15 Charts That Prove the Economy Has Changed and So Should You

Naughty gnome the economy has changed

Our beliefs about what holds value come from past generations and our measurement of success is no longer grounded in economic reality. Here are 15 charts that will convince you it’s time to update your mindset about money.

Picture the American dream. Does a house in suburbia, a manicured lawn, a car, and 2.5 children come to mind? Before WWII, just 13% of the population lived outside of urban areas. The great migration happened as people sought more personal space and distance from dense nuclear targets. But not only is this "dream" hurting the environment (and culture), it's harder than ever to attain. New generations are struggling to become "successful" in this dream, and are feeling inadequate for not being able to fulfill a dream that should be accessible.

1. Productivity and hourly wage growth aren’t correlated anymore

Source: EPI analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis data


2. That’s translating to increased GDP but not household income

Source: FRED Federal Reserve Economic Data


3. Recessions aren’t followed by catch-up growth anymore

Source: FRED Federal Reserve Economic Data


4. Meanwhile the younger you are, the more student debt you have

Source: ValuePenguin


5. And retirement savings risk has shifted from employers to employees

Source: U.S. Department of Labor Form 5500 Summaries 1979-1993, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corportation, Current Population Survey 1999-2011


6. So it’s no wonder older millennials who should have savings, don’t

Source: GO Banking Rates


But is it really just the economy’s fault?


7. Housing prices are higher, but construction costs are flat

Source: The National Bureau of Economic Research, Joseph Gyourko and Raven Molloy


8. We keep buying bigger houses even though we live with fewer people

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


9. The price per sq ft (which accounts for location) is basically flat

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


10. On top of that, self-storage construction has exploded...

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


11. ...because we keep spending more money during the holidays.

Source: Deloitte 2017 Consumer Holiday Shopping Report


12. Money (and time) we don’t have

Source: Deloitte 2017 Consumer Holiday Shopping Report


Pro tip

Three things you can do that will make a big impact on your wealth:

  1. Outsmart marketers.

  2. Cut your spending.

  3. Move to the city.


13. Understand and overcome irrational purchasing

Source: Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely


14. Cut spending in largest categories first (housing, transportation, food)

Source: Consumer Expenditure Survey (U.S. Dept. of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


15. Move to urban areas with higher employment growth

Source: Economic Innovation Group

BUT What's the deal with THE garden gnome?

Personally, I've always found them tacky. Turns out, they are a perfect metaphor for the changing landscape of prosperity. Originating in Germany and once a fixture of wealth, rich people placed them in their gardens. Over time they became conflated with traditional stories and superstitions. Soon the middle class latched onto these figurines as a status symbol.

Garden gnomes saw a resurgence in the 1970s, but this time with humorous styles. A popular prank was to steal someone's gnome and then send postcards of it traveling to far off places (as seen in the French romantic comedy Amelie). And just like everything else, millennials have imposed their irreverence on these once innocent garden statues, featuring them in the posh Instagram feed of the CitizenM hotel.


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