrived, and 4 million were set free by President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
In the 19th century and into the early 20th century, different waves of immigrants came to the United States. Between 1820 and 1930, some 4.5 million Irish immigrated, for instance. Between 1880 and 1920, 20 million immigrants arrived, including 4 million Italians and 2 million Jews, mostly from Eastern Europe. There were immigrants from Asia as well, but the biggest single group of immigrants over those decades came from Germany — some 5 million. The biggest year for immigration was 1907, when 1.3 million people entered the U.S. legally. The nation’s total population that year was only 87 million.
The country started tightening immigration with the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 and then the Immigration Act of 1924, which set quotas for immigrants of European origin (matching their percentages of the U.S. population in 1890) and essentially barred immigration from Asian countries. Japanese anger over that bar was just one of the ongoing issues between the U.S. and Japan in pre-World War II days.
In signing a new immigration law in 1965 — 50 years ago — President Lyndon Johnson said the 1924 law’s quota system “violates the basic principle of American democracy — the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man. It has been un-American in the highest sense, because it has been untrue to the faith that brought thousands to these shores even before we were a country.”
That law, the Hart-Celler Immigration Bill of 1965, substituted an immigration system based primarily on family reunification and skills that the country needed rather than quotas.
According to the Census Bureau’s 2014 national projections, between 2014 and 2060, the native population is expected to increase by 62 million people, or 22%, while the foreign-born population is projected to increase by 36 million people, or 85%. The foreign-born population is expected to reach 19% of the total U.S. population by 2060.
Regardless of whether those changes fills you with excitement or dread, you — and your partners and successors — will be operating in that different America.
More Immigrants: Good or Bad?
So are immigrants good for an economy and for a society?