George Leong: The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) is at a record high, and there is rejoicing on Wall Street in reaction to the stock market rally. In fact, the stock market rally appears to have made more people rich. A total of 300,000 newly minted millionaires were created from the current multiyear stock market rally, according to Spectrem Group. (Source: Frank, R., “US (and Booming Market) Adds 300,000 New Millionaires,” CNBC, March 19, 2013.) This is great news for the new members of the $1.0-million club (excluding primary residence), but the reality is that there continues to be a mass of Americans collecting food stamps—around 48 million according to USDebtClock.org—and they have not reaped any rewards from the stock market rally.
The headlines commenting on how America is becoming richer are myths; that is, unless you don’t care about the other 95% of Americans who are just getting by and the bottom rung of this group who are considered America’s poor, making minimum wage.
What is also alarming is the low saving rate, which shouldn’t be a surprise, given that income levels have flattened out and declined over the past decade. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), a staggering 57% of workers surveyed said they had less than $25,000 in combined household savings and investments, aside from their homes. (Source: Greene, K. and Monga, V., “Workers Saving Too Little to Retire,” Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2013.) The survey also reported that 28% of respondents expressed no confidence that they would have sufficient money to retire in a comfortable manner. Trust me when I say this group doesn’t care about the stock market rally.
Now you may ask what the point is, but my view is that America is becoming poorer, not richer. Only a select group is benefiting from the stock market rally. The vast majority of Americans don’t really care about the stock market rally, as they are more concerned with how to simply get by.
All I’m saying is don’t be fooled by the new headlines talking about how well America is doing, as a financial crisis is still possible.
Down the road, there will be significant and rising demand for food stamps and programming for those who couldn’t save enough during their working years, especially following the Great Recession that left middle and lower America scrambling to recover.
The gap will continue to be significant, as the rich have a much larger base of wealth to work from and can accelerate the growth of their net worth much quicker, especially via the stock market rally. To play the 300,000 new millionaires and others in that group, I would look at luxury stocks, such as those in the high-end retail space, as the rich will always have money, regardless of a financial crisis, and they make money via the stock market rally.
At the lower end of the money spectrum, take a look at the discount retail stocks and fast food stocks, as these areas could really grow, given the income disparity. Of course, the rich can simply make more money off the backs of the “working poor” by buying these stocks that cater to the less fortunate.
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