MONEY Autos

Car Ownership Has Peaked—or Maybe It Hasn’t

new cars on the lot
Per-Anders Pettersson—Getty Images

After a strong January for the auto industry, forecasts call for rising car sales in 2015—followed by more increases in the years ahead. So what's this business about already hitting "Peak Car"?

Based on research from the asset management firm Schroders, Quartz recently made the case that “the Western world’s century-old love affair with the automobile is coming to an end.”

By and large, the data indicate that people around the world—young people in particular—are driving less, less interested in owning cars, and even less likely to bother getting driver’s licenses. In light of such statistics, the argument is that America, and perhaps the world as a whole, has reached the marker that’s been dubbed as “Peak Car,” the point at which car sales and ownership and driving in general go no higher.

“Our research illustrates that for the past decade the developed world has shown signs of hitting ‘peak car,’ a plateau or peak in vehicle ownership and usage,” the Schroders study states plainly.

At the same time, however, Automotive News and others point this week to the new IHS report forecasting that global auto sales will hit 88.6 million in 2015, which would mean a 2.4% increase over 2014 and would mark the fifth year in a row of increasing car sales. Not all parts of the world are expected to be buying more vehicles: Despite cheap gas prices, car sales in South America, Russia, and Western Europe are likely to be underwhelming. Yet strong sales are anticipated by IHS in North America and China, bringing about a “slower, not lower” overall rise in the auto market globally.

Car dealership sales in the northeastern U.S. were likely hurt in January due to major snowstorms, and yet just-reported auto sales for the month have been impressive. It’s expected that automakers will post brag-worthy sales increases of 14% or more, compared with the same period a year ago. At such a pace, total sales for the year could reach 17 million.

IHS’s forecast calls for light-vehicle sales of 16.9 million in the U.S. in 2015, and that might be on the low side. “With a strong exit to 2014, and gasoline prices currently plunging, consumers may feel even more positive throughout 2015,” an IHS statement said. And the IHS report calls for higher sales tallies going forward, with predictions of 17.2 million U.S. car sales in 2016 and 17.5 million in 2017. If that last prediction is realized, it would mean a new peak for the nation, which experienced what was then an all-time high of 17.4 million sales in 2000.

In other words, IHS researchers are saying that neither the U.S. nor the world has reached Peak Car, and that from the looks of things we won’t hit that point for years to come. The Economist has also made the case that, despite millennials’ apparent preference for urban living and lack of enthusiasm for driving and car ownership, “it is not clear that declining car ownership among young urbanites will have more than a marginal effect on overall car sales,” and that Peak Car “still seems quite a long way off.”

The researchers at Schroders and IHS can’t both be right. So who is wrong? Well, we should point out that one of Schroders’ graphs illustrates how consumer interest in buying cars has rebounded across all age groups since the Great Recession ended. Also, some of Schroders’ data is dated: The most recent drivers’ license statistics are from 2010, for instance, while the numbers reflecting a rising propensity to buy cars in the U.S. go no further than 2012.

On the other hand, there are compelling, data-driven arguments that millennials will never love automobiles as much as car-crazed Baby Boomers, that the average number of vehicles owned per driver (or household) will never be as high as it once was, and that people all over the world will be out on the roads less year after year thanks partly to smartphones, e-commerce, car sharing, and other technologies. At the same time, it sure looks like auto sales will be on the rise globally and in the U.S. in 2015, and the year after that, and the year after that, and … who knows?

If Google and/or Uber manage to create and perfect a practical driverless taxi in the near future, all bets—and forecasts—could be off.

MONEY Baby Boomers

The Last Boomer Turns 50—but This G-G-Generation Ain’t Done Yet

US musician Lenny Kravitz performs on November 23, 2014 at the Bercy concert hall in Paris.
Francois Guillot—AFP/Getty Images Lenny Kravitz—b. 1964—may have crossed the half-century mark, but he and his young boomer peers aren't done changing the world.

These days it's all about millennials. But boomers will not go quietly.

Nineteen years ago the first baby boomer turned 50, and a barrage of headlines marked the aging of America. As this year began, the last boomer had just turned 50—and few seemed to notice. Could it be that boomers are officially old news?

God knows we’ve spilled barrels of ink chronicling the generation that in its youth simply wanted to turn on, tune in, and drop out. We obsessed over every boomer adult life phase, from the day they finally started trusting people over 30 through the onset of their retirement years. What is left to say?

I’m a boomer. I’ve written two books about boomers. My g-g-generation has changed a lot of rules. We stood for civil rights and sexual liberation and against war, our megaphone amplified by our unprecedented numbers: 78 million strong. Our women went to work outside the home. We decided not to wear ties on Friday. We turned into workaholics who made the office our second residence and pursued the American Dream to the finish.

We’ve been selfish at times, showing the world how to live for today and run up our credit cards in the process. Free spending is part of what gave us influence as marketing companies sought to give us whatever we believed we needed. But a fair chunk of our materialism vanished in the Great Recession, and with age we’re finding that we already have most of the things we really need.

We will continue spending, of course—on meds, cruise trips, and Depends—even if it means taking out a reverse mortgage like ones The Fonz, the eldest of our generation, hawks on daytime TV. Yet leisure travel and pills aren’t economic drivers, not like real estate, infrastructure, and technology. Boomers are stuck on email in a SnapChat world. And the ultimate boomer buzz kill may be that we’ve begun to die. Our numbers have fallen 4% to 75 million, according to U.S. Census estimates.

Meanwhile our coddled, diverse, highly educated, do-gooder, multitasking tech-dweeb children who can’t seem to launch are finding their place at center stage. I can say this. I have three. I love every aspect of what they bring to the world. They are new and fascinating and driven in their own way. These millennials number 80 million, surpassing boomers in a key metric that now makes them prime grist for the marketers’ mill and guarantees sociologists and demographers will analyze and fuss over them for decades.

That’s as it should be. Millennials are the next pig in the python. Their numbers will reshape life phases again as they marry, parent, set up house, pursue careers, and retire. Already their influence has changed the workplace as they value meaning and experience more highly than loyalty and advancement. Millennials are upending the hotel and auto industries, real estate, and more with a sharing economy. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

But let’s not bury the boomers too quickly. For one thing, those past age 55 control 75% of America’s wealth. Well fortified, this generation is not ready to call it a day. Healthcare, which we will spend a fortune on in coming years, is 17% of the economy and one key area where boomers remain agents of change. We may be older but we will pay up to look good and feel good. We may be tech challenged but we’ll buy smart shoes to help us find the way home after the onset of dementia.

We haven’t finished changing retirement yet, either. Like The Fonz, who found an encore career as a pitchman, boomers living to 88 or 92 cannot imagine (or afford) 30 years of leisure. We are only beginning to reshape these last decades of life through phased retirement schemes, late-life careers, and business startups. We are exploring financial products like deferred annuities and 401(k) plan investments that convert to lifetime income so we don’t run out money. Financial institutions are only starting to focus on millennials; to them, boomers remain highly relevant.

Part of this new retirement is also about giving back. Boomers who wanted to change the world as twentysomethings but let life get in the way for three decades are returning to their activist roots and opening new doors in the world of philanthropy through mentoring programs and launching their own nonprofits. With life experience and more connections, and with greater influence, wisdom, and resources, we are finding it easier to make a difference without making the evening news.

Finally, boomers will be heard from one more time on the biggest issue of them all: how we die. Ours will be the first generation to broadly eschew painful life-extending procedures and make the most of palliative care to live better in fewer days, and then die with dignity. Our pursuit of a good death—checking out on our terms and saying no to becoming a burden on loved ones—will have broad implications for the legal system, retirement and estate planning, medical science, and hospitals and eldercare facilities. This is truly the last frontier, and boomers are pushing through the weeds. We may be old news. But we ain’t done yet.

 

TIME cities

Maybe Millennials Don’t Want to Live in Cities After All

Suburban street
Barbara Fischer—Getty Images

Two-thirds want to own a home in the suburbs, study says

The accepted wisdom about millennials is that they shun the suburbs for the cities. They want to be in urban cores next to easily accessible public transportation options that allow them to seamlessly hit up bars, restaurants and any space with wi-fi.

But any blanket statement about a group that’s roughly 80 million strong will have holes, and a new survey appears to run against that common perception. The poll, released Wednesday by the National Association of Home Builders, shows that Americans in their 20s and mid-30s actually would rather settle down in the suburbs than in city centers.

(MORE: Millennials Will Overtake Baby Boomers to Become Biggest Generation)

According to NAHB’s study, 66% of respondents who were born in 1977 or later said they would prefer to buy a home in an outlying suburb or close to a suburb, while only 24% preferred buying a house in a rural area and 10% would rather have a home in the center of a city.

(MORE: Turns Out Millennials Do Want to Own Cars)

Those numbers seem to show that while millennials may love living in urban cores while they’re young and largely childless, they realize that it may be too expensive in the long-term to buy. It also may signal that apartment living is taking its toll as millennials get older. More than 80% said they wanted to live in a home with three or more bedrooms.

TIME Food & Drink

Here Are the 2 Places Left Where You Can Find That Taste of the ’90s, McDonald’s Pizza

Two locations in Ohio and West Virginia serve the item you thought was extinct

Millennial diners, want to sink your teeth into a round cheezy slab of ’90s nostalgia? McDonald’s Pizza has been found living on at two locations in Ohio and West Virginia, according to Canada.com

The two restaurants, out of over 14,000 McDonald’s locations in America, are owned by a man named Greg Mills and located 90 miles apart from one another, the site reports.

It was the explosion in popularity of drive-through restaurants that brought about the demise of the pizza. The ovens were said to have slowed down sales and restaurants weren’t pushing enough pizzas out to justify the expense.

But Judy Norman, an employee at the West Virginia location, told Canada.com that their pizza still sells and she has “days when everyone wants pizza and there are days where every so often you get a pizza [order].”

For now, millennials can delight that they now have two places they can take their Teenie Beanie Babies, discuss Hey Arnold! and have a slice of the past.

[Canada.com]

MONEY Personal Finance

Turns Out (Gasp) Millennials Do Want to Own Cars

150119_EM_MillennialMyth
Jamie Grill—Getty Images

Young adults want to share everything--except maybe their car

Millennials have spurred the rise of the sharing economy by embracing the notion that renting is almost always better than buying. But even they want to own their own set of wheels, new research shows. Could homeownership, a diamond ring and other traditional purchases be far behind?

Some 71% of young adults would rather buy a car than lease one and 43% are likely to purchase a vehicle in the next five years, according to a survey from Elite Daily, a social site, and research consultants Millennial Branding. This finding suggests young adults that have popularized car-sharing options like Zipcar and RelayRides—and all sorts of other sharing options from wedding dresses to leftover meals—may be warming to traditional ownership.

Could it be that the kids are growing up and want something of their own? Other research shows that millennials, widely regarded as an idealist generation that favors flexibility and personal fulfillment over wealth, have begun backtracking there as well. Increasingly, they link financial health to life satisfaction.

For now, though, home ownership remains largely off their radar: 59% would rather rent a house than buy one and only one in four millennials are likely to purchase a house in the next five years, the survey found. “This shows that millennials don’t know anything about investing, even though they say they do,” says Dan Schawbel, managing partner at Millennial Branding. “A home is a much better investment than a car.”

Schawbel believes millennials are more eager to buy cars because they are delaying marriage and children, and they don’t want to be tied down with real estate. Plenty of research supports that view—and the trend toward delayed family formation. Yet it seems only a matter of time before this generation embraces marriage and homeownership too. The oldest are just 35 and, the survey found, three in five can’t afford to buy a home anyway.

The survey also found that millennials might be struggling less with student debt than is widely believed. Yes, student debt now tops $1.3 trillion. But young adults have money to spend. They are using their income to pay off their loans and getting support from their parents to pay for other things, Schawbel says. That may mean a car now or in the near future, and it seems increasingly clear that eventually it will include real estate. This generation is carving its own path, for sure. But the path may wind up looking more traditional than they know.

MONEY Millennials

Millennials Increasingly Link Money With Fulfillment

money jigsaw puzzle
VisualField—Getty Images

Focused on purpose and meaning, millennials nonetheless wind up more satisfied when their finances are in order, a new study suggests.

Millennials define success more broadly than older generations, seeing it as less about wealth and more about a healthy and fulfilling life. But even as this generation tries to change the world through jobs and investments with purpose, among other things, it may be finding that financial success and personal satisfaction often go hand in hand.

Millennials who describe themselves as successful—whatever that may mean to them as individuals—report more healthy finances across the board than those who do not, new research shows. For example, 31% of millennials who say they are satisfied with their current lifestyle report annual income over $75,000, while just 24% of all millennials earn that much.

Might their healthier income be part of the reason? That seems likely, based on a broad range of findings in a new survey from MoneyTips.com, an online personal finance community geared at 18-to-34 year olds. Young adults describing themselves as satisfied with their current lifestyle, or successful, not only had more income but less debt, more savings, and more confidence in their ability to retire comfortably.

None of this would feel surprising if not for the widely espoused view that millennials favor quality of life issues including job flexibility, social impact, and personal experiences over career and earning power. Maybe they are growing up and realizing that money may help—or at least not hinder—such pursuits. Or maybe their worldview is evolving at a subconscious level as the real world bears down on them.

Either way, a generation that grew up with participation trophies and helicopter parents—and unbridled optimism—seems to be waking to the connection between a satisfying life and healthy finances. Nothing in this survey suggests millennials have lost their zeal for meaning. But financial security has a creeping sense of place.

Asked what financial concerns keep them up at night, 46% of millennials who call themselves successful cite being able to earn enough to secure their future. That compares with 55.6% of all millennials. Likewise, just 23.7% of self-described successful millennials worry about their ability to pay day-to-day expenses, and 33.6% worry about their ability to live within their means. That compares with 41.2% and 42.2%, respectively, for all millennials. A higher percentage who feel satisfied also say they are on track to meet their financial goals, have calculated how much they will need in retirement, and stick to a monthly budget.

About 40% of self-described successful millennials owe at least $15,000 while 45% of all millennials owe that much. When it comes to money in the bank, 58% of successful millennials have at least $10,000, while just 46% of all millennials have that much. Certainly, savings and income aren’t everything. But this next generation has come a long way from thinking finances matter little at all.

MONEY salary negotiation

The Ultimate Millennial’s Guide to Negotiating Salary

Art of Negotiating
Walker and Walker—Getty Images

Even if you don't have much experience behind you, you should be able to talk your way into more money.

This is the fourth in a series of six posts on salary negotiation published in partnership with PayScale.com.

Salary negotiation is always challenging, but it’s especially intimidating for young grads who are just starting their careers. Any how-to on salary negotiation will advise you to use your skills and experience as leverage. So, how do you make a strong case for yourself when you don’t have a lot of ammunition?

First of all, do negotiate. Some studies have shown that negotiating a few thousand dollars more can add up to one million more in total earnings over the course of your career.

Here’s my advice for young job-seekers on keeping their negotiation tactics professional, friendly, data-driven, and timely when they receive their first offer:

Be enthusiastic. Even if the offer is lower than you expected, an offer is an offer. Always be gracious and express excitement before you begin to discuss details.

Don’t feel the need to accept (or negotiate) right away…unless it’s the most perfect offer ever. Even if pushed to accept, ask to review the offer in writing if you’d like more time. It’s important to be able to weigh your options and do some research on how the offer stacks up. That being said, don’t take too much time. They have a job they need to fill.

Do use the offer call (or email) to ask about benefits in addition to salary. When you’re doing your research after the call, make sure you know a typical salary benefits range. A full-time, but hourly gig might not come with benefits, whereas some of the best companies provide benefits that end up being worth 50% of your salary. Consider your entire package.

Look at vacation time, moving allowance, and signing bonus. It’s not typical for entry-level employees to be offered all of these, but it’s important to know if any are not included, as you may be able to negotiate these into your offer. Plus, moving bonuses are definitely worth bringing up if you’re moving to a new city.

Be prompt. Once you’ve researched, respond quickly. Email is your friend. It allows you to collect your thoughts, craft ideal responses and put your best foot forward during the negotiation.

Lead with enthusiasm. You’re still interested in the job and want to make it work. Then, bring up what you want to discuss.

Be prepared to explain what you want, why you want it, and if possible, how it will benefit the company. Example: “I’d like to start on X instead of the Y as I would benefit from some extra moving time and then be able to start with all of my energy focused on learning the job.”

Don’t assume that saying their salary offer is lower than the average will work. Complement your research with an explanation of what you want and why. Take the Job Offer survey on PayScale for detailed insight into how this offer compares to similar ones. This will allow you to justify your rationale for a higher salary. It is important to be data-driven when negotiating.

Be thoughtful about what you ask. I’ve seen someone who was offered a $50,000 salary ask for $60,000. That’s a 20% increase. When you consider that a typical yearly increase is between 2% and 3%, and promotions are typically are usually between 8 and 12%, that person essentially asked for the equivalent of two promotions. (Remember, be data driven!) Be ambitious, but realistic about what you ask for, and always back up your request with data about the company, the job title and the role’s responsibilities—not second-hand knowledge you’ve heard from friends or family.

Accept or Decline. At some point, you’re going to either have to accept or decline. Show either positive enthusiasm or that you’re grateful for the offer. If it’s not going to work for you, it’s not going to work for you. Bow out with grace. You don’t want to close off an opportunity for them to come back with another offer.

Kristen Hamilton is CEO of Koru, a Seattle-based company that provides career training and coaching to recent college grads.

More from this series on Money.com:

More on salary negotiation from PayScale.com:

TIME advice

An Important Piece of Life Advice for Those 30 and Younger

hiker-mountain-top
Getty Images

Here’s a clear opportunity to avoid a future regret

Answer by Karl Pillemer on Quora.

I spend a lot of time interviewing older people about their lives (I’m a gerontologist by profession), and in one project we asked them the question: “What can young people do to avoid having regrets when they come to the end of life?” We found that one big thing people their age often regret is not traveling enough when they were young. Indeed, one of the most important messages they have for younger people is to travel — and to do it now.

A woman in her late 80s told me that among the most regretful elders she knows are those who put off travel until it was too late — a mistake she almost made, had it not been for her husband. She said:

Because they all wait until they retire. But my husband was the one that said, “I’m not waiting until I can retire, who knows what things will be like then.” And it’s true. How do you know if you are going to be able to travel later? I look at my father, who died young, and never was able to travel much. So if you can, without hurting your financial or social or family life, try to do as much traveling as possible while you are young.

So here’s a clear opportunity to avoid a future regret: Travel in your first 30 years, while you have the time, the openness to experience, and the energy. This message comes from some of the elders who delayed travel until it was too late. One 86-year-old I talked to expressed no complaints or regrets. But she had spent her life close to home, and it was with a very wistful look in her eyes that she told me simply: “I always wanted to go to Hawaii, but I never made it. Oh, it’s too late for me.”

I can hear some people saying: That’s all well and good, but how can we afford it? The elders counter that argument by saying that travel is so rewarding, it should take precedence over other things younger people spend money on. The key is travel’s value specifically for the young; it broadens their horizons, helps them to find a focus for their lives, and challenges them in new ways.

Of course, travel is by no means only for the young — although the elders do realistically note that the older you get, the more difficult it is to withstand the rigors of travel. Seeing the world and exposing oneself to different cultures is also important in the middle 30 years and the last 30 years. Travel is just that important to feeling like your life has been well-lived.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are some of the things you should avoid or try doing in your first 30 years of life?

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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