How long will the expansion last?

Sid Squirrell

How long will it last? I’m talking, of course, about the economic expansion. And it’s a question that’s been asked a lot these days, especially around those who’ve lived through downturns.

I’m constantly amazed that when times are bad, most people can’t envision circumstances ever turning good. But when times are good, most can’t see them ever being bad again. Still, a lot of people who were burned in the last downturn aren’t going to get burned again, even if it costs them business.

It’s one thing to know there’s downturn coming. It’s another thing to predict what’s going to cause it — which is what I’m going to attempt to do with this exercise.

We’re all acutely aware the United States has enjoyed the longest latest economic expansion in history. Unemployment has dropped to its lowest level in 50 years, wages have increased and inflation has remained in check.

Never have we’ve seen interest rates so low and trillions of dollars out there — to the tune of $4 trillion dollars in quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve to increase liquidity in the economy. With that much money looking for a home and no real good options in savings accounts, the stock market or bonds, the money has to go somewhere. It’s been going right back into the economy.

“What goes up must come down” and “this too will change” are words not to be forgotten in the heat of the moment. I don’t want to be the pessimist in the room. Moreover, the expansion could persist for a while longer given the upcoming presidential election cycle.

What I am saying is it could be a good time to get your house in order. Nothing drastic. Just lower your personal debt and sell lesser quality real estate to pay down debt on better quality real estate. That will position you to more comfortably weather a downturn.

Of course, the best argument for a continued expansion is my belief a downturn is coming soon, and I’m almost always wrong. You’re all welcome.

Back to that prediction. I know I’ll be kicking myself when I look back after the turn and realize how obvious it was at the time to see, but didn’t. Like the dot com bubble in 2001, after every individual, company, corporation, government entity and school upgraded all their software and hardware for what was feared would be a Y2K disaster. How much do you think was sold after January 2000 when the world didn’t come to an end?

Or how about the time when people could get a mortgage for 110 percent of appraised value with no documentation in the name of an LLC? How long do you think that would take to twist off? It did in 2008.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know what’s going to trigger the next downturn. But if I had to guess, I would say it’s going to be a combination of factors that include world politics, tariffs, an economy overheated by ultra-low interest rates and pent up inflation caused by the efficiencies of the internet forcing companies to hold the line on prices to remain competitive.

There you have it. I guess we will see … .