2015: Ending in the Red or Black

December 09, 2015


Since we’re now in the last month of the year, let’s take an overall look at the U.S. economy and see how we’re doing. The media reports that the recession is over and that life is on the upswing. That may be true for some, but overall, the current economic scene looks like a mixed bag. Let’s take a closer look.

1 World Trade, downtown New York City


Based on what I’m currently observing in my New York office, the issue of student debt is a very hot topic that is routinely discussed. Newly minted college graduates working full-time and even undergrad interns don’t hold back. They’ll give you a rundown of their financial picture at the drop of a hat.

Recently, I had a chat with a Parsons grad with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from that school. He told me that he owed $100,000 in education loans. He also said that, after five years of monthly payments, he was overwhelmed. “I’m just going to quit paying,” he said to me one day. “Don’t do that,” I replied, “they’ll get you in your sixties when you file for Social Security.” He looked at me as if I had two heads.

Based on his reaction, I decided to double check this statement and found that I was, indeed, 100% correct. The average student graduating from a four-year college has a debt of $27,000. Often these loans are co-signed by parents who, in their sixties, will have 15% of their Social Security payments taken by the government if a loan is delinquent. As of three years ago, there were 115,203 debtors who had their Social Security checks garnisheed. And, declaring bankruptcy won’t work because student debt cannot be erased this way.


This brings us to recent research by Pew. It revealed that 36% of young adults ages 18 to 31 are living with their parents, the highest number in 40 years. “It’s impossible to pay rent and live in New York City while paying off your loan,” says one recent graduate. Another states, “I have three degrees and I’m 30-years-old and living at home.”

Since the average rent for a studio apartment in Manhattan is $2,400 a month it’s not hard to see why this age group is still at home. And declining employment adds another wrinkle (there’s an 8% jobless rate for this group). This is a bleak picture of the economy but there’s also a more positive one. Take a look.


We have more millionaires than ever in the U.S. Before the recession there were 9.2 million and now there are almost 10 million (excluding the value of a principal residence). With our healthy stock market we are currently looking at 142,000 households worth $25 million or more.

Canines keeping a close watch on Wall Street

This brings us to this statement that I read recently in the Financial Times, 10/3/15. After hearing for years that haute-couture is fading fast and will possibly disappear, here is what a spokesperson for Chanel had to say, “We have younger customers than ever – we are much more confident of the future of couture than we were even five years ago. Chanel without couture is unthinkable.” Note: 60% of couture clients are American.

So there it is – two different financial snapshots of our world today.


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Shaun Nelson-Henrick

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