Why Are So Many Boomers Working Longer?

John Mauldin | Apr 30, 2014

There has been quite a lot of controversy in recent years around the idea that older workers – whose numbers are growing – have been taking jobs away from younger ones. Their numbers have certainly increased dramatically: the percentage of the labor force that is 55 or older grew from 29.4% in 1993 to 40.3% in 2013. And the unemployment rates of those 55 and older have dropped much faster than for younger cohorts; in fact we have seen those who are older than 55 take “market share” from the youngest. These are trends I’ve written about over the past year.

But did that increase and those trends cut into the employment prospects of young people? That is the central issue examined in today’s Outside the Box, which is an article by James J. Green that recently appeared on the ThinkAdvisor site. Green also does a nice job of laying out the reasons why Boomers are staying on the job. I have to admit that I was surprised by a few of the items he brought to my attention, and I think they’re worth thinking about.

But a lot of new ideas have come to my attention of late. Since I’m leaving for Europe in a few hours, I’ve been trying to call all of the speakers who will be on stage with me at the Strategic Investment Conference in just a few weeks, going over some of the logistics but mostly trying to probe a little bit to get an idea of the topics they will be covering. The theme of the conference is “Investing in an Age of Transformation,” and my hope is that the attendees and those who listen to the audio CDs will come away with a deeper and more complete sense of the powerful trends that are at play in the world today – and what to do about them now. How do you position your portfolios – not just to both protect yourself from the changes but also to take advantage of them?

I can honestly say I’m more excited about this conference than I was prior to any of the past ten. We kick off the conference with the always fascinating and prescient David Rosenberg. Last year at our conference he announced his transition to bond bear and full-on market bull and gave a strong presentation as to his reasons why. After David speaks, Rich Yamarone (chief economist at Bloomberg) and David Zervos (chief economist at Jefferies) will engage in a bull and bear debate but also share their usual thoughtful presentations on the investment climate. Jeff Gundlach of DoubleLine, whom Barron’s has dubbed the King of Bonds, will then take us behind the scenes in the world of fixed-income investing. You simply do not want to miss his PowerPoint presentation and powerful delivery.

My good friend Pat Cox of Transformation Technology Alert (a Mauldin Economics publication, I might add!) will talk about the amazing changes that are bubbling up in the technology space, with a focus on biotech and aging. Kyle Bass follows after lunch with what I can guarantee will be one of the most thought-provoking presentations at the conference. He has a smooth, confident delivery that is backed up by impeccable research. Then Gary Shilling will give us a lightning-fast presentation touching on the major facets of the world scene (he does seem to get to everything in 45 minutes – fasten your seatbelts), before my co-author Jonathan Tepper and Grant  Williams, the inimitable author of Things That Make You Go Hmmm…, double-team us with a joint presentation focusing on the view from London and Singapore and how international markets will fare in the near future. That night a t dinner, three-star admiral Robert Harward, a Navy Seal and commander of the Seals prior to his very recent retirement, will tell us what it’s like to sit in the catbird seat, leading the best of our young men and women. I’m sure he will be talking about a few special nights in the recent past. (Think Osama bin Laden.) And that’s just day one.

Dylan Grice leads off the next day, and I don’t want to tip off his speech, but you want to be there. Somehow or other I’m supposed to follow his performance. I’ve been working on my speech for quite some time, as I want to develop a new theme. Without exception, the speakers who come to my conference always bring their “A games” to the podium, and so I have to try to elevate my own presentation just to keep up.

I made sure I wouldn’t follow Newt Gingrich, who will come up on the stage after me. He will be followed by Neil Howe (author of The Fourth Turning), who is probably the best demographer and analyst of generational trends in the world today. Two summers ago I had the pleasure of spending several long evenings with Newt and Neil as they made the history of the world come alive for hours on end. I live for experiences like that and am always looking for more of them. Listening to those two makes me realize just how much more there is to learn and think about. If Pat Cox and some of his friends can show me how to get an extra 40 to 50 years, I will need them just to catch up with Neil and Newt.

Paul McCulley will regale us at lunch the second day, in the slow Southern drawl delivery he learned at the knee of his Southern Baptist daddy. I sometimes feel like we should pass the collection plate after he’s finished his sermon. Then we’ll go to the other extreme as Dr. Lacy Hunt presents his latest research, which will not be as optimistic with regard to central banks as Paul will have been. Lacy is simply an intellectual force of nature. If you attend the conference, make sure you figure out how to spend a few moments in his space. He is very approachable, as are most of the speakers. Following a panel of some of the speakers, we’ll hear from George Gilder (Wall Street Journal contributing editor) and Stephen Moore (conservative thought leader) as they talk about the need for a new economics and a new politics. That night there is a poolside dinner where you can mingle with fellow attendees and the speakers.

And then we come to the third morning. Dear gods, you will need to fasten your seatbelt for this one. We start with geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer, who will lead us on a deep dive into the global situation and delight us with his inside stories of personal interactions with the global leaders who shape the nightly news. Anatole Kaletsky, the best-known economic journalist in Europe (and on whose cell phone are the direct-dial numbers of the biggest investors and global leaders in Europe), is going to reflect on where the global opportunities are; and then the one and only, the indomitable Niall Ferguson will share his incisive – possibly even incendiary! –thoughts about the problems and opportunities that China poses for the rest of the world. Finally, I will get Ian, Anatole, and Niall back up on stage for a panel

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