Disruption in real estate and elsewhere

Technology, longer life expectancy will bring big changes

Here in New Hampshire, we seem to be less chaotic and rancorous than in Washington, but we still face big fiscal issues – infrastructure, good public education, affordable and accessible health care … the list goes on. With several more weeks of winter in front of us, perhaps it is a good time to sit down, assess, and then convene a civil forum to discern a vision for the State, one that looks out more than the two-year budget cycle.

There is a proposal to create a new position of state demographer. With the silver tsunami and young people moving out, the labor mix is changing. I met with a hospital client last week, and they were focused on the significant number of senior managers and clinicians that will be retiring in the next five years. This is true in our schools as well.

Looking back, as our state grew dramatically in the 1970s and ‘80s, services expanded and employment went up, not in a steady flow or line, but in large steps. Some of those cohorts are aging out and plan to retire.

A friend sent me a list of predictions – driverless cars, gas stations go away, the coal industry goes away. Uber and Airbnb are just the tip of the iceberg. Artificial intelligence is emerging rapidly with computers programming computers. Then there is IBM's Watson helping advise and diagnose cancer (four times more accurate).

Real estate will (might?) change if you can work while you commute in your driverless car – you can live farther from work.

All this technology is inspiring. It will disrupt the jobs markets as we know them. It is intriguing as we are now saying not everyone should go to college – where are our plumbers and electricians going to come from? People born in America today will live to be 100 or more. For the most part, they will have to fund their own retirements – a big task that must start early.

I have told my two millennials that they should be putting 10 percent of every paycheck towards their retirement plan, which, of course, is easier said than done. This points to a key issue for all of us.

If our young people are going to live to be 100+, why should they have to plan their careers at 18-20? We are missing an opportunity for our young folks to mature, explore, learn, see and develop a world view. The more I think about it, some form of national service (not just military) for two, three or four years with real programs like the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps and the Peace Corps offer unique opportunities for the frontal lobes of these young people to catch up with the rest of them.

Such service could be tied to education, infrastructure, VA care, national parks – you name it. Some of the compensation could be a credit toward future college and other certificate training. It makes a lot of sense in that it teaches life and job skills, a key ingredient for a healthy, balanced, contributory career, not just a job.

Plenty of food for thought as we wait for winter to wrap up and ease us into spring.

Bill Norton, president of Norton Asset Management and principal of Harrington & Reeves, is a Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) and a Facilities Management Administrator (FMA). He can be reached at wbn@nortonnewengland.com.

Categories: Real Estate