6. Old Trend: Americans drive more and more.
New Trend: Americans drive less and less.
Remember when gas cost a buck a gallon? If so: Congratulations, you’re old. With gasoline more-or-less permanently at $4, Americans are finally adjusting their lifestyles, driving less and less even as unemployment falls. Meanwhile, rail traffic is up, with Amtrak logging a 55% gain since 1997. As we ditch our cars and hop on trains, buses, and bikes, expect an increasing number of Americans to discover the freedom that rail and public transit offers.
7. Old Trend: Skyrocketing health care costs, skyrocketing deficits.
New Trend: Creeping health care costs, creeping deficits.
Health-care costs and the national debt are drowning the nation, right? Well, maybe. But the water isn’t rising nearly as fast as we thought it would. Health-care costs are still outpacing economic growth, but they are doing so at a slower pace, thanks perhaps to the imminent start of Obamacare, medical innovation, or the recession. Meanwhile, the percentage of health sector jobs is finally falling as a percent of the total. As for that big, bad deficit, it’s fallen by more than half since 2009, and this quarter the federal government actually intends to pay back a tiny bit of the debt. Of course, for those who think that austerity is bad for the economy, this is bad news, but Americans who are worried about the national debt can breathe a little easier.
8. Old Trend: The BRICs are conquering the world.
New Trend: China is the only BRIC in the wall.
Remember the BRICs? Those new rising super-economies that were going to eclipse the old guard of America, Europe, and Japan? Well, they hit a BRIC wall. Russia, Brazil, and India, tigers of the 2000s, have slowed to 2 or 3% growth – about the same rate as the rich countries. China is the last BRIC standing. Although it has experienced a mild slowdown, too, it is still powering ahead at a robust 7.5% rate. Instead of the rise of a new economic order, we should be talking only about the rise of China.
9. Old Trend: Active management rules the finance universe.
New Trend: Passive investment rules the finance universe.
The number-one way that the finance industry makes its money is by collecting fees from people in order to manage their money. Pension funds, mutual funds, hedge funds, endowment funds…it seems like every dollar you save gets a hefty cut as it passes through the hands of middleman after middleman. And they can’t all beat the market, can they? But America’s love affair with money managers may be going lukewarm, as more and more investors move their wealth into passive management. Passive management means piggybacking on the wisdom of the market instead of paying one pro big bucks to try to out-guess the other pros. Exchange Traded Funds, offered by companies such as BlackRock and Vanguard, are one of the main passive investment vehicles that have emerged in recent years. Meanwhile, some big pension funds are turning to passive management. This could be the dawn of a new, laid-back financial age.