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Minyan Op-Ed: Aging Demographics a Global Issue


It isn't one nation's Baby Boom; it's multi-national rolling thunder.


Editor's Note: Minyan Bob Adams is the President and CEO of New Global Initiatives, Inc. in Bethesda, Maryland and Panama Wave S.A. in Panama City, Panama. He is the author of The Flip Side of the Migration Coin and has written for Barron's, the Christian Science Monitor and other publications.

When I read Professor Shedlock's essay, A Ticking Demographic Time Bomb, I saw some of the same pyramids from the U.S. Census Bureau's International Data Base with which I am familiar. But the database is exactly what it says it is: International. To that end, it's helpful to look at four other nations in addition to the U.S. - Canada, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands:

Not impressed yet? I can show you similar pyramids for 16 other nations. Take a look.

My point is very simple. When people see the U.S. pyramid, they immediately recognize the famous (or infamous) Baby Boom, but it can leave them with the impression that this is just an American phenomenon. It's not. It isn't just one nation's baby boom; it's multi-national rolling thunder. If you think it's loud now, it will be deafening in years to come.

I'm a little older than the oldest Boomer and I've been watching this group coming up from behind me for decades. From my studies, five things seem clear about this bulky bulge in the pyramids:

  • There are a heck of a lot of them.
  • They will do things differently than those who came before them.
  • This will cause problems.
  • This will offer opportunities.
  • The problems will be widely discussed in advance, while the
    opportunities will be discussed in retrospect.

I've researched and written on the topic extensively as I try to see ways this will all play out. The Boomers have always been tough to predict, but assuming they will do what their parents did is almost always a mistake. This is what led to my firm's Zogby surveys of Americans on the subject of emigration (not immigration) as I discussed in my Barron's article.

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Similar results can be seen in the UK, evidenced by an Institute for Public Policy Research report that found nearly 10% of the UK's population has already emigrated.

Humans are frustrating, but wonderful. They cope. Emigration is not the issue here. It's only one coping mechanism for some. The important thing to remember is that they will cope.

I agree with Professor Shedlock and not for the first time. His commentaries on the U.S. real estate market made excellent reading long before others were even willing to look ahead at what was coming. His warning now is a good one too, but I'd add a few comments:

  • It's about much more than just Americans.
  • The folks who will "cause" the problems will seek solutions.
  • Their solutions will differ from those of their parents because the
    problems differ.
  • Those solutions will offer investment opportunities.
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