Hope Has Changed — It Died
Jan 28 2013
Hope is dying in the US.
The performance of financial markets affects everyone. For savers and investors, these markets represent the means to an improved life, at least as they define it. Savings and wealth provide options and opportunities, the quintessential aspect of being an American. These options and opportunities differentiated an American from someone who was born and destined to die in a hut or remain locked in a societal class from which there was no hope of escape.
Bonds and stocks were the primary means for savings and investments for generations of Americans. When these do not perform up to expectations, lives are changed. Plans and dreams are dashed. College educations, retirements and similar major events are deferred or never happen.
We are twelve years into this new century and Americans are losing their hopes, dreams and aspirations. Hard reality has crushed the optimistic spirit that once drove the country. The first decade rivaled the 1930s in terms of stock market performance. Twice, stock market wealth was halved in this ten-year period. Twelve years in, the S&P 500 has returned a total of 14%. That puny return has not come close to covering the decline in purchasing power of the dollar during the same period. Worse, a generation or two, has lost probably 33% of their wealth-producing years.
College graduates come out of school under-educated and buried in debt. Most cannot find a job commensurate with their education or aspirations. Taxes rise and will accelerate in the future as the federal debt and social promises become more binding. Young people find it difficult to imagine getting out from underneath their student loans or buying a home.