Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Next Decade...and Beyond

With those wild swings in the stock market we tend to worry about the right now. How much money did I lose last week? How much will I lose next week? Where are interest rates going? What about inflation? Is our government going to implode?

But perhaps we should think longer term. What does the bigger picture look like? Now nine years into the second decade of the 21st Century (yes 2018 is the 9th year of this decade), it’s not too soon to give serious thought about the next decade, the 2020’s. In fact, as a business person if you have not been thinking about it, it may be too late. I don’t have a crystal ball and I’m not one of those 160 IQ futurists who have the next 100 years all figured out. But, I am paying attention. There’s a lot of information out there and one can drown in data. One can also find numbers that support just about any position on any subject. But occasionally you get hit with numbers that only point in one direction.

Now I will admit that there is a chance these could turn out to be wrong, but as far as I can tell they are pretty accurate. It’s basic math. In the United States, 80 million Baby Boomers are riding off into the sunset. 150 million Gen X-ers and Gen Z-ers are in or will soon be in the marketplace. While their purchasing power as well their purchasing habits may be more muted than those of the Baby Boomer generation, these 150 million are still going to need some place to live, things to sit on and sleep on, clothes to wear and food to eat. They will need products and services to cook, clean, repair and sanitize themselves and their stuff. They will need to be entertained, transported, doctored and lawyered. They will need to house, care for and eventually bury their elders. And they will try to find the answers to life’s big questions. That means they will probably spend a lot of money until they figure out that is not the answer.

By 2030, the United States is projected to have a population of over 350,000,000. That is up from around 320,000,000 in 2015. The global population is projected to be over 8.5 Billion! The fastest growth areas are Africa, India, Indonesia and Mexico. The United States population growth will be very dependent on immigration and given the policy debates surrounding that issue, it’s a wild card. But if anything, I could see us ending up with even more than 350 million people here by 2030. Compared to the rest of the world, we have the best deal going. Even the Republicans and Democrats can’t screw it up totally. (Well, maybe they can. There is that “debt” issue. But we can always print more money, right? Not to worry.)

So the good news for business owners is that there is going to be plenty of demand out there. People will need AND want lots of stuff and services. The challenges will be adapting to a changing work force and disruptive technologies. Those businesses that can adapt, adjust and overcome, AND do so quickly and frequently, are going to win and win big. Those that cannot will be eaten by those that can. The 2020’s…the decade of opportunity and eat or be eaten.

“I think there's every reason this 21st century will be much happier.”- Dalai Lama

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