Top 9 Economic Predictions for the Next 10 Years

Look beyond the day-to-day crises, the ups and downs of the stock market, and news headlines. Here are the top nine predictions that most affect both the United States and your personal economy over the next decade. 

1
The U.S. Economy Will Boom Then Bust

Auto manufacturing is an important driver of GDP. (Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

The Federal Reserve predicts economic growth, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), will be between 2.0 percent and 2.4 percent each year until 2018. That's within the ideal range of 2-3 percent. 

But many people dropped out of the labor force during the recession, and they haven't returned. Donald Trump promised to boost growth to 4 percent.  His supporters felt they hadn't regained the good jobs they lost during the recession. The Fed hasn't incorporated his policies into its forecast yet. 

How It Affects You

A 4 percent growth rate will set off a dangerous boom and bust cycle. That means a recession could hit by 2018 or later. For more, see 5 Steps That Protect You from the Next Economic Crisis. More

2
Dollar Decline Will Resume

Dollar will decline
The dollar will resume its loss of value. Photo: Image Source/Getty Images

After rising 25 percent in 2014 and 2015, the dollar's value will resume its long and gradual decline in value. Forex traders were betting on a strong dollar while the Federal Reserve announced it would raise interest rates. Now that it's happened, traders will realize rates are only rising slowly. They will find another currency to bet on.

Foreign investors will also become more concerned about the U.S. debt. They'll fear that United States wants the dollar to decline so the relative value of its national debt is less. They are diversifying their portfolios with more non-dollar denominated assets, such as the euro

How It Affects You

A weak dollar will increase import prices. That contributes to inflation. It also reduces export prices, spurring economic growth. This will be a gradual dollar decline. So, ignore all those predictions of a dollar collapse. More

3
When China Sneezes, America Catches a Cold

China's influence on the dollar, as represented by flags
China influences the dollar by buying U.S. Treasuries. Photo: grahamheywood/Getty Images

China became the world's largest economy in 2014, overtaking both the U.S. (No. 2) and the EU (No. 1). China's economic growth is slowing from double-digits to around 7 percent annually. But it's now so large that it will continue to affect the U.S. economy much more than it ever did in the past.

One reason is the U.S. debt to China is still more than its debt to any other country. The U.S. trade deficit to China is shrinking, but still large. 

How It Affects You 

Any changes China makes as part of its economic reform will affect the U.S. dollar's value. China has maintained a fixed peg to the dollar for its currency, the yuan. It is loosening this peg in its bid to allow the yuan to become a global currency. It is also modernizing China's stock markets. These efforts will feel like a catastrophe to the U.S. economy, simply because the intertwined impacts are unprecedented.  More

4
The Federal Debt Grows

will the debt ever be paid off
The U.S. debt gets larger and larger each year. Illustration: Turnbull/Getty Images

The  U.S. debt will reach $20 trillion in 2017. It had remained stable after sequestration kicked in. That required a mandatory 10 percent Federal budget cut through 2021. But that could be repealed under a Trump presidency.

Trump promised to reduce the debt. But his policies will increase it by $5.3 trillion.

How It Affects You

Disagreements over how to reduce the debt means a debt crisis every time the debt ceiling needs to be raised. Long-term, balancing the budget means spending cuts, since Trump has promised to cut taxes. That means a cut in the largest discretionary budget item, military spending. Social Security pays for itself, and Medicare partially does, at least for now.

As Washington wrestles with the best way to go about this, it creates uncertainty about tax rates, benefits and federal programs. Businesses react to this uncertainty by hoarding cash, hiring temporary instead of full-time workers, and delaying major investments.

Don't expect a real recovery until the debt-to-GDP ratio returns to a sustainable level. That's the 77 percent benchmark level recommended by the International Monetary Fund. The U.S. ratio is 102 percent.

Federal spending is a component of GDP, which measures the output of the entire economy. For more, see Discretionary Fiscal Policy. Higher income taxes take money out of consumers' pockets, regardless of where the tax is imposed. Business taxes are passed on through higher prices, or through layoffs and reduced investment for companies that can't raise prices. For more, see Supply-side Economics. Whether it's done through tax hikes, spending cuts, or both, these austerity measures mean slower economic growth More

5
The United States Is Involved in Fewer Ground Wars

Successful military operations require fewer ground troops. (Photo:Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

The $19 trillion debt and sequestration means that the United States really can't afford to wage large ground wars anymore. 

The FY 2012 budget reached an all-time high of $804.8 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That the cost of total military spending, including Homeland Security, Overseas Contingency Funds, and the Veterans Administration. It's more than either Social Security or Medicare. It helped create a $1.087 trillion deficit.

In 2011, the special ops raise eliminated Osama bin Laden. That showed that low-cost special ops were more cost-effective than the war in Afghanistan to defeat America's enemies.

Defense spending was projected to shrink to $773.5 billion by FY 2016, which will help the budget deficit drop to $441 billion that year. (Source: FY 2017 Federal Budget)

How It Affects You

You may feel more insecure as terrorism grows and it seems like America is doing little about it. Other countries will be forced to step up to the plate to keep the world safe. It will seem like U.S. global power is declining.  More

6
Inflation Is Controlled

FOMC members
Chairman of Federal Reserve Board Janet Yellen (L) and Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo (R) during a meeting February 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

When oil prices return to a normal range, it will raise fears about hyperinflation. That won't happen. The Federal Reserve is vigilant about reversing quantitative easing and raising the Fed Funds rate when needed. 

The most important role of the Fed is managing public expectations of inflation. Once the public expects inflation, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Fed can maintain confidence in the economy by demonstrating moderation, resulting in less extreme changes in public economic behavior. The Fed knows this is how former Fed Chair Paul Volcker ended the stagflation of the 1970s. By keeping interest rates high, he reassured the public it was committed to preventing inflation.

How It Affects You

Core inflation will remain at or under 2 percent. Food prices may rise temporarily since they follow volatile oil and gas prices. But the cost of living will remain about where it is today.

You don't have to worry as much as you did in the past about inflation eating away at your retirement savings. Without the threat of inflation, it's also unlikely gold prices will rise above $1,500 an ounce More

7
Oil and Gas Prices Will Rebound

Gas prices are mostly affected by oil prices
Gas prices are mostly affected by oil prices. Photo: Andresr/Getty Images

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) outlook is from 2017-2040. It predicts crude oil prices will rise in 2017 to $50/barrel. It warned that commodities traders believe prices would range between $34/b and $72/b. (Source: Short-Term Energy Outlook, EIA, December 8, 2016)

Oil prices are being hammered by a strong dollar. That's because oil contracts are priced in dollars. Oil companies are laying off workers, and some may default on their debt. High yield bonds funds are doing poorly as a result. For more, see What's the Forecast for Oil Prices?

By 2020, oil prices will be at least $80 a barrel. After that, U.S. shale oil production will level off. This combined with rising global will send oil prices to around $140 a barrel by 2040. (Source: EIA 2015 Annual Energy Outlook​)

How It Affects You

Higher oil prices mean higher gas prices. In 2008, when oil prices spiked to $145 a barrel, gas prices rose to $4 a gallon. High gas prices drive up the cost of food, which is largely dependent on the cost of transportation.

However, new technologies are improving energy efficiency. Although gas will cost more, you'll need less of it. For more, see Tomorrow's Gas Prices Today. More

8
Housing Will Continue to Expand

Higher prices mean homebuilders are back in business. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

States have finally worked through the shadow inventory of homes headed for the foreclosure pipeline. The housing market recovered first in "non-judicial process" states. Many states have already recovered to their 2006 levels. In ten years, they all will.

The only hiccup to this rebound will be in 2017, as adjustable rate mortgages rise in cost. That depends on how fast the Fed raises the Fed funds rate. As mortgage rates rise, housing prices will drop to offset the higher cost to homebuyers. Hopefully, this will only be enough to prevent another asset bubble, but not enough to dry up demand. More

9
Health Care Costs Escalate as Trumpcare Replaces Obamacare

emergency room
Emergency room doctors become primary care physicians under Trumpcare. Photo: Getty Images

Trump has promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. Trumpcare keeps young adults on their parents' plans, and insures those with pre-existing conditions.

Trump's plan removes the mandate requiring everyone to buy insurance. It requires those with chronic conditions to go into high-risk pools, and pay more. It eliminates the ACA subsidies for middle-income families. It turns Medicaid subsidies into a fixed amount of block grants to the states. They might not use it to subsidize health care for low-income families.

How It Affects You

Health care will immediately become more expensive for those not on company insurance plans. 

Low-income families without insurance would return to using the hospital emergency room as their primary care physicians. That will make health care more expensive for everyone.

As health care costs rise, so will the costs of Medicare and Medicaid. That will limit how much can be spent on other government programs. It will also increase the debt. More