First Peek at the 2000 Data MacroMonitor Marketing Report Vol. V, No. 1 February 2001

As we begin to examine, explore, and analyze the latest database in our ongoing series (which started in 1978), some observed developments are important to keep in mind.
  • The number of economic households continues to increase.
  • The Baby Boomers are entering the life stages at which they will be most productive.
  • Life expectancy continues to expand.
  • A mass affluent class is developing.
  • Transactions are increasingly captured through financial media, and the diversity of media is expanding, but new technologies tend to cannibalize more recent media and traditional technologies. For example, the introduction of Platinum/Titanium cards has increased overall card penetration only marginally, whereas the incidence of gold cards has dropped markedly.
  • Generally, the acceptability of using debt is established, although evidence exists of migration to lower-cost instruments. Overall U.S. household debt is increasing. Although not a concern among the more affluent households, this increase is particularly troublesome for the middle and lower strata.
  • Assets, especially investable assets, continue to grow. The volatility of the past year appears to be refocusing investors on stock mutual funds instead of individual stocks. The impact on variable insurance products is not clear.
  • Accumulation of retirement assets continues to grow. The success of salary-reduction plans (401ks, 403bs, 457s) in the past two decades, along with the introduction of new IRA types and the slow decline in defined benefit plans, is creating a miasma of overlap.
  • Protection needs remain undercovered in health, property/casualty, and especially life, although evidence exists that with increasing affluence and the aging of the population, consumers are beginning to focus on these areas.
  • The economic volatility of the past year may have an impact on consumers and their behaviors toward using financial professionals and financial education, information, and advice. Already evidence indicates erosion in some major attitudinal variables, indicating a growing recognition that consumers need assistance and may be ready to pay for it.
All these factors together along with others that we will derive from the current data paint a picture of multidimensional fluctuations in the industry, the legislative environment, the marketplace, the technologies, and the consumer. The stable, longitudinal analysis of the MacroMonitor provides the framework and the tool from which we may derive and evaluate insights.