Bear markets and bank runs aren’t good for anybody. But let’s try to look at the upside if the Fed destroys the middle class, shall we? Thinking in extremes provides clarity to take more decisive action.
To set the stage, we know at least these three things:
- The Fed cares more about its legacy than supporting the middle class. All the Fed Governors are rich and powerful, so they will survive just fine as the economy goes down the tubes.
- We’ve already heard the warnings about economic devastation if the terminal Fed Funds rate goes beyond 5% and stays there despite slowing inflation.
- One of the easiest ways to be a savior is to first be the destroyer. People tend to appreciate what you’ve done for them lately the most.
The Benefits Of The Fed Wiping Out The Middle Class
Let me be clear. I would much prefer a bull market and a strong middle class. The middle class is the best class in the world. Even the rich prefer to be considered middle class because it feels good to be a part of the majority.
However, given the circumstances, we might as well try to list out as many positives as possible. I’ll add to the list of ten benefits with your help. So don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts as well.
1) The unhealthy desire for prestige, money, and status takes a back seat.
I’m convinced the desire for prestige and status are important factors for explaining why many in the middle class feel miserable. After all, we have the saying, “Keeping up with the Joneses,” that encapsulates this struggle.
When you’re getting pummeled financially, you don’t have the luxury of seeking prestige or status anymore. Instead, you focus on survival. And when you focus on survival, you focus on what really matters.
2) The student loan problem might get better.
The main reason why there is a student loan problem is because too many high school students pay too much tuition for a college education that isn’t worthwhile. If college overall was a good bargain, there wouldn’t be so much angst about student loans. Graduates would be paid appropriately and could easily pay the loans off.
With middle-class incomes at stake, parents and students will be forced to choose more affordable colleges or trade schools. Perhaps more colleges will also begin offering more free grants as the need goes up. This better alignment with cost and benefit will do wonders for a person’s finances and mental health.
3) Better consumption habits.
When you have less money or no money, you are forced to spend less and make do with what you have. As your frugal muscle strengthens, so will your survival skills.
Once you’ve been through a financial crisis, you will likely be scarred for life. Some of your more disciplined financial habits will stick with you, helping you build more wealth over time.
4) Fewer cars, less pollution, perhaps more travel and world peace.
In America, we have a love affair with cars to the detriment of our environment. Even with the average new car price close to $50,000, we’re still willing to gobble them up like pancakes.
With the Fed-destroyed middle class, there will be fewer cars on the road. Traffic will ease, car prices will come down, and consumers will save money on car-related expenses. Not enough car buyers think about insurance costs, tickets, and maintenance expenses.
Air travel and accommodations will become cheaper as well with a weaker middle class. A global financial crisis may be the best time to be a digital nomad or backpacker. The more we see of the world, the more empathy and understanding we will have for other cultures.
5) A chance to start anew.
Millions of jobs will be lost once the Fed gets done tightening. As a result, millions of people will need to find new jobs. During this job-hunting process, there will be an opportunity to try something new.
Due to inertia, fear, laziness, or lack of motivation, millions of workers are willing to continue working at jobs they don’t like. A job loss might be exactly the push you need to take a leap of faith.
I am so grateful to have negotiated a severance in 2012 at the age of 34. Despite being unemployed, I found away to survive by doing something I love.
6) Less overcrowding in schools and more time with your children.
Public schools have often felt the strain of a boom economy. With an influx of more children and not enough pay to retain or attract enough teachers, classrooms get busier. Private grade schools also get more crowded and difficult to get into due to rapid wealth creation.
With a Fed-destroyed middle class, more spots will open up for all students. There may also be more teachers available given teaching is a relatively more secure profession.
In addition, if one parent loses their job, they might want to pursue homeschooling or at least provide more supplemental education.
If you are a middle-class parent who doesn’t make much more than the cost of childcare, losing your job may be just the catalyst to spend more time with your kids. Once they grow up, chances are high you won’t regret the time you spent with them.
7) A rekindling of current and lost relationships.
Once making money is harder to do, the natural inclination is to focus on all the things we’ve been neglecting for the sake of money. The best life consists of having supportive friendships and family members.
In our at times unhealthy pursuit of making money, we sometimes neglect our loved ones. It is during times of crisis that relationships grow strongest.
With more time being spent with friends and loved ones, our loneliness should naturally decline. When our loneliness declines, our happiness should commensurately increase.
Although, financial problems do strain marriages, perhaps there will be fewer divorces if couples spend more time on their relationships.
8) A renewed focus on our health.
Some jobs are physically and/or mentally unhealthy. But we carry on because we need or want the money. However, when we are older, we may regret sacrificing our health for our jobs.
Manual labor is obviously tougher on the body than knowledge-intensive jobs. However, even knowledge-intensive jobs can take a tremendous toll on the body over time. Too much stress is a silent killer.
I went through teeth grinding, TMJ, plantar fasciitis, lower back pain, sciatica, and intense allergies for years while working in banking. A year after leaving, all of my chronic pain went away. I had been living with pain for so long I thought it to be normal. But it’s not normal.
Getting laid off, furloughed, or receiving reduced hours could literally extend your life. Use your time away from work to heal your body and mind.
9) A change in political power.
If the Fed destroys the middle class, then whichever political party is in power tends to lose. Given America is divided equally along political lines, roughly half of the country will be happier after the next Presidential election.
Changing political power often creates new ideas and compromises. The issues voters were most unhappy with get addressed. Ideally, both sides meet somewhere in the middle for the health of the nation.
10) Borrowing costs will go back down.
During times of economic calamity, there will be a flight to Treasury bonds, the safest asset class. As a result, Treasury bond yields, mortgage rates and student loan rates will come down the most. If the Fed starts cutting the Fed Funds rate, then credit card rates will also decline.
As proof, the 10-year Treasury bond yield declined from 4% to 3.5% after SVB went under. Meanwhile, the 2-year Treasury bond yield collapsed from 5% down to 4% in the same time frame.
Given the middle-class takes on so much debt, a decline in borrowing costs is helpful. Housing is the most important asset for the middle class. As mortgage rates decline, housing prices get supported.
11) Inflation will finally decline.
Once the middle class is crushed, inflation will finally come down. Ultimately, this is what the Fed wants, which means it will finally stop hiking and maybe even start cutting.
It’s too bad the Fed has to go to such extremes to contain inflation since there are exogenous variables such as international supply chain issues and wars are unaffected by Fed hikes. Many of us have the ability to combat inflation as well.
The Key Is To Be Slightly Above Middle Class
Although being a part of the middle class is great, it’s better to be slightly above the middle class to outperform during a Fed-induced economic crisis. Upper-middle-class sounds a little snooty. Hence, the proper term is to be apart of the mass affluent.
If you are a part of the mass affluent class, then you have an above average net worth and above average income for your age. For the median 34-year-old in America, we’re talking about a net worth of around $200,000 – $300,000 and an income of between $75,000 – $125,000.
With mass affluent money, you are able to survive unemployment longer and/or take advantage of better prices and opportunities during a downturn.
But the real key is to hold onto your job and not have to sell assets at fire sale prices. If you can hold onto your seat during a bear market, you will better be able to reap the rewards during an eventual bull market.
Reader Questions And Suggestions
What are some other upsides if the Fed decimates the middle class? I’d love to get as many positives on the list as possible.
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