Financial stagnation and the End of Secure Work are disrupting the natural stages of human life.

Musings Report #20  5-16-15   Life's Most Important Dramas Are Being Disrupted

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Life's Most Important Dramas Are Being Disrupted

The idea that human life subdivides rather naturally into stages is based on our natural progression from childhood into adulthood and eventual (if we're lucky) old age. 

Confucian thought views life as a developmental process with seven stages, each roughly corresponding to a decade: childhood, young adulthood (16-30), age of independence (30-39), age of mental independence (40-49), age of spiritual maturity (50-59), age of acceptance (60-69), and age of unification (70 - end of life).

Each stage has various tasks, goals and duties, which establish the foundation for the next stage.

I see each stage as centered on a core human drama: for the teenager, establishing an identity and life that is independent of parents; for the young adult, finding a mate and establishing a career; for the middle-aged, navigating the challenges of raising children and establishing some measure of financial security; for those in late middle-age, helping offspring reach independent adulthood and caring for aging parents; early old age, seeking fulfillment now that life's primary duties have been accomplished and managing one's health; and old age, the passage of accepting mortality and the loss of vitality. 

The End of Secure Work and the diminishing returns of financialization are disrupting these core human dramas and frustrating those who are unable to proceed to the next stage of life:

1. Teenagers are being pressured to focus their lives on achieving a conventional financial success (see "Training for Discontent" in From Left Field) that is becoming harder to achieve.

2. Young adults without secure full-time careers cannot afford marriage or children, so they extend the self-absorption of late adolescence into middle age.

3. The middle-aged are finding financial security elusive or out of reach as they struggle to fund their young adult children, aging parents and their own retirement.

4. Increasing longevity is pressuring the late-middle-aged's stage of fulfillment, as elderly parents may require care even as their children reach their own retirement (65-70).

The financial pressures generated by the demise of financialization and the End of Secure Work are not just disrupting each stage; they are upending essential financial balances between the young, the middle-aged and the old.

The elderly, protected by generous social welfare benefits paid by current taxpayers, also benefit from the soaring value of assets such as real estate and stocks.  Meanwhile, financialization's asset bubbles have pushed housing beyond the reach of most young people.

Downsizing, lay-offs, low-paying replacement work and poor decisions to buy houses near the peak of the prior bubble have left many of the middle-aged with high fixed costs and a stagnant or increasingly insecure income.

The stresses of trying to make enough money to afford what was once assumed to be a birthright--a "middle class" lifestyle--is taking a heavy toll on the mental and physical health of the middle-aged, leaving many of them too tired for any fulfilling activities and easy prey for destructive self-medication.

This erosion of opportunities to complete life's stages and core dramas is gradual, and rarely recognized, much less addressed. We are constantly bombarded with messages to innovate, keep up, be fulfilled, etc.--essentially impossible demands for those with multiple generational and/or business duties.

I think the most workable and productive response to these financial disruptions is to focus not on what's scarce and fraught with intense competition (the top 5% slots of conventional financial security) but on what's still abundant, which is opportunities outside conventional hierarchies, ways of reducing fixed costs and life-skills that happen to be entrepreneurial, adaptive and fulfilling.

When I talk about the Mobile Creative class, I'm not talking about a finance-centric definition of success or a path to join the top 5% in Corporate America and the government.  The herd is chasing those dwindling slots, too, guaranteeing frustration and failure for the 95% who won't secure one of those slots.

What we're really discussing is a way of living that places a premium on independent thinking,  maintaining very low fixed costs, establishing a healthy honesty with oneself and one's associates and customers, the ability to make realistic assessments of oneself, one's successes, failures and errors, and a focus on challenges, opportunities, risks, adaptability, flexibility and experimentation, all with a goal of building one's own human, social and physical capital--the foundations not just of well-being but of any meaningful measure of wealth.

Summary of the Blog This Past Week

Is This the Chart of a Healthy Stock Market?  5/16/15

When Europe Gets Greece's Jingle Mail: Dealing with Default  5/15/15

Yet Another Chart That Whimpers "Recession"  5/14/15

The Central Problem with Central Banks: They Become the Greater Fools/Bag-Holders  5/13/15

No Bubble Here: $1.5 Million for 750 Sq. Ft. Flat, Rent a Bed for $1,000/Month, 
or 20 Beds in 7-Bedroom House for $21,000/Month  5/12/15

S&P 500: A Pause That Refreshes, Or Is the Top In?  5/11/15

Best Thing That Happened To Me This Week

We managed to haul off over 5,100 pounds of sectioned tree trunk in two pickup loads.

Market Musings: Oil and the Dollar on a See-Saw

Many people think gold and the U.S. dollar (USD) are on a see-saw--when one is up, the other is down. I have repeatedly posted charts of gold and USD that disprove this intuitively appealing notion, because it's important to understand that gold has other dynamics other than the fluctuations of the USD.

That said, a comparison of oil and USD reveals a close correlation: as the USD rose, oil declined. When USD topped, oil bottomed. Now that USD has been declining, oil has been rising.

The dynamics of oil and USD are complex. But as I discussed in a previous Musings this year, there are solid reasons to view the current decline in USD as a B-leg retrace that will be followed (shortly) by a much larger C-leg higher. If this comes to pass, we can expect oil to plummet below recent lows around $43/barrel to the $30s.  

The potential for such moves suggests various trading opportunities. Let's see if USD finishes its B-leg retrace around the 50-day moving average and the lower Bollinger band and starts moving higher in a resumption of the primary trend.

From Left Field

Sovereignty in the Ancient Near East--We researched from Turkey in 10,000 BC to Sumer in the third millennium BC, Babylonia in the second millennium BC, the building of the pyramids, and we have the actual bills and accounting statements for what’s paid to labour to build the pyramids.
We found they were not built by slaves. They were built by well-paid skilled labour. The problem in these early periods was how to get labour to work at hard tasks, if not willingly? For 10,000 years there was a labour shortage. 

Fantasy Islanders -- From the dawn of the industrial era, companies have been able to stay afloat by borrowing. 

Baltimore has more than 16,000 vacant houses. Why can’t the homeless move in? -- if only it were this easy...

Small L.A. County cities seize large amounts in civil forfeitures -- more government action sowing distrust of the government...

The Story Behind These Heart-Stopping Photos of Volcano Fuego Erupting -- right place, right time, right Nikon camera...

Training for Discontent: The Doublespeak of Parenting and the Double Blade of Ambition in Silicon Valley

10 Writing Tips from Legendary Writing Teacher William Zinsser

Artists Cut Raw Food Into 98 Perfect Cubes To Make Perfectionists Hungry (via Maoxian)

The Mind of Marc Andreessen - "He believes that Silicon Valley is mission control for mankind, which is therefore on a steep trajectory toward perfection."

Private companies ratchet up lobbying to stay dark -- lobbying to keep from being regulated...

America's trailer parks: the residents may be poor but the owners are getting rich -- 10% rent increases annually lead to a doubling in only 7 years...

Vote all you want. The secret government won’t change -- not a conspiracy, just the result of the structure of our government... thus this cannot be reformed away...

10 Reasons Why Kids Need to Read Non-Disney Fairy Tales -- moral complexity....

"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity." Edgar Allan Poe

Thanks for reading--
Copyright © 2015 Charles H Smith, All rights reserved.