Scott Burns, a personal finance writer, recently penned an article entitled “Earth, the Senior Planet.” He made the following observations.
The Second World Assembly on Aging, held last spring in Madrid, Spain, received remarkably little press. That’s a shame because most of us need a major reset in our assumptions about the future. By the year 2050, United Nations demographers estimate, old people will outnumber children for the first time in human history. Yes, you read that right: the first time in human history.
The change also means overpopulation is, well, over. Declining population is beginning. The transition may seem long to you and me, but in demographic terms, it will be short and steep.
Such changes seldom make it to newsprint, let alone television. But these fundamental changes are more likely to shape our experience—and our investments—than conventional crystal ball gazing. Skeptics should consider a few items.
Europe won’t become a historical theme park. It will turn into a nursing home. United Nations projections show the population declining from 727 million in 2000 to 603 million in 2050. That’s not much higher than the 548 million who lived there in 1950, only a few years after the devastation of World War II.
The median age in Japan will be 50 by 2025. Oldsters will outnumber kids three to one. Since the Japanese also have dominated the global longevity sweepstakes for 20 years, they’ll have an estimated 218,000 citizens at least 100 years old, rising to 959,000 by 2050.
China, the most populous nation in the world, also will be its testosterone capital. The country’s current excess of young males, numbering 25 million in 2000, will continue to grow for the next 50 years. Second sons who had no inheritances fueled the growth of the British Empire in the 19th century. We can only wonder what 25 million Chinese men without any hope of marriage will do in the 21st century.
The United States will be the bowl and chair Goldilocks preferred. We won’t be overrun with the young and uneducated like the less-developed world. And we won’t be aging faster than Dorian Gray, like most of the developed world.
We’ll be getting older, to be sure, but kids will still be a visible part of our society. Our population will still be growing, albeit slowly, in 2050. With a median population age of 40.7 years in 2050, we’ll be much younger than Europe (49.5 years) or Japan (53.1). We’ll be a bit younger than China (43.8), too.
What does this all mean to us? If you’re 25 today, you’ll be 72 in 2050 and may be eligible for Social Security about that time, assuming the powers that be in Washington will make some needed changes in the next few years. Politics being what it is, they probably will. IBI