Category Archives: Millennials finance

12/8/20: Beware of Longing for Pre-COVID19 Days

 

We tend to focus on shorter-term and sharper shocks than on longer-term trends, a sort of 'boiling a frog' conundrum in our behavioural biases. Hence, with the development of the current pandemic, we seem to have forgotten a simple fact of pre-COVID19 reality: things weren't going all too happily for the global economy in 2019 before the pandemic struck.

Here is a reminder: look at the economic policy uncertainty measures from the late 1990s through today


As it says in the chart comment box, economic uncertainty was running at elevated levels well before the pandemic struck. 

Here is another way to see this point:

There is a 'problem', folks, even though there is no Houston to page about it. The legacy of the Global Financial Crisis did not dissipate when non-performing loans were finally (largely) wiped out from the banks balance sheets. Since the 'recovery' from the Great Recession, we have been living in a state of perpetual precariat all the way into the current pandemic shock. This state of precariat has been evident in the world data and the European data, so the problem is not 'demographic' or at least not that of ageing. May be it is generational? 

Here is an interesting view on generational changes via Pew Researchhttps://www.pewsocialtrends.org/essay/on-the-cusp-of-adulthood-and-facing-an-uncertain-future-what-we-know-about-gen-z-so-far/.  As education levels rose across generations, state of insecurity rose as well. Quote; "There are already signs that the oldest Gen Zers have been particularly hard hit in the early weeks and months of the coronavirus crisis. In a March 2020 Pew Research Center survey, half of the oldest Gen Zers (ages 18 to 23) reported that they or someone in their household had lost a job or taken a cut in pay because of the outbreak. This was significantly higher than the shares of Millennials (40%), Gen Xers (36%) and Baby Boomers (25%) who said the same. In addition, an analysis of jobs data showed that young workers were particularly vulnerable to job loss before the coronavirus outbreak, as they were overrepresented in high-risk service sector industries." Note that GenZ has higher levels of educational attainment of any generation. And yet, they are more susceptible to labour market shocks. 

The younger generations are also progressively more attuned to news flows and more anxious about key structural (non-COVID shock) problems we face. 

Have the mid-2010s been a pivoting point toward the new Age of Anxiety? Did COVID19 pandemic exacerbate this onset of the new age? In the long run, these are more important questions than the coronavirus threat alone.


12/8/20: Beware of Longing for Pre-COVID19 Days

 

We tend to focus on shorter-term and sharper shocks than on longer-term trends, a sort of 'boiling a frog' conundrum in our behavioural biases. Hence, with the development of the current pandemic, we seem to have forgotten a simple fact of pre-COVID19 reality: things weren't going all too happily for the global economy in 2019 before the pandemic struck.

Here is a reminder: look at the economic policy uncertainty measures from the late 1990s through today


As it says in the chart comment box, economic uncertainty was running at elevated levels well before the pandemic struck. 

Here is another way to see this point:

There is a 'problem', folks, even though there is no Houston to page about it. The legacy of the Global Financial Crisis did not dissipate when non-performing loans were finally (largely) wiped out from the banks balance sheets. Since the 'recovery' from the Great Recession, we have been living in a state of perpetual precariat all the way into the current pandemic shock. This state of precariat has been evident in the world data and the European data, so the problem is not 'demographic' or at least not that of ageing. May be it is generational? 

Here is an interesting view on generational changes via Pew Researchhttps://www.pewsocialtrends.org/essay/on-the-cusp-of-adulthood-and-facing-an-uncertain-future-what-we-know-about-gen-z-so-far/.  As education levels rose across generations, state of insecurity rose as well. Quote; "There are already signs that the oldest Gen Zers have been particularly hard hit in the early weeks and months of the coronavirus crisis. In a March 2020 Pew Research Center survey, half of the oldest Gen Zers (ages 18 to 23) reported that they or someone in their household had lost a job or taken a cut in pay because of the outbreak. This was significantly higher than the shares of Millennials (40%), Gen Xers (36%) and Baby Boomers (25%) who said the same. In addition, an analysis of jobs data showed that young workers were particularly vulnerable to job loss before the coronavirus outbreak, as they were overrepresented in high-risk service sector industries." Note that GenZ has higher levels of educational attainment of any generation. And yet, they are more susceptible to labour market shocks. 

The younger generations are also progressively more attuned to news flows and more anxious about key structural (non-COVID shock) problems we face. 

Have the mid-2010s been a pivoting point toward the new Age of Anxiety? Did COVID19 pandemic exacerbate this onset of the new age? In the long run, these are more important questions than the coronavirus threat alone.


21/1/18: Student Loans Debt Crisis: It Only Gets Worse


A new research from the Brookings Institution has shed some light on the exploding student debt crisis in the U.S. The numbers are horrifying (for details see https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/scott-clayton-report.pdf) (emphasis mine):

"Trends for the 1996 entry cohort show that cumulative default rates continue to rise between 12 and 20 years after initial entry. Applying these trends to the 2004 entry cohort suggests that nearly 40 percent may default on their student loans by 2023." In simple terms, even 12-20 years into the loan, default rates are rising, which means that after we take out those borrowers who are more likely to default (earlier defaulters within any given cohort), the remaining borrowers pool is not improving. This applies to the cohort of borrowers who entered the labour markets at the end/after the Recession of 2001 - a cohort that started their careers before the Global Financial Crisis and the Great Recession, and that joined the labor force at the time of rapid growth and declining unemployment.

"The new data show the importance of examining outcomes for all entrants, not just borrowers, since borrowing rates differ substantially across groups and over time. For example, for-profit borrowers default at twice the rate of public two-year borrowers (52 versus 26 percent after 12 years), but because for-profit students are more likely to borrow, the rate of default among all for-profit entrants is nearly four times that of public two-year entrants (47 percent versus 13 percent)." Which means that the ongoing process of deregulation of the for-profit education providers - a process heavily influenced by the Trump Administration close links to the for-profit education sector (see https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/08/julian-schmoke-for-profit-colleges/538578/ and https://www.politico.com/story/2017/08/31/devos-trump-forprofit-college-education-242193)  - is only likely to make matters worse for younger cohorts of Americans.

On a related: "Trends over time are most alarming among for-profit colleges; out of 100 students who ever attended a for-profit, 23 defaulted within 12 years of starting college in the 1996 cohort compared to 43 in the 2004 cohort (compared to an increase from just 8 to 11 students among entrants who never attended a for-profit)." So not only things are getting worse over time on their own, but they will be even worse given the direction of deregulation drive.

"The new data underscore that default rates depend more on student and institutional factors than on average levels of debt. For example, only 4 percent of white graduates who never attended a for-profit defaulted within 12 years of entry, compared to 67 percent of black dropouts who ever attended a for-profit. And while average debt per student has risen over time, defaults are highest among those who borrow relatively small amounts." This highlights, amongst other things, the absurd nature of the U.S. legal frameworks governing the resolution of student debt insolvency: the easier/less costly cases to resolve (lower borrowings) in insolvency are effectively exacerbated by the lack of proper bankruptcy resolution regime applying to the student loans.

Some charts:

Data above clearly highlights the dramatic uplift in default rates for the more recent cohort of borrowers. At this point in time, borrowers from the 2003-2004 cohort already exhibit higher cumulative default rates than the previous cohort exhibited over 20 years horizon. Worse, the rate of increases in default rates is still higher for the later cohort than for the earlier one. Put differently, things are not only worse, but are getting worse faster.

And here is the breakdown by the type of institution:
For-profit institutions' loans default rates are now at over 50% and rising. In simple terms, this is a form of legislatively approved and supported debt slavery, folks.

Beyond the study, here is the latest data on student loans debt. Student loans - aggregate - transition into delinquency is highest of all household credit lines:

And the total volume of Student Loans debt is now second only to mortgages:


26/7/17: Panic… Not… Yet: U.S. Student Debt is Cancerous


Reuters came up with a series of data visualisations and brief analytics pieces on the issue of student loans in the U.S. These are ‘must read’ materials for anyone concerned with both the issues of debt overhang (impact of real economic debt, defined as household, non-financial corporate and government debts, on economic activity), demographic and socio-political trends (e.g. see my analysis linking - in part - debt overhang to current de-democratization trends in the Western electorates https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2993535), as well as issues of social equity.

The first piece presents a set student loans debt crisis charts and data summaries: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/USA-STUDENTLOANS-MORTGAGES/0100504C09N/index.html. Key takeaway here is that although the size of the student loans debt market is about 1/10th of the pre-GFC mortgages debt overhang, the default rates on student loans are currently well above the GFC peak default rates for mortgages:


The impact - from economic point of view includes decline in home ownership amongst the younger demographic.


But, less noted, the impact of student debt overhang also includes behavioural and longer-term cross-generational implications:

  1. Younger cohorts of workers are saddled with higher starting debt positions that cannot be resolved via insolvency/bankruptcy, which makes student loans more disruptive to the future life cycle incomes, savings and investments of the households;
  2. Behaviourally, early-stage debt overhang is likely to alter substantially life cycle investment and consumption patterns, just as early age unemployment and longer-term unemployment do with future career outcomes and choices;
  3. Generational transmission of wealth is also likely to suffer from the student debt overhang: as older generations trade down in the property markets, the values of their properties are likely to be lower than expected due to younger generation of buyers having lower borrowing and funding capacity to purchase retiring generations' homes;
  4. The direct nature of student loans collections (capture of wages and social security benefits for borrowers and co-signers on the loans) implies unprecedented degree of contagion from debt overhang to household financial positions, with politically and socially unknown impact; and
  5. The nature of interest rate penalties, combined with severe lack of regulation of the market and a direct tie in between Federally-guaranteed student loans and the fiscal authorities implies higher degree of uncertainty about the cost of future debt service for households.


On the two latter matters, another posting by Reuters worth reading: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-studentloans/.  Student loans debt is now turning the U.S. into an expropriating state, with the Government-sanctioned coercive, and socially and economically disruptive capture of household incomes.

One thing neither article mentions is that student loans are a form of investment - investment in human capital. And as all forms of investment, these loans are set against the expected future returns. These returns, in the case of student loans, are generated by increases in life cycle labor income - wages and other associated forms of income - which is, currently, on a downward trend. In other words, just as cost of student loans rises and uncertainty about the future costs of legacy loans is rising too, returns on student loans are falling, and the coercive power of lenders to claim recovery of the loans is beyond any other form of debt.

We are in a crisis territory, even if from traditional systemic risk metrics point of view, the market for student loans might be smaller.

16/101/5: Millennials: A Power Poverty Gap?


Having discussed the plight of the Millennials' Generation in global context on numerous occasions, I am too familiar with the problems faced by the current 'younger' middle of demographic pyramid. Hence, not surprisingly, I found this article http://www.independent.ie/opinion/ireland-forces-young-people-to-delay-lifes-milestones-31599496.html to be quite a reasonable summation of the modern reality in which the current younger generations can no longer expect to have better quality of life (measured by more traditional metrics) than their predecessors.

I will ignore the set of prescriptive policies at the end of the article - some make sense, others largely represent well-intentioned economic sentimentality. But the key issue is an important one.

And here is a counter-part piece on the Millennials trends in the U.S.: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2015/millennials-in-2015-financial-deep-dive.html.