A report in today’s Wall Street Journal reminds us how unlikely it is that the baby boomer-led U.S. economy as we once knew it will ever be restored. Incomes, savings, investments, and consumption are now entering a new and very different era where all four seem to be going in the same direction – down. The decline in spending by retirees is clear to see in the chart below and baby boomers will probably have to cut back even more.
The diminishing work prospects will require many older folks to make do with less - a discouraging outlook for firms hoping to sell them everything from dinners to cars.
As of 2008, the latest data available, people aged 65 to 74 were spending 12.3% less than they did ten years earlier, in inflation-adjusted terms. They cut spending on cars and trucks by 46%, household furnishings by 35% and dining out by 27%. At the same time, they spent 75% more on health care and 131% more on health insurance.
That’s a pretty remarkable shift in spending – from cars, clothes, and dinners out to monthly meds. Sadly, the health care industry is likely to be about the only “engine” for economic growth in the U.S. for some time to come.