Growing Old Together

Instead of boring my readers with pictures of demographic pyramids turned upside-down, or horrifying everyone with damning statistics on why Social Security is the largest government-sanctioned Ponzi scheme ever, let’s look at some of the unintended consequences of aging populations worldwide:

  • In Japan, more diapers are being sold for grown-ups than for children.   Big nappies are big business.
  • In Italy, there are now more grandmothers than babies.  This is leading to a break-out of national pacifism, because none of them want to send their only grandchild to war.
  • The ever-practical Germans are now retraining retired sex-industry workers as home healthcare aides.  Sponge-baths have never been more popular.

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Resilience is Always Local

Great video here from Eric Garland on why the best strategy for resilience may be to grow some deep roots in your own hometown.

If you have time and want to meet up with some brilliant (and fun) people, be sure to mark your calendars for the Transition Economics gathering in St. Louis, May 19-May 21st.

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On the Cycles of Change Radio Show with David Katzmire

It is unusual to have an in-depth conversation on cycle theory, but Katzmire knows his stuff and asks the right questions. In this discussion, we talk about unexpected opportunities, social trends, and developing a great investment strategy.

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Are Marijuana Stocks Good for Seed Capital?

ImageThis is a question that I never expected to ask, “Does marijuana deserve a place in your portfolio?” Call it a legacy of the Baby Boomer generation, or a desperate attempt by states to generate new tax revenues. Either way, the decriminalization of marijuana is a trend that is simply too big to ignore. 

Since California first legalized medical marijuana in 1996, a total of twenty states plus the District of Columbia now allow access for those with documented medical needs. The two “Superbowl States” of 2014, Colorado and Washington, now allow ownership for recreational purposes, as well. Continue reading

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Investing in the Future: Finding a Fit with Wearable Devices

Can you train like an Olympic athlete, see through the back of your head, and remember everything you did today?  These things are completely unrealistic for most of us, but we are getting closer with breakthroughs in wearable devices.

JawbonePersonal fitness monitors such as the Fitbit Force, the Jawbone, and Fuel are consumer gadgets that fit like bracelets and serve as personal coaches – tracking your fitness activity, sleep, and calorie burn rate.   Fitness fanatics now log their meals onto their cell phones and get nutritional guidance for building muscle mass, losing weight, or just feeling better.

Publicly-traded companies including Nike (ticker: NKE) and Garmin (GRMN) are some of the early entrants into the fitness monitor trend.  They’ve “broken the code” to making wearable sensors fashionable by marketing them to athletes. Continue reading

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Easy Resolutions

A few years ago, I worked for a multi-family office.   We had some “old money” clients and did just about everything related to their finances — from investment management to tax preparation and bill payment services.

While most of us might not ever have a dedicated staff of personal accountants, organizing your finances is easier than ever.   You can leave your checkbook in the drawer and your excel spreadsheets unopened — these online power tools can make your New Year’s financial resolutions “do-able.” Continue reading

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Not the Beginning or the End

SYSTEM FAILURE. A simple two-word error message summarizes virtually every major news headline over the past five years. In fact, it is difficult to name a single public institution which we hold in high esteem. Government. Healthcare. Education. Religion. Even libraries are being brought into question regarding their relevance for the future.

How did we get here?

Economic historian Carlota Perez says that we’ve been here before, many times in the past. For over two centuries, we’ve seen new technologies wreck and repeatedly rebuild our social institutions.

• The Industrial Revolution (started 1770)

• Age of Railways (1829)

• Age of Steel and Electricity (1875)

• The Age of Oil, Automobiles and Mass Production (1908)

• The Information Age (1971)

Each technology boom follows a pattern: an initial breakthrough, followed by speculative frenzy and misallocation of resources, leading to a collapse in finances and public restructuring, eventually transitioning into a period of broader deployment, productivity and rising affluence. The process finishes with near-universal integration of revolutionary technologies into existing systems.

cycle_of_capital[1]We’re not in the beginning or the end of this cycle, but in the middle. The “messy middle” is a turning point when public finances are still in a state of disarray, and a significant gap exists between the efficiency of our institutions and the productivity of our newest technologies. It is a time when the public feels the most dissatisfied and the least confident.

This particular turning point may have been delayed, as government efforts to “fix” the financial crisis have interfered with the mechanisms that restore equilibrium via what economist Joseph Schumpeter refers to as creative destruction.

At the World Future Society Conference last summer, a friend and colleague of mine, Patrick Tucker, presented material from his upcoming book, The Naked Future: What Happens in a World that Anticipates your Every Move. He comments that we are in a time of “declining institutions and rising individuals.” In the Information Age, nothing empowers individuals more than the internet.

So, what if institutions were as easy and convenient as online shopping at Amazon? Can schools develop personalized curriculums just as easily as Netflix finds good movie recommendations? What if hospital costs were competitively-priced, like hotel rooms on Hotwire? Will peer-to-peer lending networks become more successful than traditional banks? Is it possible that a network of autonomous electric vehicles might eventually solve our public transportation issues?

We are still a few years away from the next golden age, but at least we can see it on the horizon.

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