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Today, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will retire. This is going to happen day after day, month after month, year after year until 2030. It is the greatest demographic tsunami in the history of the United States, and we are woefully unprepared for it. We have made financial promises to the Baby Boomers worth tens of trillions of dollars that we simply are not going to be able to keep. Even if we didn’t have all of the other massive economic problems that we are currently dealing with, this retirement crisis would be enough to destroy our economy all by itself. During the first half of this century, the number of senior citizens in the United States is being projected to more than double. As a nation, we are alreadydrowning in debt. So where in the world are we going to get the money to take care of all of these elderly people?
The Baby Boomer generation is so massive that it has fundamentally changed America with each stage that it has gone through. When the Baby Boomers were young, sales of diapers and toys absolutely skyrocketed. When they became young adults, they pioneered social changes that permanently altered our society. Much of the time, these changes were for the worse.
According to the New York Post, overall household spending peaks when we reach the age of 46. And guess what year the peak of the Baby Boom generation reached that age?…
People tend, for instance, to buy houses at about the same age — age 31 or so. Around age 53 is when people tend to buy their luxury cars — after the kids have finished college, before old age sets in. Demographics can even tell us when your household spending on potato chips is likely to peak — when the head of it is about 42.
Ultimately the size of the US economy is simply the total of what we’re all spending. Overall household spending hits a high when we’re about 46. So the peak of the Baby Boom (1961) plus 46 suggests that a high point in the US economy should be about 2007, with a long, slow decline to follow for years to come.
And according to that same article, the Congressional Budget Office is also projecting that an aging population will lead to diminished economic growth in the years ahead…
Lost in the discussion of this week’s Congressional Budget Office report (which said 2.5 million fewer Americans would be working because of Obamacare) was its prediction that aging will be a major drag on growth: “Beyond 2017,” said the report, “CBO expects that economic growth will diminish to a pace that is well below the average seen over the past several decades [due in large part to] slower growth in the labor force because of the aging of the population.”
So we have a problem. Our population is rapidly aging, and an immense amount of economic resources is going to be required to care for them all.
Unfortunately, this is happening at a time when our economy is steadily declining.
The following are some of the hard numbers about the demographic tsunami which is now beginning to overtake us…
1. Right now, there are somewhere around 40 million senior citizens in the United States. By 2050 that number is projected to skyrocket to 89 million.
2. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, and29 percent of all American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.
3. One poll discovered that 26 percent of all Americans in the 46 to 64-year-old age bracket have no personal savings whatsoever.
4. According to a survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, “60 percent of American workers said the total value of their savings and investments is less than $25,000”.
5. 67 percent of all American workers believe that they “are a little or a lot behind schedule on saving for retirement”.
6. A study conducted by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research found that American workers are $6.6 trillion short of what they need to retire comfortably.
7. Back in 1991, half of all American workers planned to retire before they reached the age of 65. Today, that number has declined to 23 percent.
8. According to one recent survey, 70 percent of all American workers expect to continue working once they are “retired”.
9. A poll conducted by CESI Debt Solutions found that 56 percent of American retirees still had outstanding debts when they retired.
10. A study by a law professor at the University of Michigan found that Americans that are 55 years of age or older now account for 20 percent of all bankruptcies in the United States. Back in 2001, they only accounted for 12 percent of all bankruptcies.
11. Today, only 10 percent of private companies in the U.S. provide guaranteed lifelong pensions for their employees.
12. According to Northwestern University Professor John Rauh, the total amount of unfunded pension and healthcare obligations for retirees that state and local governments across the United States have accumulated is 4.4 trillion dollars.
13. Right now, the American people spend approximately 2.8 trillion dollars on health care, and it is being projected that due to our aging population health care spending will rise to an astounding 4.5 trillion dollars in 2019.
14. Incredibly, the United States spends more on health care than China, Japan, Germany, France, the U.K., Italy, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Australia combined.
15. If the U.S. health care system was a country, it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet.
16. When Medicare was first established, we were told that it would cost about $12 billion a year by the time 1990 rolled around. Instead, the federal government ended up spending $110 billion on the program in 1990, and the federal government spent approximately $600 billion on the program in 2013.
17. It is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.
18. At this point, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years. That comes to approximately$328,404 for every single household in the United States.
19. In 1945, there were 42 workers for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits. Today, that number has fallen to 2.5 workers, and if you eliminate all government workers, that leaves only 1.6 private sector workers for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits.
21. Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.
22. The U.S. government is facing a total of 222 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities during the years ahead. Social Security and Medicare make up the bulk of that.
So where are we going to get the money?
That is a very good question.
The generations following the Baby Boomers are going to have to try to figure out a way to navigate this crisis. The bright future that they were supposed to have has been destroyed by our foolishness and our reckless accumulation of debt.
But do they actually deserve a “bright future”? Perhaps they deserve to spend their years slaving away to support previous generations during their golden years. Young people today tend to be extremely greedy, self-centered and lacking in compassion. They start blogs with titles such as “Selfies With Homeless People“. Here is one example from that blog…
Of course not all young people are like that. Some are shining examples of what young Americans should be.
Unfortunately, those that are on the right path are a relatively small minority.
In the end, it is our choices that define us, and ultimately America may get exactly what it deserves.
That didn’t take long. On Monday, the Dow was down another 326 points. Overall, the Dow has now fallen more than 1000 points from the peak of the market (16,588.25) back in late December. This is the first time that we have seen the Dow drop below its 200-day moving average in more than a year, and there are many that believe that this is just the beginning of a major stock market decline. Meanwhile, things are even worse in other parts of the world. For example, the Nikkei is now down about 1700 points from its 2013 high. This is causing havoc all over Asia, and the sharp movement that we have been seeing in the USD/JPY is creating a tremendous amount of anxiety among Forex traders. For those that are not interested in the technical details, what all of this means is that global financial markets are starting to become extremely unstable.
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be much hope on the horizon for investors. In fact, troubling news just continues to pour in from all over the planet. Just consider the following…
-Major currencies all over South America continue to collapse.
-Massive central bank intervention has done little to slow down the currency collapse in Turkey.
-Investors pulled more than 6 billion dollars out of emerging market equity funds last week alone.
-The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) has risen above 20 for the first time in four months.
-Last month, new manufacturing orders in the United States declined at the fastest pace that we have seen since December 1980.
-Real disposable income in the United States has just experienced the largest year over year drop that we have seen since 1974.
-In January, vehicle sales for Ford were down 7.5 percent and vehicle sales for GM were down 12 percent. Both companies are blaming bad weather.
-A major newspaper in the UK is warning that “growing problems in the Chinese banking system could spill over into a wider financial crisis“.
-U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is warning that the federal government could hit the debt ceiling by the end of this month if Congress does not act.
-It is being reported that Dell Computer plans to lay off more than 15,000 workers.
-The IMF recently said that the the probability that the global economy will fall into a deflation trap “may now be as high as 20%“.
-The Baltic Dry Index is now down 50 percent from its December highs.
If our economic troubles continue to mount, could we be facing a global “financial avalanche” fairly quickly?
That is what some very prominent analysts believe.
Below, I have posted quotes from five men that are greatly respected in the financial world. What they have to say is quite chilling…
#1 Doug Casey: “Now is a very good time to start thinking financially because I’m afraid that this year, in 2014, we’re going to go back into the financial hurricane. We’ve been in the eye of the storm since 2009, but now we’re going to go back into the trailing edge of the storm, and it’s going to be much longer lasting and much worse and much different than what we had in 2008 and 2009.”
#2 Bill Fleckenstein: “The [price-to-earnings ratio] is 16, 17 times earnings,” Fleckenstein said on Tuesday’s episode of “Futures Now.” “Why would you pay 16 times for an S&P company? I don’t care about where rates are, because rates are artificially suppressed. Why isn’t that worth 11 or 12 times? Just by that analysis, you’d be down by a quarter or 30 percent. So there’s a huge amount of downside.”
#3 Egon von Greyerz of Matterhorn Asset Management: “Nothing goes (down) in a straight line, but the emerging market problems will accelerate and it will spread to the very overbought and the very overvalued stock markets and economies in the West.
So stock markets are now starting a secular bear trend which will last for many years, and we could see falls of massive proportions. At the end of this, the wealth that has been created in the last few decades will be destroyed.”
#4 Peter Schiff: “The crisis is imminent,” Schiff said. “I don’t think Obama is going to finish his second term without the bottom dropping out. And stock market investors are oblivious to the problems.”
“We’re broke, Schiff added. “We owe trillions. Look at our budget deficit; look at the debt to GDP ratio, the unfunded liabilities. If we were in the Eurozone, they would kick us out.”
#5 Gerald Celente: “This selloff in the emerging markets, with their currencies going down and their interest rates going up, it’s going to be disastrous and there are going to be riots everywhere…
…So as the decline in their economies accelerates, you are going to see the civil unrest intensify.”
Those that do not believe that we could ever see “civil unrest” on the streets of America should take note of what just happened in Seattle.
After the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, fans celebrated by “lighting fires, damaging historic buildings and ripping down street signs“.
If that is how average Americans will behave when something good happens, how will they act when the economy totally collapses and nobody can find work for an extended period of time?
We are rapidly approaching another great financial crisis. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn any of the lessons that we should have learned last time. It is being projected that the debt of the federal government will more than double during the Obama years, the “too big to fail banks” have collectively gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years, and the big banks have become more financially reckless than ever before.
When the next great financial crisis arrives (and without a doubt it is inevitable), millions more Americans will lose their jobs and millions more Americans will lose their homes.
Now is not the time to be buying lots of expensive new toys, going on expensive vacations or piling up lots of debt.
Now is the time to build up an emergency fund and to do whatever you can to get prepared for the great storm that is coming.
As you can see from the financial headlines, time is rapidly running out.
Did you know that financial institutions all over the world are warning that we could see a “mega default” on a very prominent high-yield investment product in China on January 31st? We are being told that this could lead to a cascading collapse of the shadow banking system in China which could potentially result in “sky-high interest rates” and “a precipitous plunge in credit“. In other words, it could be a “Lehman Brothers moment” for Asia. And since the global financial system is more interconnected today than ever before, that would be very bad news for the United States as well. Since Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, the level of private domestic credit in China has risen from $9 trillion to an astounding $23 trillion. That is an increase of $14 trillion in just a little bit more than 5 years. Much of that “hot money” has flowed into stocks, bonds and real estate in the United States. So what do you think is going to happen when that bubble collapses?
The bubble of private debt that we have seen inflate in China since the Lehman crisis is unlike anything that the world has ever seen. Never before has so much private debt been accumulated in such a short period of time. All of this debt has helped fuel tremendous economic growth in China, but now a whole bunch of Chinese companies are realizing that they have gotten in way, way over their heads. In fact, it is being projected that Chinese companies will pay out the equivalent ofapproximately a trillion dollars in interest payments this year alone. That is more than twice the amount that the U.S. government will pay in interest in 2014.
Over the past several years, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and the Bank of England have all been criticized for creating too much money. But the truth is that what has been happening in China surpasses all of their efforts combined. You can see an incredible chart which graphically illustrates this point right here. As the Telegraph pointed out a while back, the Chinese have essentially “replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system” in just five years…
Overall credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion since the Lehman crisis. “They have replicated the entire U.S. commercial banking system in five years,” she said.
The ratio of credit to GDP has jumped by 75 percentage points to 200pc of GDP, compared to roughly 40 points in the US over five years leading up to the subprime bubble, or in Japan before the Nikkei bubble burst in 1990. “This is beyond anything we have ever seen before in a large economy. We don’t know how this will play out. The next six months will be crucial,” she said.
As with all other things in the financial world, what goes up must eventually come down.
And right now January 31st is shaping up to be a particularly important day for the Chinese financial system. The following is from a Reuters article…
The trust firm responsible for a troubled high-yield investment product sold through China’s largest banks has warned investors they may not be repaid when the 3 billion-yuan ($496 million)product matures on Jan. 31, state media reported on Friday.
Investors are closely watching the case to see if it will shatter assumptions that the government and state-owned banks will always protect investors from losses on risky off-balance-sheet investment products sold through a murky shadow banking system.
If there is a major default on January 31st, the effects could ripple throughout the entire Chinese financial system very rapidly. A recent Forbes article explained why this is the case…
A WMP default, whether relating to Liansheng or Zhenfu, could devastate the Chinese banking system and the larger economy as well. In short, China’s growth since the end of 2008 has been dependent on ultra-loose credit first channeled through state banks, like ICBC and Construction Bank, and then through the WMPs, which permitted the state banks to avoid credit risk. Any disruption in the flow of cash from investors to dodgy borrowers through WMPs would rock China with sky-high interest rates or a precipitous plunge in credit, probably both. The result? The best outcome would be decades of misery, what we saw in Japan after its bubble burst in the early 1990s.
The big underlying problem is the fact that private debt and the money supply have both been growing far too rapidly in China. According to Forbes, M2 in China increased by 13.6 percent last year…
And at the same time China’s money supply and credit are still expanding. Last year, the closely watched M2 increased by only 13.6%, down from 2012’s 13.8% growth. Optimists say China is getting its credit addiction under control, but that’s not correct. In fact, credit expanded by at least 20% last year as money poured into new channels not measured by traditional statistics.
Overall, M2 in China is up by about 1000 percent since 1999. That is absolutely insane.
And of course China is not the only place in the world where financial trouble signs are erupting. Things in Europe just keep getting worse, and we have just learned that the largest bank in Germany just suffered ” a surprise fourth-quarter loss”…
Deutsche Bank shares tumbled on Monday following a surprise fourth-quarter loss due to a steep drop in debt trading revenues and heavy litigation and restructuring costs that prompted the bank to warn of a challenging 2014.
Germany’s biggest bank said revenue at its important debt-trading division, fell 31 percent in the quarter, a much bigger drop than at U.S. rivals, which have also suffered from sluggish fixed-income trading.
If current trends continue, many other big banks will soon be experiencing a “bond headache” as well. At this point, Treasury Bond sentiment is about the lowest that it has been in about 20 years. Investors overwhelmingly believe that yields are heading higher.
If that does indeed turn out to be the case, interest rates throughout our economy are going to be rising, economic activity will start slowing down significantly and it could set up the “nightmare scenario” that I keep talking about.
But I am not the only one talking about it.
In fact, the World Economic Forum is warning about the exact same thing…
Fiscal crises triggered by ballooning debt levels in advanced economies pose the biggest threat to the global economy in 2014, a report by the World Economic Forum has warned.
Ahead of next week’s WEF annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the forum’s annual assessment of global dangers said high levels of debt in advanced economies, including Japan and America, could lead to an investor backlash.
This would create a “vicious cycle” of ballooning interest payments, rising debt piles and investor doubt that would force interest rates up further.
So will a default event in China on January 31st be the next “Lehman Brothers moment” or will it be something else?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The truth is that what has been going on in the global financial system is completely and totally unsustainable, and it is inevitable that it is all going to come horribly crashing down at some point during the next few years.
It is just a matter of time.
While manufacturing and services PMIs disappointed, the big problem in big China remains that of an out-of-control credit creation process that is blowing up. As we previously noted, instead of crushing credit creation, the PBOC’s liquidity rationing has forced distressed companies into high-interest-cost products in the shadow-banking world. Investors on the other side of “troubled shadow banking products” had assumed that ‘someone’ would bail them out but this evening Reuters reports that ICBC has confirmed that it will not rescue holders of the “Credit Equals Gold #1 Collective Trust Product”, due to mature Jan 31st with $492 million outstanding. The anxiety from contagion concerns of the first shadow-banking default has pushed the Shanghai Composite back near 2,000 for the first time since July – and to its narrowest spread to the S&P 500 in almost 8 years.
The Shanghai Composite is tumbling… to six month lows (and back near 2,000 for the firs time since July)…
and its closest (nominally) to the S&P 500 in almost 8 years…
…borrowers are facing rising pressures for loan repayments in an environment of overcapacity and unprofitable investments. Unable to generate cash to service their loans, they have to turn to the shadow-banking sector for credit and avoid default. The result is an explosive growth of the size of the shadow-banking sector (now conservatively estimated to account for 20-30 percent of GDP).
Understandably, the PBOC does not look upon the shadow banking sector favorably. Since shadow-banking sector gets its short-term liquidity mainly through interbanking loans, the PBOC thought that it could put a painful squeeze on this sector through reducing liquidity. Apparently, the PBOC underestimated the effects of its measure. Largely because Chinese borrowers tend to cross-guarantee each other’s debt, squeezing even a relatively small number of borrowers could produce a cascade of default. The reaction in the credit market was thus almost instant and frightening. Borrowers facing imminent default are willing to borrow at any rate while banks with money are unwilling to loan it out no matter how attractive the terms are.
Should this situation continue, China’s real economy would suffer a nasty shock. Chain default would produce a paralyzing effect on economic activities even though there is no run on the banks. Clearly, this is not a prospect the CCP’s top leadership relishes.
So the PBOC’s efforts are merely exacerbating the situation for the worst companies… for example… Zhenfu Energy…
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest bank by assets, said on Thursday that it has no plans to use its own money to repay investors in a troubled off-balance-sheet investment product that it helped to market.
ICBC’s shares have fallen this week amid speculation that the bank would be forced to help repay investors in a 3 billion yuan ($496.20 million) high-yield investment product issued by China Credit Trust Co Ltd but marketed through ICBC branches. The product is due to mature on Jan. 31.
“Regarding this unsubstantiated rumour, a situation completely does not exist in which ICBC will assume the main responsibility (for the trust product),” an ICBC spokesman told Reuters by phone on Tuesday.
The trust product, called “2010 China Credit / Credit Equals Gold #1 Collective Trust Product”, used the funds it raised from wealthy investors in 2010 to make a loan to unlistedcoal company Shanxi Zhenfu Energy Group Ltd.
But in May 2012, Zhenfu Energy’s vice chairman, Wang Ping Yan, was arrested for accepting deposits without a banking licence.
Which Barclays warns:
In our view, despite the trust issuer, distributor bank and local government perhaps trying to bail out the mining company, the regulators and central government could probably allow the trust product default to happen as:
- government appears fairly determined to reform the financial system and cut off the implicit guarantee of financial institutions;
- the State Council is reportedly streamlining regulation of shadow banking including trust business; and
- the default of trust products could have less social impact than the default of WMPs, bonds and other products sold to the general public or have problematic practices, such as asset-pool investments.
In our view, the default of trust products could trigger some short-term negative impacts on China’s financial sector and the reputation of financial institutions. However, we believe it is positive for the healthy development of financial system in the long run because the default could do the following:
- Be a step to reduce the implicit guarantee of financial institutions for investment products. Banks could shift their financial liabilities back to the investors.
- Increase the risk awareness of both investors and financial institutions, which could correct the pricing of investment products to more risk-oriented.
Its conclusion is dire: “If the trust product goes into default, we believe it would be the first default to test the financial system.”
Here is the product…
And the growth of such products has been enormous as we have explained in great detail previously: at RMB10.1 trillion as of Q3 should the first domino fall, watch out below.
Finally for those who have forgotten, below is a quick schematic of what a WMP looks like:
“There is an unresolved self-contradiction in China’s current policies: restarting the furnaces also reignites exponential debt growth, which cannot be sustained for much longer than a couple of years.”
The “eerie resemblances” – as Soros previously noted – to the US in 2008 have profound consequences for China and the world – nowhere is that more dangerously exposed (just as in the US) than in the Chinese shadow banking sector as explained above.
- TREASURIES-U.S. bond prices trim gains after Fed’s Beige Book (xe.com)
- Treasury Lying About Debt: Bachmann (hispanicbusiness.com)
- Fed Keeps $85 Billion Bond Buying Pace, Sees Disinflation Risk – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Standard Treasury Wants to Bring Banks into the 21st Century (programmableweb.com)