Your future is going to be hard…get used to it.
That’s apparently the message from 91-year-old billionaire Charlie Munger, for years the right-hand man of one of the richest people on the planet, Warren Buffett.
Munger, the Vice-Chairman of Berkshire-Hathaway (BRK-A), is quoted by Bloomberg as telling a gathering in Los Angeles that we should all be prepared for adjusting to a world that is harder…and that we can count on the purchasing power of our money to go down over time.
That may sound cold-hearted, but Yahoo Finance Columnist Rick Newman says no, it really isn’t.
“He’s spot-on and he’s not the only one saying this,” he argues. “Things have not been very good since 2000. We’re already in that period he’s talking about. That’s why six years after a recovery from a recession it feels like a recession to a lot of people.”
And Newman warns we better listen to Munger’s advice.
“This is going to continue,” he points out. “We’re going to have slower growth in the future, a lot more global competition. We just have to adjust to it.”
Yahoo Finance’s Aaron Task feels Munger is taking a very big-picture view.
“Let’s put it in context,” he says. “He’s talking about the last 50 years. “There has been an unprecedented period of growth and prosperity, living standards have improved for billions of people around the world, poverty levels have fallen. And he’s thinking maybe we have hit some kind of peak level.”
Task thinks there may be some validity in that belief.
“You could make the argument that someone born today is going to have a better life than Charlie Munger could have expected or someone born 20 or 40 years ago,” he notes. “But if you’re looking at what’s happening right this second with wages, and the fact that it’s tougher for the average person to get by in the world today, he’s speaking the truth.”
However, neither Task nor Newman is giving up on the future.
“Right now it looks grim but there is a great future out there, and people coming of age today have more technology in the palms of their hands than they used to put a spaceship on the moon in 1969,” Task points out. “There’s got to be some benefit from that.”
Newman believes Americans’ resiliency will make the difference.
“The thing I’m most optimistic about is we will adapt,” he says. “We will become more efficient, we will develop the skills, but a lot of people are going to be left out-- that’s the point he’s making. Fewer haves than have-nots. And I think we’re seeing that.”
Still, Task believes the reports of America’s demise are greatly exaggerated.
“In every period in history people said this is good as it gets, the future looks bleak, America is in decline,” he points out. “I wouldn’t bet against America and you know Warren Buffett isn’t betting against America.”