December 2019 marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of my blog Investor Junkie.
I sold Investor Junkie in 2018, and I’m looking forward to starting yet another business in this new decade. I’ve been very fortunate in the last 10 years. I hope the next 10 will be just as good, if not better.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older, Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.– Pink Floyd “Time”
What do you think the future holds?
Ever since I visited Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World as a child, I’ve been fascinated by the concept of the future. I recently watched The Imagineering Story, a great docuseries that discusses the history of the Disney theme parks. I highly recommend you watch it on Disney+.
The series talks about Walt’s plans for Walt Disney World that were never realized. Did you know that he dreamed up EPCOT to be a fully functional but futuristic company town?
However, his ideas were a bit too futuristic. Walt’s company town would never have worked in reality. But it was the inspiration for the EPCOT theme park we know and love today.
In fact, even when Walt’s futuristic park designs did get built, they have proven costly to maintain. Unfortunately, that means the parks have had to make some changes. For example, Disney World recently added a gondola system to connect parts of the park rather than extending the beloved but expensive Monorail.
The Future Isn’t Always What We Expect
One of the first articles I wrote for Investor Junkie was called “2010 Is Here! Where’s the Monolith?” (a reference to the book and film 2001: A Space Odyssey). In the article, I discussed how the future isn’t always what we expect.
Back then, in 2010, I bitched about there being no HAL 9000 supercomputer. But, to be fair, 2001 was off by only three years – the first Amazon Echo came out in 2014.
Blade Runner was supposed to have taken place in November 2019. Yet we don’t have flying cars or replicants. However, we no longer have Atari or Pan Am, either! Plus, the iconic movie Back to the Future 2 was supposed to have taken place in 2015, and it also got many things wrong.
So maybe we don’t have a particularly good track record when it comes to predicting what the future will be like. However, we can always try.
My Predictions for the Next 10 Years
It’s been said people overestimate what can be achieved in one year but underestimate what can be done in 10. So I like to think more long term than just one-year goals and trends.
Think about how much has changed in the past 10 years with blogging and online business. Expect similar disruptions in the next 10.
As I peer into my crystal ball, these are what I believe will be some of the biggest trends for the next 10 years. Just as social media and smartphones have dramatically changed not only business but our personal lives as well, I think these trends will have a far-reaching effect.
Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.– Wayne Gretzky
Here are the eight most important trends you should follow for the next 10 years.
A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) has been a science-fiction enemy for decades. We have a deep-seated suspicion that machines are evil and will do harm to people. At least, if they don’t hurt us physically, they’ll take away our livelihoods.
The Luddites of the world predict that in the future, no one will have a job and computers will do everything!
Will this really happen?
I do think we’ll depend more on A.I, pseudo-A.I. (rules-based), and statistics for everything from writing copy to predicting what customers will buy. But not everything can be automated. Some jobs can’t be automated because they require creativity–something a computer will never be able to do well.
I’m certainly not like Elon Musk, who believes A.I. has the potential to take over the world as in the Terminator movie. But I do believe there will be a massive disruption that will create gaps in the workforce. If anything, we will need more technologists to help run the world. Nerds unite!
STEM skills will become even in more demand than they are today.
Consider building a business or career around either automating a task or something that requires creativity.
2. Personal Brands
People are always looking for shortcuts to solving their problems. “Just tell me the answer!” is what we all say.
This means that what an expert has to say is becoming more important than ever. So build your business around yourself or a persona that makes your brand more trustworthy.
It’s becoming harder to determine computer-generated content from reality. With deep-fake video and audio, you could create a personal brand around yourself without having to do the writing and talking. Don’t just take my word for it–check out the examples above.
You could even become a modern-day Max Headroom.
So in the future, building out a personal brand will be easier than ever. You can hire someone to “ghostwrite” or create your video and audio for you. You could literally be everywhere at all times and scale your personal brand with technology even more than you previously could.
3. Less Traffic From Organic Search
The free traffic you can get from social media and search engines will decline.
Currently, as a business owner, you rely on Google for most of your traffic. In fact, right now, 60-85% of all traffic comes from organic search.
However, a trend is becoming apparent: Less traffic is coming from organic search. According to data from Advanced Web Ranking, in May 2014, the click-through rate (CTR) for the No. 1 position or result in organic search was 39%.
Today, the No. 1 position gets an average CTR of 31%, representing a decrease of 8%.
Organic search is getting pushed further down in the search results. Paid ads, featured snippets, and other Google callouts are hurting organic content.
This isn’t even counting the increase in voice search with tools such as Amazon’s Echo or Google Home. The sad truth is, you have to “pay to play” with both Google and Facebook, the two major sellers of ad space.
In the future, audiences will become even more fragmented. Social media will continue to split people into various cliques and tribes. From a marketing angle, this means you must find more ways to target these small groups and tailor your message to each.
You must also consider paid traffic a core part of your audience-building strategy. You need to think you are only “renting” any organic traffic that comes your way. You do not own that channel, and it can disappear at any time.
However, even though I think SEO traffic will steadily decline if you currently aren’t optimizing for Google, you should be. You’re missing out on a huge audience for your blog.
4. More Gated Content
Privacy concerns and free content will continue to be at odds with each other. People have been accustomed to having “free” content, but they also want privacy.
More visitors are using ad blockers. People are treating their use of a service as if they owned the information, not the company that cultivates it.
And as long as people believe they own that information, they will exert more control over giving out information. That means more anonymous blobs visiting your website.
Because of this, more content will go private. For the past 20 years, we’ve seen the freemium model—in which the basic product is free, but add-ons require a purchase—work. I expect that trend will continue as well.
In the next 10 years, more content will be gated. This will require either the traditional paywall or the explicit request for personal information to gain access to “free” content.
This also means affiliate marketing isn’t going anywhere. If anything, affiliate marketing will become an even bigger part of monetization strategies. And at the same time, monetization via ad banners will become even less effective.
5. The Internet of Everything
We already take for granted how connected we are, and this will only increase in the next 10 years.
The Internet of Things is the network of smart devices connecting together, collecting and sharing data. In the future, the Internet of Things means there will be even more connectivity in your life, and it will predict your personal needs.
For example, an Apple Watch can tell you if you have AFib or if you’ve fallen and hurt yourself.
Via the Internet of Things, the smartwatch could help your healthcare provider predict and monitor health issues before they become serious.
5G wireless and microsatellites will allow for wired ethernet-level connectivity from any place in the world! But I believe we’ll also be receiving computer implants that will make us more connected than ever in the next 10 years.
Of course, this brings up plenty of justifiable privacy concerns. However, we must accept that, in order to advance in areas such as health care, we will have to lose some of our individual privacy.
I’m not happy about this situation, but I realize this is reality.
What can that mean for you, career-wise?
Security services will become even more important, especially for the businesses that warehouse sensitive data.
And, if you are creating content, you must think about the different ways your content can be consumed. For example, I know of a few successful entrepreneurs who have capitalized on creating apps for Amazon’s Echo. Look beyond traditional website content.
6. Higher Education Bubble
Higher education is ready for a major change.
The cost of college has risen two to three times faster than the average rate of inflation. It’s just not sustainable.
At some point, degrees are just not worth the amount of money you get in return for going to school. I believe we’ll see a student debt jubilee (or mass debt forgiveness) sometime in my lifetime.
However, although higher education is becoming harder to afford, people still have to learn the STEM skills needed in the marketplace. In addition, we need more people to think with logic and reason than what’s currently taught in higher education (which is more about emoting).
Education is needed now more than ever, but it will come from sources other than the traditional four-year college.
I expect that, for many people, online courses, which are already growing, will either replace or supplement traditional higher education.
Traditional labor skills such as plumbing and carpentering will see a resurgence in popularity and will no longer be pooh-poohed by the intellectuals. But tech will also play a bigger role in manual labor jobs.
There are many ways you can play this opportunity. Online education is only going to become bigger and more important in the next 10 years.
7. Higher Taxes
By 2030, the national debt is expected to be higher than $33 trillion. That’s approximately 160% of our annual GDP. In addition, the country is leaning more and more toward socialist ideals and expecting the government to do more.
I predict taxes in the United States will grow higher than they are today. There’s no way we can fund the current deficits and the entitlements people want without raising taxes.
Rightly or wrongly, we are in a period where capitalism is considered a “dirty word” and the cause of society’s ills by many. So higher taxes are also a means to “punish” successful businesses. But since only people pay taxes, ultimately, individuals will pay more.
It won’t be just the “rich”–everyone will pay more in taxes.
I expect we’ll get something like the Value Added Tax (VAT) that the European Union has–a nationalized tax based on consumption. A VAT is the only way to increase our historic tax rate, 18% of GDP.
This will change things like Roth IRAs, which everyone expects to be “tax-free” upon withdrawal. Retirement accounts are currently $28 trillion in size ($9.2 trillion in IRA accounts alone). It will be too hard for the government to pass up this source of revenue. But this will screw over the individuals who played the game right and saved for retirement.
This means you should diversify among not only stock and bond sectors, but also taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free accounts. For most of us, it could be a good idea to put more money into taxable accounts.
You never know what’s in store from the U.S. government.
8. Lower Investment Returns
We are currently in the longest bull market in history. The stock market is at an all-time high. Since December 2009, the stock market has seen 170% gains in the Dow Jones.
The Shiller PE Ratio is at one of its historically highest values, at 31. There have been only two other times in history when it’s been higher. Plus, mathematically speaking, the 40-year bull bond market must come to an end.
All of this means it’s not a great sign for investing.
The next 10 years of investing certainly won’t be like the previous 10. The past 10 years have been great for stock market investors. The future isn’t looking so hot.
It’s hard to predict stock market returns of less than 10 years. However, as you look further out, things should return to historical norms.
It’s almost a 100% statistical chance we’ll have at least one recession in the next 10 years.
I’m not going to get into technical details here, but you can check out this Morningstar article, which highlights various forecasts of future returns.
Returns in real terms (after inflation) are expected to be around 4% for stocks and 2% for bonds. These returns are lower than historical averages.
If you plan on retiring in the next 10 years, keep this in mind for your withdrawal calculations. You might want to look toward supplementing your income via active means (such as a side hustle). If you still have many years to go, you should pile into the stock market at the next major stock market correction.
In addition, lower-than-expected returns will cause issues with what I think is one of the biggest crises looming on the horizon.
On the whole, pension plans are underfunded and expect outrageous returns. For example, CalPERS still expects 7% annual returns, even with bonds earning less than 2%. It will be interesting to see how this pans out in the next recession.
As with my previous prediction, this affects you with possible higher taxes from local municipalities, fewer services, or both!
Of course, people are going to ask me… what should I do? I think, for most folks, investing in yourself is the best option for the next 10 years. Learn new skills and focus on adding more value to others. I know it’s become a cliché, but I believe it to be true.
I also believe everyone should start a side hustle. With all of the disruption expected, it’s not particularly likely you’ll hold onto the same job for the next 10 years. A side hustle will at least be another source of income.
Cartoonist Scott Adams has talked about talent stacking. For example, I consider myself a decent programmer and I’m great at SEO. Plus, I’m a decent writer and good at digital marketing. All combined, these qualities have made me into an affiliate marketing powerhouse.
Learn what your superpowers are and combine them to make you an unstoppable force.
For the truly adventurous, there’s no better time than today to start a business. It is easier and cheaper than ever to start a blog or an online enterprise. By starting a business, you can achieve astronomical returns unheard of in the stock market. (However, not everyone should start a business.)
My 10-Year Goals
In December 2009, I had these as my 10-year financial goals:
- To have at least $200,000 yearly in passive income via stocks, bonds, real estate, and my businesses
- To have at least $75,000 in each child’s 529 education plan (the oldest will now be 14 years old)
- To have enough in our retirement accounts that we “could” retire.
The funny thing is, I achieved every one of these goals!
Back in 2009, I wrote: “A lot can happen in 10 years, so don’t set too-small goals.” I have never spoken truer words.
In 2009, inspired by Jim Carrey, I pre-dated a check for $1 million that I was supposed to cash in on January 1, 2011. I wrote this check during the Great Recession when everything financial was collapsing around us.
My plan was to make $1 million in income by 2011. I didn’t meet that exact date, but I did make it by 2015.
So here are my financial goals for the next 10 years:
- Starting from zero, to establish myself as a known personal brand in the digital marketing space
- To generate revenue not only from affiliate marketing but also from my own courses and services
- To generate at least $500,000 per year from passive and active income sources.
Readers: What do you think of my predictions? What trends do you see happening in the next 10 years? What are your personal goals for the next 10 years? Leave a comment below.