Skip to comments.Finance: the Downscaling of America
Posted on 07/05/2003 11:36:42 AM PDT by sarcasm
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When mutual fund powerhouse Fidelity Investments wants new ideas, one of the places it goes is Inferential Focus, a quirky New York prognosticating firm.
In their efforts to predict the future, the company's staff of seven, led by President Charlie Hess, read 350 publications on a regular basis. They ignore most of the noise -- surveys, prognostications, formal speeches and staged events -- and look for actual occurrences that can point to changes in American society, which can then be spun off into investable ideas.
What they are finding now is this: We're going down. Downwardly mobile, that is.
Even though the worst of the bear market might be behind us, the American middle class will continue to lose ground and the American consumer will continue to be squeezed for some time to come, said Hess and Gail Eisenkraft, one of his partners, in a recent interview.
They find that to be true at both middle and upper levels of the income spectrum. That has implications for the way we all spend and invest our money.
It's no secret that the U.S. has been on a rich-get-richer, poor-get-poorer track for several years. Most recently, the Labor Department said that the top 5 percent of America's wealthiest households earned 22.4 percent of national income in 2001, the most recent year for the compilation of these figures. That is its highest share since figures were first collected in 1967.
The lowest class, meanwhile, earned its smallest share, 3.5 percent. The middle section is slipping too.
Middle income households, which in 2001 earned between $33,315 and $53,000, earn 14.6 percent of American income every year. That's another 35-year low. Hess and Eisenkraft now say that this slump is spreading to the better-off, who are starting to act more like the less-well-off.
There are specific economic forces that will continue to hold the middle class down, says Hess.
Here are some of the events and trends that he sees working together to create a middle-class slide: the export of technical jobs and the continued unemployment of many American tech workers; the squeeze on state economies that will result in higher state taxes, fewer state services, and higher-priced state educations; the triple threat of high health-care costs, high debt burdens and continued weak stock prices and battered portfolios.
As a result, even the upper-middle class is starting to downscale spending habits and life style.
'We're seeing those pressures converge on the reasonably affluent household,'' says Hess.
More resourceful parents are sending their children to community colleges for the first year or two of higher education, just to save money. Everyone is shopping discount.
``The Dollar Store near Beverly Hills has shown more growth than any other Dollar Store in the country,'' Eisenkraft notes.
Maybe that's not all a bad thing. Perhaps if everyone is worrying about their money, they will spend less on empty status items, and nobody will have to be ashamed of being budget conscious. It might even be considered cool to shop the sales.
What, besides handwringing, can a squeezed middle-class person do?
Shop down and invest like everybody else is shopping down, suggests Hess. ``We are talking to our investor clients about the many plays that might result from the search for cheaper upscale and cheaper downscale.''
You can live well and spend less by nailing down a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year mortgage while rates are low; by buying used cars instead of new, and by looking for freshman-year college bargains, Hess suggests.
You can make money in the market on this trend by buying companies that sell used cars, good clothes at a discount, product manufactured homes or quality items at commodity prices, like the big warehouse stores.
Look, too, at for-profit trade schools that could benefit once middle-class students realize they are graduating college with tens of thousands of dollars in debts and no solid job prospects to speak of, suggests Eisenkraft. That's just one more way of investing in the downscaling of America, so that even if you're down, you can be up, at least a little.
Also, the last paragraph about education was profound indeed. Maybe people will quite looking at universities as glorified trade schools and recognize them for what they should be; that is NOT places to learn to be productive citizens, but rather places to be GOOD citizens.
Who wants to assert that the "poor" today physically earn **less** than the poor of "several years" ago?
The "Poverty Level" today is around $14,000 per year for an average household. That's more than the middle-class average income in the 1950's.
The poor get "poorer"?!
I think not.
Have you forgotten about inflation?
Average Administrative Salaries
OfficeTeam's 2000 Salary Guide contains some of the most up-to-date, "real world" salary and staffing trend information available. Job descriptions and a regional analysis of hiring trends and selected local salary variances are also included in the guide. You can request a copy of the Salary Guides through OfficeTeams Web site, www.officeteam.com, under "free resources" in the Career Corner section.
Here are the U.S national averages for various support titles/levels and average percentage increase from 1999 to 2000 (Canadian national averages are also included).
||Salary Range||% increase from 1999|
Front Desk Coordinator
Junior Administrative Assistant
Senior Administrative Assistant
Senior Executive Assistant
Senior Office Manager
According to the OfficeTeam guide, "Administrative Assistants who possess the Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) rating through the International Association of Administrative Professionals may command higher starting salaries." In addition, a new section on employee retention added to the salary guide this year also suggests that employers offer administrative staff paid association membership to build contacts and develop professionally.
Average Annual Salaries for Secretaries/Administrative Support Staff
Data based on research from the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) and other sources as noted.
Average Annual Salary
Secretary: $3,060 (membership survey)
Secretary: $5,678 (membership survey)
Average Salaries (membership survey)
60% reported salaries of $9,000 or more
32% in the $9,000-$11,000 range
17% in the $11,000-$13,000 range
7% in the $13,000-$15,000 range
4% at $15,000 and over
Average Salaries (membership survey)
|$20,000 or more||4%|
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1983
Administrative Management Society Survey, 1983
|Level B||$13, 468|
IAAP Salary Study, 1983
1983 - 1990 comparison
Secretaries enjoyed a 36.1% increase in salary between 1983 and 1990, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. The median average salary for secretaries in 1983 was an estimated $13,000. In 1990, it was almost $18,000. That put the average secretary a few steps ahead of the Consumer Price Index -- which measures the cost of living for a family of four. The CPI rose 31.3 percent in the same period.
Average Salaries (based on member survey results)
|Less than $10,000||13%|
|$100,000 or more||3%|
Average Salary Range, by Title
Fortune Magazine, June 1995, "What Americans Earn"
|Initial Pay||Industry Average||Typical Top Pay|
1999 Administrative and Office Support Salaries, United States
|Senior Administrative Assistant||$23,500-$36,000|
|Senior Executive Assistant||$32,000-$45,500|
|Office Manager (up to 5 years exp.)||$25,000-$32,000|
|Senior Office Manager (5+ years exp.)||$32,500-$43,000|
|Specialized Medical Secretary||$26,000-$36,000|
|Desktop Publishing Specialist||$27,000-$38,000|
According to a 1997 IAAP study, the average salary for IAAP members was $28,420. Just over half (51%) earned over $26,000; thirty-one percent earned over $31,000.
For 3,200 other job-field salaries in the U.S., Click Here
As you can see from the data (for secretaries, with a link to 3,200 other professions included) in the above post, average incomes have soared from $3,060 in 1950 up past $28,000 by 1995, and they continue to climb today.
That's not the same as being stagnant or falling behind, and that's the worst period on the whole graph!
This ought to give the reader a good view of the political view point of the author. Of course he leaves out that many families have switched from 2 incomes to one and that as with any mature economy, there are going to be times when growth slows especially when the boomer generations kids are waiting 4-5 years later in life to marry, have children and buy homes. This story could have been written by Jayson Blair.
That's not falling behind. That's not being stagnant. That's slowly getting better off even during the worst periods of wage rates and inflation.
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