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How to Profit From the Myth of Overpopulation

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If you asked the average person on the street if America is overpopulated and the birth rate is too high, you'd likely receive "Yes" as your answer. However, that answer is wrong. In fact, America is seeing a decline in birth rates and there is now real fear that an aging population may not being having enough children to replace today's working force. Economically, this is bad and will present a number of challenges in the future. But from an investing standpoint, this demographic shift could prove beneficial to savvy investors, as companies that cater to the mature population stand to benefit from an increasing median age. Here's what you need to know:

The shift
Between 2007-2010, the U.S. birth rate dropped 8% to the lowest it's been since the 1920s, and the overall birth rate in 2011 was 63.2% per 1,000 women of childbearing age, according to the Pew Research Center. This is in comparison to the overall birth rate in 1957, which peaked at 122.7 births per 1,000 women, to make up approximately 78 million baby boomers. 

Additionally, the population aged 18-44 had a growth rate of 0.6% from 2000 to 2010, while the population aged 45-65 grew at a rate of 31.5%, and the population aged 65+ grew at a rate of 15.1%, according to the U.S. Census Brief. These figures increased the median age of Americans to a new high of 37.3 years of age. Moreover, an increasing birth rate of males to females -- 105 males to every 100 females -- further complicates a declining and aging population.   

The problems
There are a number of reasons why the above statistics are concerning. First, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2037 the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted, and that in 2015 Social Security will run deficits through the CBO's projection of 75 years. This is because between 2010-2030 the number of people age 65 or older is expected to increase 76%, while the number of people working will only increase 8%. The following table shows the breakdown of Social Security. Numbers are expressed in billions of constant 2010 dollars: 

Year

Tax Revenue

Cost

Annual Surplus/Deficit

Cash Flow Surplus/Deficit

Trust Fund Balance

2030

1,098.20

1,365.7

-152.3

-267.5

1,948.0

2031

1,117.50

1,397.3

-176.9

-279.8

1,718.1

2032

1,137.00

1,428.2

-201.5

-291.2

1,469.8

2033

1,156.70

1,458.1

-225.9

-301.4

1,203.9

2034

1,176.60

1,486.7

-249.8

-310.1

921.3

2035

1,196.90

1,514.2

-273.0

-317.3

623.3

2036

1,217.90

1,541.2

-295.9

-323.3

310.4 

Source: CRS, based on data from the 2010 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds; August 5, 2010; table VI.F7.

Understandably, the above information is concerning for anyone relying on Social Security for their retirement.

Second, if we examine these statistics in light of what's happening in Japan -- which is further along in terms of a declining birth rate and aging population, we see that the impact on the economy and companies is concerning. For example, Japan has projected that its economy will shrink, and that economic competitiveness and an aging population will hinder innovation and lead to deflation. This, in turn, will create a vicious cycle that will continue to negatively impact Japan, unless incentivizing couples to have more children can reverse it.  Unfortunately, this approach isn't working, as Japan implemented incentives in the 1990s but still continues to face problems. 

The same bleak outlook can be seen in Russia and many countries across Europe, particularly Spain, and economists are now warning of a coming catastrophic economic collapse. Some may argue that immigration can, and will, combat this problem -- but immigration, even in the U.S. is slowing. Plus, even in places where immigration remains high, there is a decline in birth rates; the birth rate for foreign-born women plunged 14%, according to the Pew Research Center. So what does this mean for investors?

How to benefit
The demographic shift is happening. It has been for some time now, and it will create economic problems in the future. However, by investing in companies that cater to aging consumers, savvy investors can take advantage, and even benefit, from this shift. Two such companies are Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  )  and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) . Johnson & Johnson is a multifaceted company with a number of subsidiaries like DePuy, which specializes in orthopedics and joint replacement products, and Cordis, which specializes in cardiovascular and coronary artery products. Pfizer is the maker of Celebrex, one of the most popular rheumatoid arthritis drugs on the market. Joint, heart, and arthritis problems are some of the most common problems associated with old age. As such, the above companies stand to benefit from increased demand from an aging population.

Another option for benefiting from an aging population is to invest in a health care real estate investment trust, or REITs, such as Health Care REIT (NYSE: HCN  ) , Omega Healthcare Investors (NYSE: OHI  ) , and Medical Properties Trust (NYSE: MPW  ) . These companies invest in properties like retirement homes, independent living, and hospital buildings. Consequently, their consumer base is aging populations, meaning they are naturally set to benefit from increased demand.  

Aging Fool
Birth rates are declining, and the population is aging. Without a shift in this trend, the economy could be headed for trouble. But by investing in companies that cater to a more mature demographic, savvy investors can actually benefit from the increasing median age.

Is bigger really better?
Involved in everything from baby powder to biotech, Johnson & Johnson's critics are convinced that the company is spread way too thin. If you want to know if J&J is nothing but a bloated corporate whale -- or a well-diversified giant that's perfect for your portfolio -- check out The Fool's new premium report outlining the Johnson & Johnson story in terms that any investor can understand. Claim your copy by clicking here now.


Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (10)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 2:41 PM, botfeeder wrote:

    Since I believe the author is dead wrong, I guess it could prove a lucrative investment to do exactly the opposite of what she recommends.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 2:43 PM, botfeeder wrote:

    No actually her investment recommendations make sense. The populating is ageing. She advocates investing based on that fact.

    She feels a higher birthrate would be beneficial, I do not. But that appears to have no bearing on this particular investment decision.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2013, at 2:55 PM, eddietheinvestor wrote:

    This article is amusing. The writer claims that the US is not overpopulated, but there are about 12 million illegal immigrants who are not being counted, with tens of thousands more coming across the border every year.The number of births is increasing, not decreasing. Even if birth rates per person is declining, there are more women giving birth because there are more women of childbearing years. There are insufficient doctors now that under Obamacare there are 40 million more people who need to find a doctor. And the idea that we won't have enough workers is absurd. There are 15.1 million people who are unemployed (including those who have given up) and another 8 million who are part-time but want to work full-time. So the idea that we won't have enough workers is ridiculous. But I agree with the writer that JNJ is a good pick.

  • Report this Comment On March 20, 2013, at 1:19 PM, lwise3 wrote:

    As a member of the baby-boom generation, I've heard repeatedly through the years that when this demographic shift occurs it will be because there are not enough replacements to fund the program. I'm not relying on Social Security to be there for me, so I appreciate this writer addressing the issue with good advice on investments as I head into my retirement years.

    It is my understanding that this "overpopulation myth" is based on a global scale, not just national (www.overpopulationisamyth.com), so the number of immigrants flooding our borders has already been counted. They're not increasing the population globally, just shifting the numbers from one nation to the other. Are these immigrants enough to sustain Social Security? I wouldn't count on it.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2013, at 1:15 PM, DrGoldin wrote:

    The author doesn't distinguish between GLOBAL overpopulation, which is real and significant, and demographic change at the NATIONAL level, which is also a cause for concern. In a sense, we're about to face the worst of both worlds.

    The comments, meanwhile, make a pretty serious mistake of their own. Yes, the jobs picture for the foreseeable future is not bright, but that isn't because we have too many workers. On the contrary, the size of the work force as a proportion if the overall population is only going to sink. The reason why the jobs outlook is so discouraging is that many, many people in the work force are going to be unemployable. That's what happens when you have no skills and the economy doesn't need you.

    So it's actually not just the worst of both worlds. It's really a triple whammy. Start accumulating capital now, because, unless you already happen to be a billionaire and won't need income, the value of your labor (and that of your descendants) is going to crash.

  • Report this Comment On August 04, 2013, at 11:15 PM, Terikan wrote:

    Actually the idea that people are unemployable and lack the skills is a myth. Certainly there are companies who need very high level abilities in engineering, and programming and physics etc.

    But 99.999% of jobs of all levels need only on-the-job training. Even many executive positions need only a little experience with the lower ranks.

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Katie Spence
TMFKSpence

Katie Spence has been a financial journalist for The Fool since 2011. She specializes in defense companies, “green" technology, autos, and robots. Follow me on Twitter for breaking news in the defense, auto, and robot industry.

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