/ Money, Technology

Life in 2030 – what does the future hold?

Robot in box

What will your finances look like in 2030? If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably find it hard to imagine one year in advance, never mind 17. Yet, we’ve been looking into the future – what will the economy look like?

While looking at economic trends has been a mainstay of business and government for years, consumers’ individual finances are often left out of the picture. Our new ‘Consumers in 2030’ report uses economic modelling and trend forecasting to think about what consumers are going to need from Which? in the year 2030.

The UK economy in 2030

The results paint a pretty gloomy picture. By 2030 we still won’t have escaped the clutches of the present recession, which means the UK’s economy will have endured the weakest recovery from a depression since the 1920s.

Consumers in 2030 projectionOur finances will be characterised by low annual income growth and high commodity prices. Wages will be kept down by high residual unemployment, and the cost of commodities will be driven up by competition from three million new members of the global middle class.

As a child of the booming 90s and early 00s, I find it hard to imagine the impact that sharply rising commodity prices will have on my quality of life.

The idea that rising food, utilities, and housing prices will mean that I spend over 65% of my income in 2030 on essential goods seems hard to fathom. That’s a higher proportion than it was in 1964, when comparable records began. Never mind missing out on my daily soya latte – how will I ever afford a house? And if I were to get a house, how will I afford childcare?

Financial innovations in 2030

While it’s easy to get depressed when looking at the numbers, I don’t think it needs to be all doom and gloom. After all, human ingenuity is hard to account for in economic predictions, and in a networked society there’s enormous potential for online platforms to foster innovation.

As a member of the ‘millennial’ generation, I’m the kind of person who is happy to manage my life (and my finances) collectively and online. It makes sense to me that alternative and collective lending schemes will become increasingly popular

The big idea likely to gain in popularity over the 21st century (and potentially to solve some of my problems) is the collective home purchasing scheme. With high rents and prices making it increasingly hard to save, a scheme that allows online ‘teams’ of home-buyers to take out low-interest loans and support one another to make repayments, will be an attractive solution.

The idea is that these schemes would provide a collaborative route to home ownership for people who aren’t eligible for a traditional mortgage. For example, groups of young people would be able to use the scheme to pool their resources and support each other to make regular mortgage repayments, despite the challenging employment market.

On the other hand, these alternative financial schemes raise new questions for consumers and organisations like us here at Which?. For example, what new forms of regulation might be needed to give customers assurance in peer-to-peer lending? How will online investors ensure that the data that enables them to assess potential borrower’s credit worthiness is reliable? How will the development of alternative banking models impact on the services offered by traditional banks?

Our Consumers in 2030 report sees us sharing our ideas about the key challenges and opportunities consumers will be facing in 2030. But what do you think the world will be like?

Ted Venables says:
8 February 2013

Am I right in saying that people in 2030 will live to be, on average, around a hundred and thirty years old? I’m not sure our economy would be able to sustain a pension bill that size. Then again, the government has just announced that state pension reforms will start this year, so it looks like they’re preparing early.

Christian Arms says:
8 February 2013

I, for one, am very pleased that you have asked a group of hypothetical questions on a series of random topics to some people about future events that may or may not happen. I, for one, am glad that it won’t be all doom and gloom or it will be.

Hello Christian, we wanted to give a snapshot here and hear your thoughts about the problems we might face in 2030. You can see more detail in the report itself: http://www.which.co.uk/about-which/who-we-are/quarterly-consumer-reports/consumers-in-2030/

You will spend 65% of your income on essential goods? When I married and bought my first house, 100% of my income went on essentials – no holidays, secondhand furniture, old car to get to work. Childcare? My wife brought up the family. I think our expectations as to what we deserve can be too high.
Employment is coming down currently, not going up.
Less money spent on wasteful public services will help make us more competitive. If we become more competitive as a nation, we will become wealthier – that is the nature of the world.
So let’s realise that we have to work for what we want, and go without some things to do that.

You may like to share our table on Twitter:

In 2030, 65% of your spending will be on essentials (food/housing/transport etc) whi.ch/Xd0MZl #Consumers2030 twitter.com/WhichConvo/sta…

— Which? Conversation (@WhichConvo) February 8, 2013

richard says:
9 February 2013

I really don’t care – I’ll be DEAD

I’m hoping for smart traffic lights, one’s that can detect there’s zero cars on the green light, and a very long queue stuck on the red and will change.

There’s a fancy video I’ve seen where electric cars can charge while driving on the road through some kind of electric induction. I’d like to see that become a reality

Some electric trams used to derive their electric power either from studs in the road, or conductors laid in conduit between the track. They had disadvantages- electrocution and the conduit filling up with rubbish (including water no doubt). The problem with charging by induction may be the time it takes to get an acceptable level of charge before you depart from the electrified road – rather similar to the restrictions that trolley buses faced by only travelling on wired routes.
We must remember that electricity will no doubt be heavily taxed if it ever threatens hydrocarbon fuels – gone will be the days of cheap motoring.

Most of us will be familiar with chargers for electric toothbrushes, which work by electromagnetic induction. A similar system has been developed for wireless charging of vehicles parked over charging pads. This avoids then need for electrical connections, the possibility of corrosion and poor contact, electric shock, bridging of connections with salty water, etc. Whereas charging a toothbrush does not have to be very efficient, efficiency is more important when charging an electric car.

I would be very surprised if energy transfer is currently adequate to allow efficient charging of a moving vehicle, but if this achieved it will really make electric cars a practical proposition. As Malcolm points out, the need for roads set up to provide inductive charging is another factor.

PeterW says:
11 February 2013

This is all very interesting and helps to pass the time. But predicting the world of 20+ years ahead has a poor track record. I suspect your report may only be as accurate as all those reports in the 1950s that claimed that in the year 2000 we would all be getting our nutrition from pills, wearing one-piece nylon suits, and commuting to work by helicopter.

I’m sure if enough people make enough predictions, in 17 years time some will be hailed as prophets. At least Onsies came true though – what a triumph.

Life in 2030 – what does the future hold?

Well the predictions above are clearly based on looking at whats happened up until now, identifying perceived trends and projecting forward. Ok that’s probably all we have in the way of a crystal ball but the level of reliability is not really very good. Any forecast is in reality a best guess which will be wrong almost as often as it is right. Many so called experts, who we all take far too seriously, are not as expert as many think.

What if the same study had been made in say 2005, before the meltdown no one seemed to see coming, the result could have been very different.
On that basis equally unforeseen events over the next few years might well change any forecast dramatically, for better or for the worse.

Think we’re just going to have to wait and see although I’d admit it doesn’t look too good right now, but who knows things might improve, the muppets in power get an attack of common sense.

No I won’t be holding my breath either.