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TheStreet Open House

Follow the Baby Boomers' Money

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A few weeks ago I had journalist Jonathan Last on my radio show. His most recent book, "What to Expect When No One is Expecting," details what we might expect from the changing demographics. He had some interesting notions about the population shift and the investment opportunity it created in health care.

One way to access the healthcare opportunity is through an exchange-traded fund such as the Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV), which has been on a tear with a year-to-date and one-year performance of 28.7% and 19.0%, respectively.

I followed this interview recently with another demographics expert, David Foot, a Harvard-trained Ph.D., who validated many of Last's ideas.

For instance, he noted that Last's required fertility rate of 2.1 -- which refers to a little more than two children per female, presumably as part of a couple -- was on the mark.


"At that rate, a couple is replacing themselves, and the 0.1 part provides for future growth," he explained. He added that rates as low as 1.8 and as high as 2.4 were desirable. "Below that number you are not creating enough taxpayers, such as what is occurring in Greece and Portugal now. Above that rate, there are not enough jobs for the emerging population, which you are seeing in many Arab states and which was a driving factor behind the Arab Spring."

But where most demographers see trouble with the current demographic calculus of the United States, Foot sees opportunity.

Specifically, the conventional wisdom suggests the bulge in the 55- to 64-year-old part of the population is bad for the economy.

While that may be true, Foot asserts that from age 55 to 64, individuals are at their peak per capital spending levels. "That's when individuals spend the most in their lives, and this means over the next five to 10 years there's a tremendous opportunity to invest where Baby Boomers spend their money," he said.


That means food, energy, health care and leisure.

If you believe strongly in Foot's thesis, here are some ETFs that will enable you to access some of the trends he is referencing.

Click links for more information on tickers in the chart: XLV; XLE; PBJ; PEJ; and SPY

Foot said that as the population aged, the expectations for GDP growth changed as well. "In the 1950s and 1960s we expected growth in the 5% to 6% range. In the 1970s and 1980s, 4%, then 3% in the 1990s and 2000s. Now we are looking at sub-3% growth. There is nothing wrong with this per se, but investors will need to manage their money much better."

At the time of publication the Cordasco Financial Network held SPY for a few clients.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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