Economic downturns typically affect everyone irrespective of class, but the poor almost always bear the brunt of recessions. To the wealthy, a recession is nothing but an inconvenience. Not this time round.
Research by financial experts suggests that the next recession predicted to occur in 2023 will likely hurt the rich more than any other economic class. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why they’ve dubbed the 2023 downturn the ‘richcession.’ That is, of course, assuming there will be a recession in the first place.
But, what are the odds an economic downturn will occur in 2023, triggering a richcession? Using the ABC model, the Federal Reserve predicts a 35% chance of a recession in 2023 if there is a tightening of the policy gap. The unconditional estimate is a mere 16%, although a more restrictive policy gap results in a 60% chance of a recession marked by a rapid decline of inflation under the baseline.
Additionally, Lahart argues that the wealth of households in the lower classes grew more throughout the pandemic than those at the top. That could increase the chances of richcession due to the decreased wealth growth among the wealthy caused by a decline in the stock market and a comparatively modest paycheck rise.
What Is Richcession?
A richcession is a sub-branch of a recession, a widespread and prolonged economic downturn that occurs when a country typically experiences decreased economic activity, rising levels of unemployment, and a fall in the nation’s gross domestic product.
In most instances of a recession, the most hard-hit classes are the poor and lower-middle class members. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes recessions affect the rich the most, an isolated circumstance industry insiders refer to as a richcession.
While the US may not be experiencing a recession, the evidence seems to point to one in the near future. A recent Bloomberg survey suggests a 70% chance of a recession in 2023.
Factors like high-interest rates and inflation have fueled the chances of a recession in 2023. Unlike other instances when the US experienced a recession, experts speculate that the 2023 recession will likely affect the rich more than the poor, hence a richcession.
Signs Of A Richcession In 2023
Several factors suggest why there is a strong likelihood of a richcession occurring in 2023:
The Decline In The Net Worth Gap
For the first time in decades, the economic inequality in America has improved. Before the pandemic, the lower 50% were collectively worth $2 trillion. By the end of Q3 2022, that figure had more than doubled to $4.5 trillion.
That is in stark contrast to the fortunes of the high earners. Research shows that individuals between the 50th and 90th percentile’s share of the total net worth dropped from 30.1% before the pandemic to 28.7% by the end of Q3 2022.
As for earnings, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta data shows that workers in the bottom quartile received a 7.4% increase in monthly wage over the same period in November 2021. That measures favorably against workers in the top quartile, who only received a 4.8% increase using the same parameters.
The fall in income for the well-off is significantly attributable to the dip in the stock market. Conversely, the lower 50% can link their fortunes to the government’s COVID-19 relief initiative and the strong labor market.
Changes In The Labor Market
Although unemployment reached an all-time high of 14.7% in April 2020, December 2022 data shows it edged down to 3.5%, well below the long-term unemployment average of 5.73%. Moreover, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that job openings still outnumber that of unemployed workers.
The other end of the scale shows that high-income earners felt the brunt of the economic slide, with white-collar workers at the center of recent layoffs. The news is full of stories of big tech companies such as Amazon, Meta, and Twitter letting go of high-profile workers, most of who were earning more than $200,000.
Effects That Richcession Will Have On The Wealthy Class
A richcession could impact the well-offs in the following ways:
Termination Of White-Collar Jobs
The richcession will mainly compromise high-income earners. For instance, Salesforce plans to let go of about 10% of its workforce, about 8,000 workers, in the coming weeks of January 2023. They are doing so to reduce expenses due to concerns about the downturn.
That comes hot on the heels of Meta laying off 11,000 workers, Amazon 10,000, and Twitter 7,500 employees. Vimeo also announced in January 2023 that it plans to lay off 11% of its workers following a similar exercise in July 2022.
Plummeting Stock Market
Investing in the stock market is beneficial, but not in the current climate. The looming fear of a recession is negatively affecting the stock market. A continual fall in stock prices will eventually lead to one thing—plummeting net worths.
Businesses That Target The Well-Off In Trouble
2023 might not be a great year for businesses that target the affluent, as that market segment is likely to run into economic headwinds. White-collar jobs are at risk, the stock market is taking a pummeling, the real estate market is cooling, and the economy is on shaky grounds. That will only spur the affluent to tighten their purse strings.
Those that rely on the lower 50% could be on better footing as the jobs market seems to favor lower-level workers. Even if there is a recession, experts expect the jobs market to remain relatively unscathed and wages to remain stable.
How To Prepare For The Richcession
It’s prudent always to have a backup plan in case the richcession hits. You could use these strategies to help minimize the impact of a richcession:
- Build an emergency fund and always budget: It’s good practice to have some money put aside, no matter the state of the economy. That will come in handy when there is a financial emergency like a richcession. An excellent target is to have an emergency fund that should sustain you for at least six months.
- Pay off your high-interest debts first: Such as debt from your credit cards. That should free you from punitive debts and give you enough time to build your cash reserves, enabling you to engage in meaningful investments.
If 2023 is to experience a recession, it will likely be a recession. It is a highly unusual downturn that affects the affluent disproportionately to the other economic classes.
Already the signs point to a recession. The stock market dip is affecting the rich, more companies are cutting white-collar jobs than blue-collar jobs, and the lower-income earners have received higher income increases than their well-off compatriots.
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By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA
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