NEWSWIRE: 4/30/18

  • Nabi Tajima, a native of Japan who was the last known person born in the 19th century, has passed away at age 117. With Tajima’s passing, the global Lost Generation of Ernest Hemingway and George Patton says its final goodbye. (USA Today)
    • NH: "Génération perdue" was how Gertrude Stein described the cynical, brazen, barn-storming, rum-running young men who survived the Great War. Hemingway overheard the remark, used it as the epigraph for his novel The Sun Also Rises (1926)--and it's been with us ever since. In our books, we have defined them in America as born from 1883 to 1900. Few generations have witnessed up close so much capital-H History: Entering midlife they ran smack into the Great Depression and World War II. They include Charles de Gaulle and Charlie Chaplin and Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower (the latter two being the U.S. presidents of the Lost Generation), but they also include Benito Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, and Mao Zedong. In memoriam, let me quote from their own members. First, from Paul Tillich: "Our generation has seen the horrors latent in man's being rise to the surface and erupt." Next from Thornton Wilder: "Every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment to moment on the razor-edge of danger and must be fought for--whether it's a field, a home, or a country." And finally from Malcolm Cowley: "Did other generations ever laugh so hard together, drink and dance so hard, or do crazier things just for the hell of it?" RIP.
  • Fully 40% of Millennials admit they’ve spent money they didn’t have in order to keep up with their peers. Whether it’s splurging on a night out or a group getaway, Millennials often pay the price for their “fear of missing out.” (Credit Karma/Qualtrics)
    • NH: We've already written about this Millennial peer pressure to consume. Frankly, what worries me more than FOMO about consumption is FOMO about investment. More than most generations of young adults, Millennials would rather be poor with their buddies than well-off but left behind. As such, they may be suckers for herding behavior and end up very late in checking out of overvalued markets.
  • Philip Morris is trying to get Boomers hooked on vaping—but company executives know they have their work cut out for them. With Millennials steering clear of traditional cigarettes, the industry knows its future (at least in the United States) is smokeless—yet older generations are holding steady with their old-school habits. (Chicago Tribune)
    • NH: All of the Big Tobacco majors obviously face strong generational headwinds. A few years ago, there did seem to be window of opportunity in various new breakthroughs in electronic smoking, but these hopes have been cooled by a slow-if-not-hostile response by regulatory authorities in high-income countries. The prevailing official view is that the unquestionable health benefits to older smokers is negated by the threat that this innovation could regrow nicotine use among youth. The title of a recent article in Popular Science says it all: "E-cigarettes could help you stop smoking--and help your kids start." Even so, if you invest in tobacco, we like PMI and BTI as a long-haul long-short over MO and RAI for simple demographic reasons. The former are selling to the only regions in the world where smoking prevalence is still rising.
  • The total dosage of opioid prescriptions dispensed in the United States fell by 12% in 2017, the biggest single-year drop in 25 years. The decline is a sign that efforts to tackle America’s opioid epidemic are paying off. (Institute for Human Data Science)
    • NH: Yes, legislators and U.S. public health authorities have been waking up to their responsibilities after nearly two decades of inexcusable inaction. Opioid prescriptions (measured in MMEs, Morphine Milligram Equivalents) have already dropped 30% nationwide from their all-time peak year of 2011. Drops in high-abuse states like Ohio and West Virginia are even steeper. The problem, regrettably, is that opioid deaths are still rising because so many users have switched over to illegal substitutes--most notably, fentanyl. (See: "The Next Big Thing: A Nation Hooked.")
  • Maryland may soon become the first state to pass legislation limiting computer screen time for children in the classroom. As gamified learning devices continue to make inroads in the classroom, parents and pediatricians warn that these teaching tools can cause just as much harm as good. (The New York Times)
    • NH: As we predicted (see: "The Next Big Thing: Tech-Lash Batters Silicon Valley"), the growing anti-digital tech-lash is being energized by educators and concerned parents (as in this letter that Parents Across America suggest that you send to your legislator). Remember back just a decade ago when affluent professionals were still pushing their kids to do more with computers and when educators worried about a "digital divide" in America? Now, by all accounts, there is a "reverse digital divide" that has affluent professionals putting the strictest limits on their kids' digital time. Visiting AEI follow Naomi Riley--author of Be the Parent, Please: Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat--summed up in a recent New York Times oped as follows: "Make no mistake: The real digital divide in this country is not between children who have access to the internet and those who don’t. It’s between children whose parents know that they have to restrict screen time and those whose parents have been sold a bill of goods by schools and politicians that more screens are a key to success."
  • Bitcoin’s price recently plunged $200 in under 20 minutes after two individuals dumped $100 million of their personal holdings. The susceptibility of Bitcoin to the whims of lone mega-investors (so-called “Bitcoin whales”) is yet another problem with the highly volatile cryptocurrency. (MarketWatch)
    • NH: The weirdest thing about cryptocurrency is that you can become intimately familiar with someone's account--including how much that person has and how fast they are spending it--yet still have no idea who that person is. My guess? The whale is either one of the early founders (Satoshi himself?) or someone wanted by Interpol whom you really don't want to meet.
  • A U.K. grocery chain has started selling raw meat in special packaging so Millennials don’t have to touch it. For Millennials living on their own for the first time, accidental food poisoning isn’t a risk they are willing to take. (Vice)
    • NH: LOL. It was the G.I. Generation who enthusiastically started processing and wrapping food in plastic back in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s to keep the germs out. Then it was Boomers who in more recent decades took us back to natural, wild, and organic--so that if it wasn't misshaped and unwrapped it was probably bad for you. Now Millennials want to go back to plastic and no touching. As Igor Stravinsky once wrote, every generation declares war on its parents and makes friends with its grandparents. 
  • Carnival is set to launch the Ocean Medallion, a smart token that serves as a personalized digital ID, wallet, and room key. While Millennials are sure to love this personalized piece of tech, the Ocean Medallion alone is unlikely to fix the cruise industry’s unfavorable demographics. (Quartz)
  • National health data show that rates of alcohol consumption and abuse are dropping among young adults, and are rising among the 65+. It’s little surprise that Millennials have brought about a decline in this risky behavior, while Boomers have carried their unhealthy habits with them into old age. (The Washington Post)
    • NH: More data to buttress an observation we have been making for quite some time: The gradual per-capita decline in alcohol consumption in recent years masks a pretty steep decline in drinking among youths and young adults and an ongoing rise in drinking among Americans over 45 and (especially) over 65. As the article points out, Millennials are drinking less (at the same age) than the Xers who preceded them; and Boomers are drinking more (at the same age) than the Silent who preceded them.
  • Some Boomers are ditching RVs and are instead retrofitting and/or buying custom-made vans to travel their way through retirement. For the generation that has always strived to live on their own terms, “#vanlife” offers the same sense of freedom and adventure of an RV, only with more simplicity. (The Wall Street Journal)


      Until Debt Do Us Part. Merging bank accounts is a symbol of commitment and trust among young married couples. But increasingly, according to The Atlantic, Millennial newlyweds are opting to keep their finances separate. Why? Delayed marriage is one likely factor: Couples who get married later in life after they’ve already established themselves financially may be more reluctant to merge accounts than those just starting out. (See: "Trendspotting: 1/29/18.") Additionally, the decades-long rise in dual-earning households means that financial codependence is no longer a reality for most couples. Here is where Millennial risk-aversion comes into play. A generation that views even a bad credit score as a romantic deal-breaker may be reluctant to assume financial responsibility for a partner. And then there are Millennials like Karina Pasillas, who feel empowered by this arrangement: “When buying [my husband] gifts, when picking up the tab at dinner, I like knowing that I am also contributing to this relationship.”