Trump or Hillary: Voting from a Financial Perspective

What a fool believes, he sees. No wise man has the power to reason away.

– the Doobie Brothers

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An ancient voting machine. The Greeks thought of everything!

Everyone is riled up. It feels like the fate of our country is on the line.

We all have so much anger and contempt for the other side and righteous indignation about our own side. We sound like a couple headed into a divorce.

I want to take out the emotion as we look at our choices. Since JMC is not a political blog (although we each have our views), I will focus on voting from a purely financial perspective.

Believing is Seeing.

Anger makes us irrational. We want someone or something to blame for our problems.

High taxes! Immigrants! The 1%! It’s because of them!

We believe (strongly). Then we only allow for facts and viewpoints that conform to that belief. No one can reason us away from it. We hold so unyieldingly to our party line that we’re convinced the other party is full of fools and crooks, but this anger makes us susceptible to believing in politicians who entice us with ideas that they can’t possibly deliver.

We give them too much power.* We’ve ceased seeing them as fallible humans and have deified them into representatives of our hopes and fears, of good and evil. This is why we root so hard for them but are disappointed 2 years into their presidency.

I’m not here to talk about how detestable a candidate is. I want to be constructive. So let’s think about the real forces that have the power to shape our lives… from a financial perspective.

May the Forces Be With You.

I focus on the big, sea change forces because of just that: they’re big. Which means if they’re gathering momentum, you’re not going to change it.  Better grab a surf board and ride the wave.

1. Demographics. 

Demographics is destiny, so take a look at the following chart. See anything interesting?

Year Births Change
2015 3,977,745 -0.3%
2014 3,988,076 1.4%
2013 3,932,181 -0.5%
2012 3,952,841 0.0%
2011 3,953,590 -1.1%
2010 3,999,386 -3.2%
2009 4,130,665 -2.8%
2008 4,247,694 -1.6%
2007 4,316,233 1.2%
2006 4,265,555 3.1%
2005 4,138,349 0.6%
2004 4,112,052 0.5%
2003 4,089,950 1.7%
2002 4,021,726 -0.1%
2001 4,025,933 -0.8%
2000 4,058,814 2.5%
1999 3,959,417 0.5%
1998 3,941,553 1.6%
1997 3,880,894 -0.3%
1996 3,891,494 -1.6%
1995 3,952,767 -1.2%
1994 4,000,240 -1.6%
1993 4,065,014 -1.1%
1992 4,110,907 -1.1%
1991 4,158,212 2.9%
1990 4,040,958 3.4%
1989 3,909,510

The italicized years are ones wherein we experienced a recession. See how the birth rate drops following an economic recession? Which brings us to:

2. Consumer Spending. 

Consumer spending is 71% of the economy, which means it’s super important. If people spend less, the economy hurts. If everyone spent like me, our economy would be in a lot of trouble. And we’d stop having babies, which, while a relief for limited natural resources, would devastate the economy.

How does this relate to the election? First, let’s see our candidates in a rare, cordial moment…

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So…Trump or Hillary? It Depends.

  • Are you near retirement? Starting in 1992, the birth rate started falling for 6 straight years. For you, this isn’t great news. This is the generation that will be working throughout your retirement and thus, fewer of them means less tax money to pay for your social security and Medicare. Since you can’t go back in time to change birth rates, you want to supplement the lower births with more tax payers. Solution: make more people. Enter immigrants, and exit Trump. Vote Hillary.
  • Are you considering having a baby? You want the candidate most likely to cause a recession, since it lowers the birth rate. According to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, (I paraphrase, since I can’t find my copy of the book) it’s fortuitous to be born when the birth rates decline. It gives your child less competition for college and jobs, while they benefit from having all this infrastructure built for the higher population that precedes them. Trump’s proposals are likely to send us there, based on Moody’s analysis. Vote Trump (if you’re confident your job will be safe in a recession).
  • Are you a parent now? If you’re a parent now, you’re most concerned about staying employed to support your child until they have a job of their own. Vote for the one less likely to cause a recession. No recession means more babies, so if you’re a parent in your 30s-40s, you want to get that birth rate up since children born today will be funding your social security and Medicare. Also, one thing about immigrants, whether legal or illegal: they need to buy food and clothes (consumer spending!) just like citizens do, which helps the economy. Vote Hillary.
  • Are you rich (or fairly certain you will be soon)? Add to it that you’re certain that you’ll still have your job during a recession and you’re not near retirement. Trump wants to lower your taxes, reducing the top marginal rate from 39.6% to 25%. That’s huuuge. Hillary wants to increase it. Vote Trump.
  • Are you in college? If so, you want a robust economy. Based on the above, Hillary’s plans will less likely cause a recession, though I think we get there anyway—the real question is the severity of recession. If you graduate into a prolonged recession, there’s an increasing chance the job you want isn’t available (or has become super competitive), which could take you so far off that you might not ever get back on track. Better to have a job in the career you want but pay higher taxes than a lower tax rate on zero income. Vote Hillary.
  • Are you the United States of America? My assumption is that you’ve been healthier under policies that lower taxes and regulation for businesses, which would promote hiring and capital expenditures. I also assume Republican presidents enact such policies. However, this article makes the case that you’ve been healthier under Democratic presidencies, employing more people and creating more jobs, which is great for the middle class. The middle class is the core of your body. If they’re strong, then you stand and walk strong. (After all, they do collectively spend more than any other group.) Now, there are a lot of confounding variables, and I’m still trying to reconcile my assumptions with the data, but I’m also not going to be the fool who can’t be reasoned with. Vote for Hillary, I think.

 

The Final Verdict: There are other factors that inform your decision. You’re angry at certain administrations. You fear the future if a certain candidate is elected. I get it. I remind you that I’m only looking at it from a financial perspective. Regardless of whether you choose Trump or Hillary, the final vote should be for…Yourself.

Politicians are important, but there is a new, more powerful democracy, enabled by another force: Technology. You vote for yourself by empowering yourself with knowledge and skills that make you more productive these next four years, whoever the POTUS.

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Political democracy started here, in the Athenian central gathering place called the Agora, where Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Apostle Paul, and Diogenes used to hang out. However, the democracy of opportunity starts with the very thing you’re using to read these words.

3 Ways Technology Enables A New Democracy

No, this doesn’t mean voting by text. (Seriously, you can’t vote by text. Anyone who says differently is selling something.)

Take a look around: opportunity is becoming democratized. Here are 3 important (but not the only ways) technology is democratizing opportunity.

  1. Blogging. Previously, publishers controlled the distribution of content. After working tirelessly on your book, you crossed your fingers that an August publishing house would deem it worthy.  (F. Scott Fitzgerald just barely got his first novel, This Side of Paradise, published, and after several rewrites) Now, anybody from anywhere can make content for an audience anywhere there is an Internet connection. Even better, the comment section allows the writer and the reader to interact directly, instantly. If done right, bloggers can even monetize their blog through ads or affiliate marketing, like Becky & Paula.
  2. eCommerce: Technology and mass distribution for eCommerce wasn’t really around a decade ago—shortish in human time but Greek ruins in technology time. Time and knowledge in the Automatized Age moves at the snap of an Instagram post. Now, in the same way that blogging has become so easy to start up, eCommerce is getting to that point. I myself am learning about it.
  3. Education: Curious about a subject and want to do a deep dive? Previously, you had to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars at your local college. Now, with Coursera or Edx, you can take a class on negotiating from Yale while in your pajamas for just dollars. The skills you attain from these classes can give your career a major boost. I’ve taken several of these online course just because I wanted to get smarter on certain topics. Learning has never been this accessible.

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History, set in stone. The old always give way to the new, like a new stairway laid over ancient stones.

Beyond the Next 4 Years

Andy Warhol predicted that everyone will have 15 minutes of fame, and that seems to have been true-ish with the invention of reality TV and YouTube. I predict that everybody will own their own online business one day. (Not literally everybody, but enough where everyone will know someone who makes a living from their personal online business) With Oxford University researchers predicting that half of all US jobs are at risk in the Automatized Age, many will have to find ways to make a living and become more entrepreneurial.

To me, this democracy of opportunity is more potent than the results of this presidential election. Why sit and blame politicians for your financial success (or lack thereof)? Rise up and vote for yourself in this new democracy.


Next: How to First Talk About Money with Your Kids

*Although according to professors at the University of Chicago, the presidency has become more like a dictatorship. Even so, they’re not saviors, which is what we expect.

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14 Comments

  • amileinmyshoes November 3, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Great post! I imagine it must be VERY difficult being impartial at this time in America, so well done in trying to look at it in an unbiased way. I also like online courses. Futurelearn is good too 🙂

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 4, 2016 at 5:54 am

      Thank you! This one was a hard one to write ( I had to edit out a lot of my own snark). I’ll check out future learning. I love that you did a poetry class!

      Reply
  • Bryan Stoudt November 4, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Good stuff, and entertaining, too. I learn a lot about how finances and the economy work from your blog, and it really does ‘make money simple’ as your tagline promises.

    Love the images, too. You’ve found some really good ones, and they add a lot of interest and break up the post… kind of like sub-headings.

    Reply
  • sharpeningmyself November 4, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Very nice. Seems like you really know what you’re talking about.
    ~Dave Nony

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 4, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      Thanks Dave! Politics by itself isn’t among my favorite things, so I had to look at it from a different perspective.

      Hope you’ll visit us again!

      Reply
      • sharpeningmyself November 4, 2016 at 3:46 pm

        I don’t blame you there. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for some more posts I may be interested in.
        ~Dave Nony

        Reply
  • NothingImportant2Say November 5, 2016 at 9:50 am

    While I don’t agree with some of your conclusion (like you said, too many variables), I did enjoy the post and believe you give good advice to focus on the facts and likely implications of macro policies. I believe voters generally want to vote for someone that most resembles themselves. Its a sort of self promotion that ones viewpoints are correct and everyone else is a fool. But in today’s politics, your approach is much better. We should consider the likely outcomes and impacts on the USA and our society. And I hope voters consider more than purely economics when voting, there is more to life than financial standing.
    As always, I enjoy your posts. I don’t seem to have the time to read them very often, but they always provoke deep thinking. Cheers.

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 5, 2016 at 10:59 am

      Very insightful comment about each candidate being an extension of ourselves.

      Thanks for the kind words and for dropping in when you can! Also, thanks for reading with an open, but critical mind. That’s how I hope we’ll all vote!

      Reply
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  • cornfedcontessa November 10, 2016 at 10:21 am

    I love your blog! I’m an accountant and I teach financial literacy to high school students through a non-profit here in Southeastern Wisconsin. While I was disappointed at the outcome of our election, we will get through this. The first thing I did yesterday was to check my portfolio, as I expected it to take a huge hit. Luckily for me it didn’t. My boss, who voted for Trump, lost over $20 million dollars during the housing market crash of 2008. I work as a controller for multiple construction companies. To say I’m worried would be an understatement. I’ve had several job changes in the past few years, and it has hurt me financially. I finally have a great job now that pays well. I’m on the downward slope to retirement, and really don’t want to work until I’m 70 to get full retirement benefits from Social Security. I’ve learned to live well on less out of necessity.

    I look forward to reading your blog. Thanks! Stacy aka Cornfed Contessa.

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 10, 2016 at 5:49 pm

      Stacy, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your story! I love how you teach financial literacy to high school students — your work will bear fruit over the many decades of these students’ lives.

      It’s definitely an uncertain time and I wish you the best and look forward to reading your site!

      Reply
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