20 Predictions for 2039

July 29, 2014

by Dan Richards

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“It is very difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.”

— Ascribed to Yogi Berra, Mark Twain and Niels Bohr

I was recently asked to speak at a reception to recognize the 25th anniversary of Investment Executive, the major publication for financial advisors in my home market of Canada. I discussed the dramatic changes in the past 25 years. Today’s environment is unrecognizable from the one that existed in 1989. While some changes could have been anticipated, others were impossible to predict.

The shifts in the next 25 years will be just as substantial, and the most successful advisors will be those who are able to anticipate and adapt to these changes. Here are 20 predictions for what the financial-advising business will look like in 2039.

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Consumer context

  1. Lifespans will continue to expand at the rate of two to three months per year, with people commonly living to 110. Robot caregivers will help many more seniors live independently – and the hottest dating sites will be targeted to those who are 75-plus. At the same time an overriding issue for many older Americans will be the prohibitive cost of expensive medications and procedures to further extend their lives.
  2. Retirement will be redefined, as millennials reject the notion of waiting until their 60s to take extended time off. Instead, Americans will periodically enter and leave the workforce, with sabbaticals every five or six years.
  3. Many more people will rent homes, driven by the need for mobility to pursue careers around the globe and disaffection with housing as a store of wealth. This will be exacerbated if regulators follow the recent example of Britain. It now requires banks to ensure that borrowers will still be able to carry their mortgages even if interest rates rise by 3% when they readjust.
  4. Lifelong learning to keep skills current will be the norm. Universities like MIT, Cambridge and Peking University will offer online courses supplemented by group tutorials at locations around the globe, using campuses vacated by traditional universities that couldn’t compete with the leading brands. (The same thing recently happened to second-tier opera companies with the launch of the Metropolitan Opera’s Met Live simulcasts in movie theatres.)
  5. Privacy will be a dominant issue, with Americans restricting access to their inner social network for all but the most superficial aspects of their online lives. And to enhance productivity and wellbeing, regularly scheduled time unconnected from smartphones will become the norm.

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