Getting behind the wheel was a rite of passage once you turned 16 years old. But the urge to get in the driver’s seat is waning; in the US only 41% of teens are licensed at or before age 16.1
In fact, automobile ownership may one day be an abnormality. The demand for cars in the US has been declining.2 Despite this growing disinterest in the old love affair with autos, Americans still want to stay mobile. They’re just turning to ride-hailing apps, such as Uber and Lyft, car sharing services, and public transportation to get around instead.
So, we may not just be seeing the end of our car culture—but signs of an ideological change that may be far more significant.
This disruption isn’t isolated to how younger people get around. It’s impacting the way all age groups approach everything from how we consume entertainment to where we find accommodations on the road and everything in between.
This new normal is called a subscription, shared, on-demand, or gig economy—aptly named for the numerous reoccurring subscription and peer-to-peer lending services that have become more popular in recent years. Think a Netflix account instead of purchasing DVDs to throw in a drawer. Think streaming Spotify as a replacement to adding new CDs to that dusty shelf (FIGURE 1).
Popular Subscription Services
|The New York Times||News/Media||5mm|
Sources:3 Wall Street Journal, Reuters, CNBC, New York Times, Tech Crunch
This change to an on-demand economy stems from a combination of advancement in technology and a cultural reaction to the financial crash in 2008. Internet accessibility and smartphones enabled those who lived through the recession to find new ways of obtaining goods and services. And those forces helped reshape priorities—especially for millennials—when it came to how they spend their money.
Because so many of the material things we’ve ever wanted are available at all times on the Internet, the allure of obtaining and owning shifted for many, too. For example, instead of paying money to own music, an increasing trend is to spend more on live events. Global concert sales hit a record high last year.4 This growing on-demand culture for music shows access, not ownership, is the new aspiration for many. This includes housing, too.
Homeownership is in flux for the Gen X and boomer generations, too, whether by choice or not. Lingering student loan debt, tighter credit, and later-in-life marriages could all be pegged as causes. And it’s created an America that’s opting more and more to rent rather than buy.
The national rate of homeownership still remains below its historical average at 64.8%.5 In turn, the number of households renting in the US continues to rise.
What will be the ultimate outcome of this trend? Millions may not be building equity through homeownership—a sign that this ideological disruption could change the way we plan for our financial futures in even more significant ways.
Have your consumption habits changed recently, too? You might be able to tell by looking at your recent spending habits. If you use a banking or financial app that keeps track of credit card transactions, take a look at which categories you spend money on. Do you notice yourself putting more toward subscriptions to access services and experiences?
The change could end up reshaping not only the future of society, but also how you budget for your own tomorrow. With the transformation of transportation and housing, the top two expenses in retirement may not be the same as they are currently. This new way of consuming goods and services may give you the same sense of freedom that possessing four wheels once did.
Speak with your financial professional to better understand how an on-demand economy could impact your retirement planning.
1 “Prevalence and Timing of Driver Licensing Among Young Adults, United States, 2019,” AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, October 2019
2 “This Is What Peak Car Looks Like,” Bloomberg, 2/28/19
3 “Amazon Prime Video Gives Amateur How-To’s, Conspiracy Theories a Stage,” Wall Street Journal, 1/24/20; “Apple Music’s U.S. Subscriber Count Overtakes Spotify: Source,” Reuters, 4/5/19; “Dropbox Shares Plummet After User Growth Slows, but CEO Still Sees Expansion Ahead This Year,” CNBC, 8/9/2019; “New York Times up to 4.7 Million Subscribers as Profits Dip,” New York Times, 8/7/19; “Stitch Fix CEO Says the Company is Getting Better at Finding the Most Valuable Customers for Its Service,” CNBC, 6/7/19; “‘We Are Seeing Volume and Interest in Peloton Explode,’ Says Company President on Listing Day,” Tech Crunch, 9/26/19
4 “Pollstar 2019 Year End Special,” Pollstar, 12/16/19
5 “Quarterly Residential Vacancies and Homeownership, Third Quarter 2019,” United States Census Bureau, 10/29/19
This material is provided for educational purposes only.
Hartford Funds Distributors, LLC, Member FINRA.