Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
No more white pages. In the past few months, state regulators in New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania have ended the requirement that telecommunications companies publish residential phone books. Many older Americans will be dismayed. A doctoral student who is writing her dissertation on phone books described it, according to the Associated Press, as “sort of heartbreaking.”
"Sort of" is an understatement. Just ask the baby-boom generation. Boomers are caught between two worlds in a new kind of generational sandwich. The bottom slice is their children, who access the world through the Internet. The top slice is their parents, who access the world through print—newspapers, magazines, letters, and phone books. It is heartbreaking to see the bewilderment of the older generation as familiar icons disappear, one after the other.
Right now—literally right now—it is all coming together (or falling apart, depending on your point of view). The transition from the old world of print to the new world of the Internet is almost complete. In 2010, 79 percent of American households used the Internet, up from fewer than half of households in 2000, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The massive brick and mortar businesses built on the profits generated from putting ink on paper are collapsing.
Boomers are stuck in the middle. Among people aged 65 or older, only 42 percent are online. The older generation is increasingly dependent on boomers—their children—to help them navigate a strange new world.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Almost 15 million Americans are unemployed, and 31 percent have been out of work for at least one year. Never before have so many people been out of work for so long. Among the unemployed aged 55 or older, an even larger 41 percent have been out of work for a year or longer.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Household spending peaked in 2006 at $51,688. In 2008, the average household spent $50,486, or $1,200 less after adjusting for inflation. On many categories of products and services, the average household reversed the direction of its spending in the 2006-08 time period compared with the 2000-06 time period. Here are the 10 most telling U-turns in consumer spending:
1. RESTAURANTS: +8 percent to -6 percent Average household spending on restaurants U-turned from an 8 percent gain in the 2000-06 time period to a 6 percent loss between 2006 and 2008, after adjusting for inflation. Because of the Great Recession, Americans are spending more on groceries. Even basic ingredients such as eggs, flour and milk are staging a comeback after years of decline. Don't write restaurants off, however. They still attract the 72 percent majority of households into the marketplace on a weekly basis.
2. MORTGAGE INTEREST: +21 percent to -5 percent Every age group has been hammered by the housing bubble. But no age group has been hit as hard as 35-to-44-year-olds. Because they were in the home buying lifestage when housing prices peaked, they paid top dollar for houses and are--by far--the biggest spenders on mortgage interest. With many losing their homes, average household spending on mortgage interest is declining.
3. STATIONERY AND GIFT WRAP: +15 percent to -11 percent Is there anything more discretionary than gift wrap? Spending on this item climbed significantly during the easy money years of the housing bubble. Since 2006, not so much.
4. DAY CARE: +16 percent to -8 percent As the unemployment rate climbed, spending on day care fell.
5. FURNITURE: +1 percent to -22 percent Houses were selling furiously during the housing boom, but spending on furniture was surprisingly lackluster. Since 2006, average household spending on furniture (and appliances) has collapsed.
6. HOUSEHOLD TEXTILES: +24 percent to -23 percent Towels, sheets, blankets, curtains--nothing is feeling the whiplash more than the household textile category.
7. BABY CLOTHES: 0 percent to -9 percent This category had been defying the long-term decline in apparel spending as births climbed to a record high of 4.3 million in 2007. When the recession set in, the number of births began to fall, and so did spending on baby clothes.
8. DRUGS: +6 percent to -12 percent Out-of-pocket spending by the average household on drugs is down despite the barrage of advertising, the growing proportion of pill poppers in the population, and the penny-pinching of insurance companies. Behind the decline is the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, which went into effect in 2006.
9. ADMISSIONS TO ENTERTAINMENT EVENTS: +1 percent to -5 percent During the downturn, households continued to spend on high-definition television sets. But they cut back on other entertainment categories. One loser was this category, which includes movie and amusement park tickets.
10. CASH CONTRIBUTIONS: +34 percent to -13 percent Donations to charities are plummeting, says the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The household numbers bear this out. Average household spending on contributions climbed strongly when Americans felt flush, then fell sharply as they tightened their belts.