Despite what some “experts” would like you to believe, the US is on shaky financial ground. Several indicators suggest things are far worse than many think.
Let’s take a look at them now.
More than half of families in the US live in “asset poverty.”
A recent study found that more than 63 percent of American children and 55 percent of Americans live in “asset poverty”. This means they have few or no assets to rely on in the event of a financial emergencysuch as a job loss, a medical crisis, recessions, or natural disasters.
In a press release, study co-author David Rothwell, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, explained that when families lack assets such as vehicles, homes, savings accounts or investments, surviving a financial crisis is very difficult. “This is a dimension of financial security that we don’t think about that much, and it’s pretty high. The findings highlight the extent of financial insecurity among American families. These shocks ripple through the family and down to the children,” Rothwell said.
The study was published in the journal Children and Youth Services Review earlier this year. Co-authors are Timothy Ottusch of the University of Arizona and Jennifer Finders of Purdue University.
Living in poverty can have devastating impacts on children, as the press release explains:
Rothwell studies poverty and its impact on families and children. Experiencing poverty in childhood can have lifetime impacts for those children; past research has shown that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to struggle in school, have lower job earnings throughout life and experience family instability as adults.
A growing body of research suggests that parents’ asset levels also predict academic achievement, educational expectations, and the likelihood of college enrollment and graduation. Families with assets that can be used when income is disrupted are also likely to experience less financial stress and strain.
Yet asset poverty is higher than income poverty for children and families. In a 2018 study of Canadian families, researchers, including Rothwell, found that asset poverty was two to three times more prevalent than income poverty. Families can have adequate day-to-day funds but be asset-poor and would likely struggle during a financial shock. (source)
Rent is becoming unaffordable for many Americans.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, renting is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many Americans. In its latest “Out of Reach” report, the organization explains that the struggle to find affordable housing is not limited to those earning minimum wage or the unemployed.
The report’s central statistic is the Housing Wage, which is an estimate of the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to rent a home without spending more than 30 percent of income on housing costs. For 2019, the Housing Wage is $22.96 and $18.65 for a modest two and one-bedroom apartment respectively based on the “fair market rent”.
The average renter’s hourly wage is $1.08 less than the Housing Wage for a one-bedroom rental and $5.39 less than a two-bedroom rental. That means that an average renter in the U.S. has to work a 52 hour week. To put this in perspective, a median-wage worker in eight of the country’s largest ten occupations does not earn enough to afford a one-bedroom apartment.
An employee earning the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) would have to work 127 hours every week (equivalent to more than two full-time jobs) to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
This is not just a regional issue. There isn’t a single state, metro area, or county in the U.S. where a full-time employee earning the minimum wage can afford to rent a two-bedroom property. To explore data for your area, enter your zip code in the box below the map on this page: Out of Reach 2019.
According to the report, the ten jobs that are expected to see the biggest growth over the coming decade are those that pay less than the wage needed to afford housing – and that is likely to result in an even greater disparity between wages and housing costs by 2026, as this infographic from Statista illustrates:
Food is about to become more expensive.
Massive, damaging floods in the Midwest have been occurring since this past March. To make a bad situation worse, the potential for more floods in key agricultural states looms in front of us as more rain is predicted for the rest of this spring. So far, heavy flooding has impacted important agricultural states, including Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri. The economic impacts of the flooding are likely to be devastating, as Cat Ellis explained in Midwest Flooding Will Cause Shortages of THESE FOODS:
Bottom line: our modern food supply is largely dependent upon grains and soy. With major producers losing at least one harvest this year, the cost of manufactured food and livestock feed will skyrocket. Meat and dairy will be doubly impacted. While many farms lost animals to floodwaters, and farmers lost money due to both lost animals and damage to property, the cost to feed those remaining animals is going to go through the roof.
“Whatever your situation is, start thinking about what you eat and how to store those items,” Ellis wrote. Here’s how to get started building that stockpile.
Americans are losing purchasing power.
Purchasing power is the value of a currency expressed in terms of the amount of goods or services that one unit of money can buy. In other words, it is how much your money buys you. Purchasing power is important because, all else being equal, inflation decreases the amount of goods or services you are able to purchase. Inflation reduces the value of a currency’s purchasing power.
In the article America’s Concealed Crisis: Fifty Years of Economic Decline, 1969 to 2019, Charles Hugh Smith explains how the loss of purchasing power has pushed the middle class into the working class:
The keys to understanding the concealed crisis of decline are purchasing power relative to wages/earnings–how many goods and services can wages buy? For the average American household, wages have risen modestly while the purchasing power of those wages has plummeted.
Furthermore, the quality of goods and services has in many cases declined sharply, so that even if prices have dropped, what you get for your money has fallen even further, effectively reducing the purchasing power of your wages. (source)
Smith also discusses how planned obsolescence impacts purchasing power:
Case in point: appliances were once designed and built to last a generation or longer. Refrigerators, washers and dryers lasted for decades. Now the average appliance fails within a few years, and the electronic board–costing roughly a third of the entire appliance price–fails and must be replaced. With labor, the cost of the repair is so high, consumers often send the almost-new appliance to the landfill and buy a new (and soon to fail) appliance.
Net-net, low quality reduces purchasing power even if price has declined. (source)
Although our income is higher than it was 40 years ago, we can’t buy much with it, Smith says:
Bottom line: how much housing, higher education and well-being does the average wage buy now compared to decades past? Not much. The statistics are bleak: wages are basically unchanged from the high water mark 50 years ago, which coincidentally was also the high water mark of U.S. energy production until very recently. Adjusted for purchasing power and quality, the average paycheck buys far less than it did 50 years ago. (source)
Evidence that the economy has already entered a downturn is mounting.
A few days ago, Michael Snyder summed up some of the signs the US economy is starting to deteriorate rapidly in the article The Pain Of This New Economic Downturn Is Starting To Show Up All Over The Country:
On Tuesday we got some more new numbers, and they were just as bad as we thought they might be. \ But even before today’s numbers all of the data were telling us the exact same thing. The New York Fed’s Empire State manufacturing index just suffered the worst one month decline in U.S. history, Morgan Stanley’s Business Conditions Index just suffered the largest one month decline that we have ever seen, global trade numbers are the worst they have been since the last recession, and just last week I detailed the complete and utter “bloodbath” that we are witnessing in the U.S. trucking industry right now. So considering what we already knew, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that new home sales in the U.S. were down a whopping 7.8 percent during the month of May. (source)
In addition, an economic indicator that has preceded every recession over the past five decades occurred a few days ago, reports NPR:
It is known among economists and Wall Street traders as a “yield curve inversion,” and it refers to when long-term interest rates are paying out less than short-term rates.
That curve has been flattening out and sloping down for more than a year, raising worries among some analysts that investors’ long-term view of the market is not positive and that an economic downturn is looming.
But on Sunday, an inauspicious milestone was achieved: The yield curve remained inverted for three months, or an entire quarter, which has for half a century been a clear signal that the economy is heading for recession in the next nine to 18 months, according to Campbell Harvey, a Duke University finance professor who spoke to NPR on Sunday. His research in the mid-1980s first linked yield curve inversions to recessions.
“That has been associated with predicting a recession for the last seven recessions,” Harvey said. “From the 1960s, this indicator has been reliable in terms of foretelling a recession, and also importantly, it has not given any false signals yet.” (source)
The economy has not recovered much since the 2008 recession.
Many refer to stock market valuation and the “official” unemployment rate as indicators of an improving economy, but the truth is that they “paint a deceiving picture of the true state of the American economy,” as economist Antony P. Mueller outlines in Phony Economic Growth Stats Conceal Deep Problems on Main Street:
Alternative calculations of the employment data — which include long-term discouraged workers and chronically unemployed — indicate that the labor market is much slacker than the official statistics indicate. Profits recovered in the first few years after the crisis of 2008 but over the past five years, they have been flat. Stock prices, in turn, as measured by the S&P 500 Index, have risen by over 50 percent since 2012.
The recovery after the crisis of 2008 was brought about by the stimulus packages and later on by the monetary policy of “quantitative easing.” The expansion that followed does not constitute genuine economic growth. While the financial asset markets indicate wealth creation, the economy’s productive capacity tends to remain weak. Over the past ten years, the Congressional Budget Office had to lower its estimate of potential output year by year and productivity growth has stayed below the trend of the time before the crisis of 2008. (source)
In the conclusion of that piece, Dr. Mueller states:
Policymakers ignore the main lesson of the crisis of 2008 that monetary and fiscal stimulus policies do not bring about a solid recovery but manufacture a phony economic growth that distorts the economy’s structure of production. Instead of a V-shaped recovery that would occur if government abstained from intervention, policymakers produce an L-shaped agony.
As if a prolonged stagnation wasn’t already bad enough, the interventionists also act as the undertakers of capitalism. Policy intervention distorts the economy and drives a wedge between Wall Street and Main Street. The majority of the people do not attribute the discrepancy between the growth of financial wealth and the stagnation of the real economy to the policy of the authorities — but accuses capitalism of this evil. (source)
Here’s what you can do to prepare for a financial crisis.
If you are skeptical about the warning signs of the impending economic disaster that I have outlined in this brief article, here’s a great resource to refer to as you monitor current events: 10 Recession Warning Signs You Need To Know. “As much as one would like to believe that the American economy has bucked the cycle of boom and bust that has defined every market economy since the dawn of time, that’s probably not the case. In spite of a booming stock market and rock-bottom unemployment, history would dictate that the good times will be coming to an end — probably sooner rather than later,” writer Joel Anderson warns. In the article, he describes economic behaviors that point to the possibility of a looming recession.
Here is a list of resources to help you prepare:
While the fate of the US economy is out of our hands, there are things we can do to prepare for an economic downturn (and eventual crash). The preparation is completely in our hands. Those who choose not to prepare are going to be in for a very hard time.