The Rise of the Geographically Mobile Workforce

We read and hear a lot about immigration, mostly as a national crisis. But whether we like it or not, I believe immigration is here to stay. As circumstances in Third World countries become increasingly desperate, people are leaving those countries in favor of the rich countries. But with the rise of a geographically mobile workforce, the possibility of a major immigration flow in the opposite direction is entirely possible.

A radical idea, you say? Maybe so, but it?s likely to become a more attractive option going forward, particularly as the fortunes of the middle class and even of retirees continues to deteriorate from forces beyond our control at the individual level.

The Rise of the Geographically Mobile Workforce
The Rise of the Geographically Mobile Workforce

Have You Ever Head of ?Global Labor Arbitrage??

Arbitrage is a fancy word, but one we all need to be familiar with. If most or all your income is derived from work, there?s an excellent chance you?re affected by global labor arbitrage. For that reason alone, you need to understand what it?s all about.

Let?s start with the definition of the word arbitrage. It happens in virtually every economic activity, including the way we shop. Investopedia describes it as follows:

?Arbitrage is the simultaneous purchase and sale of an asset to profit from an imbalance in the price. It is a trade that profits by exploiting the price differences of identical or similar financial instruments on different markets or in different forms. Arbitrage exists as a result of market inefficiencies and would therefore not exist if all markets were perfectly efficient.?

To give this definition a visual picture, it?s the reason why most of the products we buy are imported from foreign countries. Mostly, it?s low-wage countries, like China, India, and Brazil. But it also happens with currencies, where an investor might buy, say the Japanese yen, because it?s cheap compared to the US dollar. It can also happen with commodities, where say, an American company imports coal from Brazil because it?s cheaper than buying it from a US source.

It happens all the time, but it?s become increasingly common with labor. And it affects most workers in one way or another.

How Global Labor Arbitrage Affects (Hurts) Workers

The Intelligent Economist gives an excellent summary of global labor arbitrage:

?Global labor arbitrage is where, as a result of the removal or reduction of barriers to international trade, jobs move to nations where labor and the cost of doing business (such as environmental regulations) is inexpensive. The alternative is impoverished labor moves to countries with higher paying jobs?a prosperous nation (such as the United States) will remove its barriers to international trade, integrating its labor market with those of nations with a lower cost of labor (such as India, China, and Mexico), resulting in a shifting of jobs from the prosperous nation to the developing one. The result is an increase in the supply of labor relative to the demand for labor, which means a decrease in costs.?

Simply put, global labor arbitrage lowers wages.

The article goes on to describe the three basic forms of global labor arbitrage. The first is foreign outsourcing, where businesses move entire operations to countries with cheap labor. This explains why manufacturing jobs in the US have collapsed in the last 50 years.

The second is importing foreign skilled labor using work visas. This has become common in the IT field, where highly skilled workers from low labor cost countries (frequently India) are encouraged to relocate to the US, creating a glut of IT workers. This puts downward pressure on wages in that field.

The third is through immigration. People from low-wage countries migrate to rich countries in search of higher-paying employment opportunities. Like importing foreign skilled labor, immigration depresses wages by creating an oversupply of workers.

Whatever the specific methodology, employers gain the upper hand versus employees. Even in an expanding economy, they?re able to reduce or suppress wages, through arbitrage of the global labor force.

Arbitrage Can Work to Your Advantage ? But Most Workers Aren?t Aware of it

For most workers, arbitrage is a negative. The best we can say about it is that we pay less for a wide range of products, as companies sell low-cost products manufactured in low-wage countries to consumers in rich countries. The prices are lower than products that can be manufactured domestically.

However, those price advantages aren?t always so clear-cut. Low production costs in foreign countries usually translate to higher profit margins by the companies taking advantage of the arbitrage. This means at least part of the benefit of low-cost products is lost on consumers in rich countries in favor of the companies that import them.

But what the vast majority of workers in rich countries, like the US, don?t realize is that they can use arbitrage to their advantage. It?s simply a matter of reversing the dynamics.

For example, a US worker with certain skills ? that may have been at least partially devalued because of global labor arbitrage ? relocates to a low-cost country. The worker retains his or her income level, but the money goes farther in the lower-cost country. It?s not an easy transition to make, because it requires a full-on life transition. But it?s actually more doable today than ever before.

There are several reasons why this is true.

1. Work skills are becoming standardized globally

At least part of the reason for importing skilled labor from one country to another has to do with the standardization of certain skills. For example, the same IT skills that are being taught and employed in India easily transition into the US. The US Department of Labor even has programs to invite foreign workers with certain skills into the country. This is probably true of many other countries as well

As the world modernizes, certain skills have become universally necessary. It?s not just IT positions either. Think about fields like nursing, teaching, and marketing skills to enable a foreign concern to sell products or services in the US.

2. Certain skills are more valuable outside the US than they are inside

One that quickly comes to mind is someone with bilingual capabilities, who can teach English to people in foreign countries who may want to either migrate to the US or do business here. Another may be working in the travel and hospitality industry. Those are low-wage positions in the US, but often pay more to induce native English speakers to come to foreign tourist destinations. I?ve actually known people who have made this transition.

The ability to speak English is a major advantage outside the English-speaking world, because English is the closest thing we have to a universal language. At a minimum, English is considered a valuable second language the world over, but especially in business. It?s an advantage most Americans don?t realize they have.

If you?ve ever considered moving to another country, you should concentrate on learning that country?s language. You might have a built-in career teaching English to the locals.

3. The Internet

While we might think of the Internet as a nice tool to have at home or at work, this human innovation is literally tearing down borders. A person in one country can transact business with someone in another. It happens all the time, and you?re probably already doing it yourself. If you?ve ever bought something online ? and it came from another country ? you?ve sliced through an international border.

It?s happening every day on the Internet, through tens of millions of transactions. The Internet is linking people around the globe. Were you to relocate to another country, you?d still be able to transact business in America, and in every other country in the world as well.

The possibilities here are endless. In my work as a blogger and freelance blog writer, I earn income from international sources on a regular basis. In fact, that part of my income has been growing faster than domestic sources in recent years. I believe it?s possible for anyone in just about any business today.

4. Smartphones

These bring the Internet to a handheld device. Even in a foreign country, you can easily and quickly connect with people and businesses back home. But you can also connect with people and businesses in other countries.

The dramatic improvement in communications technology in the past couple of decades truly is making the world smaller. You no longer need to live in New York City ? or any other community in America ? to be able to participate in what?s going on there. The Internet and smartphones are keeping everyone connected.

5. Inexpensive travel

Global tourism and travel are booming. In 1950 the number of people traveling internationally was a paltry 25 million. It rose to 1.2 billion by 2016. That means one out of every six of the world?s residents are traveling to a different country each year. The number is expected to grow steadily, at least through 2030.

This presents three major arbitrage advantages:

  1. Foreign travel has become easier and less expensive than ever before, and thus more accessible to the average person.
  2. It enables easier physical connections to and from home in a foreign location.
  3. It highlights the potential for employment opportunities in the travel industry.

Air travel in particular has exploded, with the net result being that there?s almost no place in the world too remote that it can?t be reached in just a few hours. But on a more local level, travel within individual countries is also easier than ever. The US interstate highway system and the European wide rail service are examples. The combination of travel options reduces physical distances between places globally.

6. Electronic Money

Much is made of the rise of electronic money. It means you can be in one place, while your money is stored somewhere else. That somewhere else is, for the most part, on the computers of banks and brokerage firms.

I think this point is missed by the masses. While we mostly think of it as being a convenience, it?s actually much more than that. You can be in one of the most remote parts of Asia, Africa or South America, while your money is safely held back in the US.

This is an incredibly liberating development (particularly for retirees). Just a couple of generations ago, mobility was highly limited by the location of your assets. It could be stock certificates held at home or with a broker, or even cash in the local bank. But now that we have electronic money, physical custody is no longer an issue, and neither is geography. In a sense, you can move to another country and take your money with you ? without ever needing to physically move it.

A Strategy to Join the Geographically Mobile Workforce

It?s now possible to live in a low-cost country, while keeping most of your money and investments in the US. You can also easily maintain communications and even business transactions back in the US, and travel easily to and from your country of residence and home.

More significantly, it?s now possible to live in a low-cost country, while earning your living back in the US, or even from other countries. Since most business now transacts over the web, many jobs can now be done remotely.

If you can retain your investments in the US ? as well as maintain a US level income ? while living in a low-cost country, you?ll effectively reverse global labor arbitrage in your favor. You?ll be doing exactly what the big conglomerates do, but turning the financial advantage in your favor.

I?ll be the first to admit not everyone would be suited to this kind of transition. I myself would be a strong candidate for this type of move. As a mobile creative, having an income that?s not dependent on geography, it?s a move I could make. I just have no personal desire to do so.

But it can be a way for you to leverage your income to a higher effective level. For example, if you currently live in the US, earn $50,000 per year, and spend $50,000 per year, you might gain an advantage by moving to a low-cost country.

If you can live in that country for $30,000 per year, you can save and invest $20,000. You may also find the value of your labor rises, since you?ll gain a foreign perspective and experience. Whether you stay in the new country, or relocate back to the US, that experience and skill set may move you up to the next level.

Is the Rise of the Geographically Mobile Workforce the Wave of the Future?

I think it is. As living costs and taxes get higher in the rich countries, more rich country workers are likely to be enticed to move to lower-cost countries. This trend is already in motion on a very limited basis, and it has the potential to improve an individual?s finances.

The economic squeeze on the American middle class has been well documented, even if it?s being ignored by the political class. But that?s really the point. We become indoctrinated to believe that solutions to our biggest problems will come from higher up. But so far, that expectation hasn?t played out.

More likely, solutions to our biggest problems are likely to come at the grassroots level. As more skilled workers from rich countries, particularly America, relocate to low-cost countries, people will be creating their own solutions to chronic domestic problems. It may seem unreachable from where you sit right now, but as I described above, the obstacles to making an international move are becoming lower all the time.

While most of us have grown up believing we would live in America all our lives, that notion may come apart in the next decade or two. If necessity is the mother of invention then it?s also the foundation of fundamental change. When people begin to vote with their feet, moving from one place to another, we?ll begin reversing the global labor arbitrage that has so far worked against us.

Final Thoughts

It?ll take thinking outside the box, acquiring some new skills, developing a different mindset, and finding some measure of courage to pull off. But soon enough, the trickle of Americans moving to lower-cost countries may turn into a human tidal wave. It may increasingly become a move of choice or necessity.

Have you considered relocating to a low-cost country?

( Photo by kansasphoto )

32 Responses to The Rise of the Geographically Mobile Workforce

  1. I understand the economic argument, but the human element is not inconsequential. To make this work, you need to be willing to leave behind your family, friends, and other attachments. If you have a partner, then you both need to be portable.

    More realistically, you can leverage this concept by simply moving to a cheaper town (rather than a cheaper country). It is often much cheaper to live two or three hours away. You can still work remotely.

  2. Agreed Neil, it isn’t for everyone. But there are people who have that combination of a portable income, a willingness to take a chance, and sufficient motivation to make the move. But yes, it’s also possible to move to lower cost areas of the country and do something similar. I see both becoming more popular in the future. Geography and international borders aren’t the factors they used to be. Once a few start doing it, the flow will get larger.

  3. Good post, Kevin. I would add that arbitraging the market value of one’s labor and the local cost of living also plays out within the US. I predict that a large number of Mobile Creatives will leave urban Calif., NYC, Denver, Seattle and other increasingly unaffordable cities/urban zones for much cheaper places in the US while retaining a significant percentage of their high wages via remote work. This is also visible in other countries with very high urban costs and low rural costs such as Japan.

  4. I agree Charles, it’s likely to become a full scale human movement. We did virtually that moving from Atlanta to New Hampshire. Housing is higher here, but everything else is a little bit cheaper. Also, major factor, NH has no income or sales tax. GA is now considered middle of the pack on taxes. We’re saving thousands on taxes each year from the move.

    I’ve also noticed a surprising number of upscale homes in the lakes region of NH as well as up the coast in NH and Maine. These areas are located upwards of 100 or more miles north of Boston, probably too far to commute. My suspicion is well-to-do mobile creatives and stock market millionaires leaving the high cost of metro areas Boston and New York. But it’s also occurred to me some of them may be bug out retreats, close to the small airports and the Canadian border. There’s definitely something happening just below the mainstream radar.

  5. By Don Reisinger November 14, 2018

    In a bid to attract more people to its city, Tulsa has announced a new program called Tulsa Remote that will pay people $10,000 to move to the city and stay there for at least a year. Additionally, the Tulsa Remote program will offer participants 33% off their rent and free utilities for the first three months, according to the Tulsa Remote website. And if participants want to work out of the home, they?ll receive a free membership to a coworking space in the city.

    Tulsa is one of many cities across the U.S. hoping to attract remote workers who don?t necessarily need to be tied to an office to get work done. In fact, Tulsa?s program is designed specifically for those remote workers and self-employed people who have the option of working anywhere. Applicants must also live outside of Tulsa County.

    Can’t avoid thinking about the deceased neighbor of John McAfee. He was an affluent builder from Florida seeking paradise elsewhere. Of course that tragedy represents an aberration.

    Grim reality may serve as an impetus for many.

    Mar 26, 2018 ? According to a recent World Happiness Report, the United States dropped four spots from last year?moving from 14th place to 18th in a survey of 156 countries.

    World Health Organization?s Ranking of the World?s Health Systems.
    USA = 37th

  6. That must be becoming a thing George, because the state of Vermont is making a very similar offer. I think it is true the US is falling in too many quality of life categories, but some of that can be remedied by moving to less crowded, less costly areas. What we do have to worry about though is the possibility of losing some of the best and brightest to international migration. That was unthinkable 20-30 years ago, but there are now websites focused on helping people make the move.

    To show how possible this is becoming, my wife and I were in the Bahamas in March, and while there, my wife got offered a job in a high end jewelry store. (She works in jewelry sales and is diamond certified.) With me working online, the move would be doable. But I have no desire to move to the islands. It’s beautiful, but I’d get bored fast. The people, places and culture in Northern New England are too interesting to abandon for a year-round beach resort island. But it does show that the possibilities are out there, even for ordinary folks like us. I’ve known people who have done that.

  7. “you can save and invest $20,000”

    Quite coincidental. 90 day 20K CD matures this month. 2.25 percent. It will cost $100 or so to bump it into longer term instrument with slightly better yield. Are the milestone days long gone for the market? Why risk it. My brother’s portfolio realized 3.8% in 2018 vs my 4.1 percent.

    $20,000 investment would be more enchanting IF a 1 year CD was generating 6 or 7 percent – like it should.

  8. That’s the problem of these ridiculous artificially low interest rates. You’re absolutely correct, they should be in the 6% to 7% range. But low rates are bleeding savers and retirees, and pushing house prices to unaffordable levels. They’re also continuing to drive the stock market higher, setting up either a crash or a very long-term bear market.

    Low rates are one of those strategies that looks pretty on the surface, but hides a lot of toxic outcomes beneath. With the US being the world’s biggest debtor, and both the stock market and real estate market addicted to low rates, we should assume they’ll hang around a lot longer than any of us expect. I’m already shocked they’ve been around as long as they have. I think the Fed knows even a modest increase in rates will tank the economy in short order. Look at all the financial chaos that happened in the 4th quarter of 2018 with just fractional rate increases. Now they’re already backing off.

  9. I’m a huge believer in going where your skills are the most rewarded. Where ever that may be.
    I have seen to many people lose their jobs because of company moves, yet they try and hang on in a city that no longer rewards their skills.
    Many times the companies have stayed in the U.S. Just went to a more friendly tax area. Some of these guys were offered positions in the new location but wouldn’t go.
    They spend the next 20 years going bankrupt in a place their skills are no longer needed.
    Why? Because of family and friends? Really? Unless they are paying your way it’s your survival.

    I wonder why people stay in areas that they can no longer afford ? Move for god sakes to where you can afford.
    Who cares if you have a job. If it is not cutting it then what is the use?

    People would rather complain and blame the government then actually have to make a big boy decision.

    I have zero issue with going where you have to go and doing what you have to do. Where ever that is.

  10. Hi Tim – I learned a long time ago that the greatest force in human nature is inertia. People would rather stay and suffer a predictable fate than deal with the temporary unpleasantness of a move. My wife and I have made two major geographic moves, from NJ to GA and GA to NH. We never regretted either. Being older now I’d rather not make another move (also because I love living in NH), but if we have to, we will.

    Most people I know fall into the category you’ve described. They’re emotionally and intellectually stuck. It isn’t just family ties either. It’s often fear of losing a job with a 401(k) (even though it can be rolled over into an IRA), or emotionally bonded to their house. (I’ve lived in too many places to permanently bond with a house. Each has served it’s purpose for a time, and that was enough.) I think a lot also avoid change out of fear of being homeless, which is totally irrational. There’s always someplace to live, and even if it isn’t optimal, it only needs to be temporary. In an absolute sense, there is no housing shortage, despite what the National Association of Realtors wants us to believe.

    But it is weird how some people tend to be more mobile and adaptable, while others want nothing more than for nothing to ever change. The very fact that life itself isn’t permanent flies in the face of that thinking. Maybe at a very fundamental level, accepting the reality of your own death is what releases some to pursue radically different courses. But that’s just a speculation.

  11. Kevin,
    I did something similar in my own city. I lived in a very upscale neighborhood. Payed 8,000 a year in city taxes.
    I got tired of that why should I pay that when everybody in this city used the same services. We have no school districts. So it didn’t matter I literally moved 5 miles away to a neighborhood that I pay 1000 in. Much poorer area but safe.

    It was one of my smartest decisions I ever made.

  12. What makes that move even more remarkable is that you’re a retired cop and much more aware of neighborhoods. Most people, having far fewer “street smarts”, would assume the worst and never make the move. Fear is so often what keeps people from acting.

    You’re also describing another example of arbitrage, which may be housing arbitrage. You moved from where housing is expensive to where it’s cheap. In addition to relocating to other countries or lower cost areas of the US, we may soon see a large-scale migration back to the lower cost cities. As they repopulate, services and infrastructure are likely to improve. Already a lot of high cost suburban areas are seeing infrastructure decay and declining quality of life. When I was living in suburban Atlanta, in the “nice areas”, we were seeing a rise in urban type traffic and even crime. Drug use in the high schools was rampant. When people realize they aren’t getting what they’re paying extra for, there’s going to be a major shift. But you’ve gotten in ahead of the herd so you’ll stand to benefit the most.

    BTW, where I live in Manchester was a burned out rust belt city back in the 80s. The factories and mills closed up. But the downtown area has gradually revitalized, adding apartments, condos (both mostly conversions of old housing and industrial stock), restaurants and clubs. But the other night we were downtown and noticed shops are returning as well. There’s a level of human activity and culture that isn’t available in suburban areas. It’s a lot less expensive than Boston, so people and businesses are moving in. I think that’s going to happen in a lot of older cities, as long as the economics are right. But the driving force will be the continued price spiral in the big, high cost cities and suburban areas. If you think about it, the top 10% are driving prices in those areas. That leaves the rest of the country fair game for the bottom 90%.

    I think we’re about to see population shifts unimagined ten years ago, and sill by most people today. That’s the typical way change comes about.

  13. Same thing is happening here. We are loaded with burned out factories that have all been converted to apartments, condos and they are full. I took a 4 hour bike ride yesterday around the whole city and I noticed how much activity there was going on.
    It is finally starting to spill this way. I am 5 miles from the downtown core.
    When things go up here to stupid, I’ll cash out and move. I’m not attached to anything building wise or area. I’m all about my financial thriving and survival. This works for me at this point. When it doesn’t, that’s it. I don’t wait either for it to happen. I look ahead a few years and watch the trends. I’m seeing them already here.

    Yes, alot of times people are scared of others just by how they look. I’m not afraid of anybody. It’s never as bad as people think or have it built up in their minds. Of course I’m smart and I’m not walking around at 3 o’clock in the morning either.

    The suburbs have decayed here also. The inner ring ones. ( Closer to the city) the outer ring ones are loaded with Mc Mansions.

  14. I figure I have five to seven years before I’ll leave. They are already reassessing the whole city.
    It’s only a matter of time.

  15. Given that virtually all neighborhoods and communities go through price cycles, there’s usually a time to come in, and time to go out. The timing can be tricky, but you can make serious money by getting in ahead of the crowd, and leaving at the peak of the influx. It’s a brilliant investment strategy, as well as being a way to live more cheaply than the typical suburbanite.

    But one thing I have noticed over the years, both when I was in the mortgage business and now that I’m out, is that most people pay no attention to price cycles when it comes to buying a house. They’ll turn their noses up at the market when prices are low, only to eagerly jump on the band wagon when they’re at or near peak. I’ve seen more people buy high and sell low in the housing market than I care to count.

    Why anyone would ignore price cycles when it comes to making the biggest purchase of your life is a complete mystery to me. I guess it emphasizes the point that buying a house is more of an emotional decision than a financial one. But that gets back to the reason so many are so afraid to move, even when it’s clearly time, or even past time. Emotion is the glue that keeps them in a bad situation.

  16. My old neighborhood the house went up 200000 in ten years. I couldn’t sell fast enough. I sold a year before the peak. It’s ok, you can’t time things that percise. It’s happening here now. I’m still a ways away but I’ll do the same. Better to be early by some than to late.
    Now the prices have leveled off and have went down some,with more and more options and neighborhoods getting reclaimed.
    I’ll sell early and run. I have a figure in mind. Once the comps get close to that. I’m out.

    My mother held on way to long. Her house went up to the 120 range. She wouldn’t sell. Twenty years later it sold for 60000. I practically begged her to be smart but you know how that goes.

  17. Clarify prices went down in my old neighborhood a year and a half after I sold. This one was at rock bottom. My friends were planning my funeral when they saw it.
    It was not in good condition and there were 3 boarded up houses on the street. They are not anymore. It took three years for that.
    I saw the potential of the area. We will see. It already has gone up some since I have been here.

    If not I have a paid for house that is nice.

  18. Part of the problem with people who hold on too long is the mistaken assumption that the value of their house will always rise. We had the same situation with my mother. She could have sold in 2006-2007 after my father died, for a peak value. But she waited until after the housing crash – and after her house had fallen further into disrepair – and only got a little more than half. But all the while, she continued to insist her house was still worth its peak value. She paid no attention whatsoever to property values and how they were changing. All that mattered were the numbers in her own head. She was fully aware of the peak value, but refused to even acknowledge the real value when it was time to sell. I think a lot of people do that.

  19. Yes,
    I don’t know why I said all that. I feel like I’m blowing my own horn. It has been one of my prime investment vehicles for a long time.
    Since I don’t own a stock ( never have ) It’s hard asset’s. P.M., land and real estate.

    In the bubble era it can be lucrative.

    I guess my point is that we should never get attached to anything. Homes, countries, areas, jobs.
    I have no issue at all picking up and leaving, once it doesn’t work anymore. That includes leaving the country.
    Once we get emotional about things, it’s over. Your brain shorts out.

    I like that your mobile. You can blow out at anytime, renting. You like N.H. but I’m pretty sure you would leave in a minute if you had to.

    That is how we should all be in this era. that is one of the major adjustments we have to make. It’s not my father’s era anymore.

  20. funny too
    I have moved eight times in twenty years. All within the same city. Within a ten mile radius.

    Buy low, live in it, sell when it’s time. I used to flip in the early 2000’s but everybody and there grandmother starting doing it. right before the crash. I sold everything the year before just on a stupid comment G Bush made. That there were some signs of problems. That’s all I needed to hear.

    This is my last house though. I’m done after this. I’m getting to old for all that anymore. LOL

  21. I probably should have put this in the article, but it was just a fuzzy concept at the time I wrote it. But on balance I think mobility is one of the most underrated qualities you can build into your life, and stability is one of the most over-rated. I think this is also true on a big picture level. Think about some really big movements in history driven by people who were (or became) mobile, either by choice or necessity:

    1) A few years back I read that Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire by itinerant preachers, but even more so by mobile merchants, peddlers and tradesman. Free to move, they were free to extend the reach of the Gospel beyond the Holy Land.
    2) The exploration and colonization of the Americas was accomplished by explorers, entrepreneurs and others who weren’t content to sit back home in Europe.
    3) The westward expansion of the US. People literally pulled up stakes and built entire communities and cities. Had everyone stayed back East, it never would have come about.
    4) The Industrial Revolution. Shopkeepers adapted their products to mass production, and often relocated to places with power, water, fuel, and transportation (rivers and seaports). Millions of people left their farms to follow the jobs in the factories.
    5) The waves of immigration that brought many of our ancestors to the US and other parts of the world after the Civil War. It was mostly poor and desperate people who choose mobility (even if they didn’t have the money or skills to pursue it) to build new lives in new countries. That’s still happening with immigrants today.

    The point is, mobility made all this happen. That’s why I think it’s so underrated.

  22. All very true. Those preachers didn’t wait for things to come to them. they brought it with them.
    A home is nothing but a building. I’ll take advantage of the bubble era and use it but it’s the people in it that are the home. The memories don’t stay with the building, they go with you.

    Same with jobs. Certain skills become outdated or not useful where your at. Instead of going where they are useful they wait for something to fall into there lap. It never does.
    We hold on to the wrong things in life.

  23. K. Robinson rightfully condemns the educational system for failing to progress beyond the industrial revolution era. He correctly focuses on the failure to cultivate creativity. The video is captivating.

    “Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity”

    Do schools kill creativity? | Sir Ken Robinson – YouTube

  24. I’ve seen that video George, and Ken Robinson – a former university professor – is brilliant in both his delivery and his opinions. The education system is completely inadequate for the world we now live in. It’s even counter-productive, but like the emperor who has no clothes, no one dares to question it. Worse, at the college level, it’s putting tens of millions of young people and their parents deep in debt. Not to mention the opportunity costs in money and time where both could be better spent. For example, if you’re going to spend six figures on a college degree, might the money be better investing in an investment portfolio? Might the time be better spent learning a trade, starting a business or gaining valuable work experience? No one asks these questions, they just line up with the herd and follow. And instead of preparing students for a changing world, they lock them into tired organizational systems in corporations and governments. We need more skilled trades people and entrepreneurs, not managers and bureaucrats. We have not enough of the first and an oversupply of the second. That oversupply is also hurting incomes.

  25. Kevin,

    Your articles are insightful, well-researched and thought out – do you hear a “but” coming? But, as a low income retiree on a fixed income, and inability to work, I would like to see some information addressing this segment of the population.

    Hoping that your personal new normal is going well.

    Diann Bernardo, M.A.

  26. Actually, that’s the direction I want to take Diann. I’ve been concentrating on the big picture developments, but now I want to get down to micro strategies to deal with them. But always with the realization that the issues most of us face are much more complicated than we think, and the solutions will be less than perfect. And sometimes there are no satisfactory solutions. Most of us aren’t going to be able to move from a difficult life to a perfect life (that’s the reality) but I want to focus on ways to make improvements in what has become an increasingly unforgiving world.

    If you have topic suggestions, please feel free to forward them, along with any of your own thoughts. I’ll likely mention your name as the topic originator.

    And thanks, my new normal is going as well as can be expected. My son just moved out this past weekend and my daughter is going in early June. We’re still wading through all this! There are times in life when too much is happening at once, it isn’t our imaginations.

  27. That is a great question Diane. This is a big problem.
    I remember when I was younger I used to ask my mother these questions.

    The problem in America is that families are fractured all over the country. We have gotten into this notion that it’s us. Not the extended family. My wife’s family is from Lebanon. They still live there. Her Aunt and Uncle live with their kids and grand kids. Three of her Aunts also live there. As the years have went on he has built two wings onto his home. With a central Kitchen. All the Aunts cook during the day, together.
    They pool their resources and basically all make it work together.

    Her family that moved here all bought multiple dwellings and lived together under the same roof. They have there privacy but still live together. I have followed that same path.
    I own a multiple dwelling that houses my business, Mother in law and my family.

    Nobody who ages out of the workforce or physically cannot work anymore should fend for themselves. We the family should be stepping up and taking care of each other. We have gotten away from this type of living. Most of the zoning laws now forbid multiple dwellings being built. Their are miles of 3000 square foot homes here that house three or four people. Meanwhile they are putting their parents and elderly in homes. We have miles of these assisted living homes all over here. Why?

    I’m not saying this is your situation. Not at all. The mindset needs to change with us.
    The whole concept has gotten lost. People can’t live in the same city anymore. I have family all over the country. Why? Because they had to go where the work for them was.
    I wish I had the answer to this. I’m not sure there is one.

  28. Excellent points Tim! Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly true of the many problems we have in our culture. Trying to figure out how to navigate them successfully, while everyone is trying to self-actualize like lone wolves, complicates everything. Meanwhile, not every problem has easy or comfortable solutions. You know my thoughts on the healthcare problem. I feel like the Grim Reaper when I write about it, but the truth is there are no easy answers there. Any potential solution will be expensive and inadequate. We’ve reached the point of no return, and the days of Mayberry are long gone.

    It’s certainly true when it comes to aging. I think much like death, disability, and addiction, our society wants to pretend they really don’t exist. That makes it very difficult to have constructive discussions or even to advance strategies that might offer at least partial solutions. Plus, people don’t want partial solutions ? they want perfect solutions. Those aren’t going happen in the real world.

    But at the same time, there’s so much that can be done at the individual level. The problem is we feel disempowered. We’re told to trust the system, which has become both dysfunctional, unreliable and even corrupt.

    I completely agree with you about the breakdown of family and community as being the root cause of most of our problems. There was a time when we looked to family, friends and community for support and to survive crises. Now we turn to the state, and find ourselves dealing with soulless institutions that aren’t set up to deal with our individual problems.

    How to negotiate that conundrum is the missing ingredient. I think that’s what we need to focus on more on this website. That’s especially true now that most of the systems in place are being stretched to their extreme limits. We’ll be forced to rely more on individual efforts, as well as family and community, than we have been in the last few decades.

    If anyone has specific topics they’d like to suggest for future articles, fire away. We may not come up with perfect solutions, but maybe we can start heading in a better direction.

  29. Your right when you say the system is dead. It is!!!! It does not work. It’s up to us to figure out what is best for what we need. Without the system.

    I watched this documentary on middle class crisis. It showed a family of four and less than a mile away showed her mother. Neither family was making it. They couldn’t pay there bills.
    To make a long story short, The mother lost her home to foreclosure. So did the daughter. She also got divorced and lost her family with it.
    I just keep thinking to myself, why don’t these two make it work in one house They all worked, just made crap money. One made 30,000, one made 23,000 the husband and the mother made 25,000.
    I just could not understand it. They got along. They would sit at one or the others kitchen tables and cry over there situations. It just never seemed to dawn on them or they were brainwashed ? I don’t know.
    They just kept talking about this fictional American dream of owning there own home. It’s like they couldn’t think for themselves anymore.

    This is how I see half of the people in the country. Like zombies.

    The whole documentary was focused on the lack of help from the system. All the good jobs shipped overseas, blah , blah. All true but they had the solution right in front of them but couldn’t figure it out. They kept waiting for the system.

  30. That’s true Tim, people are sitting around waiting for salvation coming from the nameless, faceless “they”. It’s like they’re trapped like deer in the headlights. The complication that’s come to typify life in the 21st century is blinding people to the more basic solutions society has used for centuries. Everyone needs to have their own house, their own car, and their own money. That really is true to some degree, but when you have people in the same family living in multiple households, you have a duplication of expenses. That’s become the norm, and no one questions it. They just scratch their heads and wonder why it’s not working.

    A flexible mindset is more necessary than ever. That can include considering strategies from the distant past. But we’re supposed to pretend it’s a brave new world, and what worked for centuries can’t possibly work now.

    We’re going through that right now in my family. My son just moved out, and my daughter is going at the beginning of next month. I get the need to be on your own, but at the same time we now have three households out of what was once one. So the combined house payment goes from $1,500 to nearly $4,000. We’re supporting their moves, but from a financial point of view it’s really insane.

    I think the problem is times aren’t good, but they’re still just good enough that people are following the same lifestyle patterns of the more prosperous post WW2 era, when people could easily afford to split households. At the same time, they’re not quite bad enough to encourage more conservative patterns. I think the next recession will change that, but until it hits, we’ll keep tooling along the way we have.

    Meanwhile my wife and I are continuing to formulate future strategies based on the potential for the boomerang effect. That’s very common, as young people move out on their own only to find they really can’t afford it, at least not if they want to build a future. I can’t seen most of them living on one income if a baby should come along.

    But the same thing is happening with the elderly. So many are living by themselves. It’s held up as a virtue, but it’s really dangerous when you think about it. I mean, there’s no one there to call 911 if they slip and fall or have a medical event. But you see so many single elderly or very old couples living in houses (not apartments or condos) all by themselves. This is another situation I think is going to reverse in the next recession. This most recent episode of the housing bubble has pushed carrying costs even higher, and living alone no longer makes sense.

    Then there are these reverse mortgages designed to keep grandma in her home longer (but really to generate fees for the lender in the name of this sacred virtue). I feel like people will fall for anything that will enable them to maintain the status quo.

  31. Never realized Amazon utilized a mobile command force. Amazon is so anxious to lure seniors they even pay their RV camping fees !!

    WIRED magazine article………..

    Meet the CamperForce, Amazon’s Nomadic Retiree Army

    You Tube interview………..

    Working At Amazon * What Is It Like to Workamp For Amazon? * Full-time RV Living *

    The individual interviewed died shortly after his stint at KY shoe warehouse ended. The physical demands of an Amazon warehouse job does not appear to be ideally suited for most seniors. Came across this entry in the comment section.

    “Ron was my brother-in-law. Just so you all know, he died after a presumed heart attack the first week of December. He was excited to be on this RV adventure, but his heart couldn’t handle the demands of this job. May he rest in peace”.?
    -4 months ago-

  32. You and I must read much of the same stuff George, because I remember that article. It meant to point out that working in the Amazon “fulfillment centers” was really more of a sweatshop with long hours and hard work. It was drawing in a lot of seniors, and even younger workers who weren’t well suited to the work, but were desperate for income. Some lived in areas that have no work, so they go mobile in RVs and follow the work. Not an ideal situation, because you can never set up even a semi-permanent base of operations from which to live your life and make connections. Yet thousands do it.

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