To begin, if you haven’t checked out the comically delightful talking animal videos, you must. I allude to them several times throughout the show—Nighttime…daytime!. Nighttime…daytime! Part time…full time!—and without the key context of knowing what I’m talking about I just sound, well, weird.
Anyway, the first hour of this week’s show focused on supply and demand—period. These are, I believe, the two defining factors of any economy: the demand for goods—and the quantity, qualities, and composition of these goods—and the supply. I spent time last week reviewing the profound effects generational differences have on an economy’s supply/demand equilibrium, but that was fairly abstract. This week I used my own experience in the residential real estate market to illustrate these effects.
Throughout the early 2000s, I had acquired five properties: four rentals and one primary. They had been providing decent cash-flows and had gained equity. But in 2008, my instincts told me to get rid of them, and one buy one I sold the rental properties off. In fact, I very nearly sold my primary residence. Having been in the mortgage industry for several years, and having acquired a fairly proficient grasp of supply/demand equilibriums, I knew the domestic real estate market was in severe disequilibrium.
Over the next few years, as I began to study demographics and economics, I was able to start articulating the rationale behind my instinctive behavior. I had reacted to the effects of some cause, but until I understood demographics I could not have understood that cause. And the cause was this: the Baby Boomer generation was, as of 2006, entering retirement. Their productive capacity was beginning to wane, and their demand for new durable goods like cars, homes, and furniture and appliances for those homes, followed suit. One of the largest generations in US history was, and still is, cutting back on their consumption, and the younger generations that had previously produced goods for their consumption are now seeing a diminishing level of demand. This is an effect seen throughout the economy, as even Wal-mart struggles, restaurants go out of business, and car companies modify their products to meet the new demands of a new economy that consumes less, eats out less, and buys smaller, more efficient cars.
We were, as always, blessed to have Bill McAfee on the show this week to offer his monthly update on the real estate market. I strongly encourage everyone to go to the archives and listen to at least his segment. He reiterated that 2013 was a blistering year for real estate in the first three quarters but had slowed down toward the end. My suspicion, which will either be dispelled or proven as more economic data is released over the coming months, is that the investor-driven price rise in the housing market in the first three quarters of 2013 was not sustainable since household income has remained flat.
The price mechanism works to put supply and demand into equilibrium; we had a residential supply glut for several years so prices were low, and as homes become more scarce their prices rise. But the rise was too quick—probably driven by investor speculation—and the broader demand economy outside the investing class cannot afford homes at these inflated prices.
With prices having risen about 12% this past year, homeownership was pushed slightly out of reach for many people. But it wasn’t pushed that far out of reach. A part-time job can easily put this dream within reach for most families. The question is always: Is it worth it? Is a part-time effort worth the effort at all?
My answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ My early efforts in both the mortgage and radio industries were part-time efforts. It’s an ideal way to venture into new industries, gain experience, and supplement the income of your primary occupation. If your ventures prove fruitless, you at least haven’t invested all your energies and capital into that one endeavor, so you can easily start up with a different one.
However, you should be prudent when venturing into new industries. Certain professions have a reputation for being perfect part-time, supplemental occupations, when in fact the part-time practice of these professions can prove frustrating to the practitioner and maddening to their clients. Real estate agent, for example, has a reputation of being lucrative and easy to enter. However, it isn’t. Licensing requirements are an extreme burden, and competition is fierce. Many attempt to get licensed and offer their services to friends and families, but as Dave Ramsey says, among others, this is a bad idea. Anyone seeking a real estate agent wants a competent, knowledgeable professional who can get the best deal, and often the skills and experience required for this are not attainable through a part-time effort.
BLS data, in fact, suggests America is becoming a part-time nation. For some, their part-time job is their sole source of income. Many others hold two or three part-time jobs to reach their full earnings potential. Our economic malaise and resulting part-time jobs culture are directly related to the generational influences mentioned above. Instinctively I think this will be the normal state of things until 2020, when the Millennials begin to reach their full productive capacities. This is a recurring theme on this show, and for good reason. Supply and demand are everything, and they’re both determined by the economy’s generational composition.
1-25-14 Supply And Demand
1-18-14 Supply And Demand Period
1-25-14 Part Time Effort Good Or Bad