Anyone for a cruise?
My wife and I enjoyed Sunday lunch with a couple we’ve known for years recently. They’re great fun. He runs a small building firm; she describes herself as a “home-keeper who specialises in spending the money my husband makes.”
That’s a tad unfair because it’s not always been the case. She has raised four children, the youngest of whom is 22 and, as my mate reminds me, the progress made by his business has, like 99% of private enterprises, not followed “a constant, upward-only trajectory towards unprecedented success.” Times, in other words, have occasionally been tough.
Lunch was an opportunity for this engaging pair of empty nesters to tell us of several momentous decisions they’ve taken lately. Downsizing was the one they’ve flagged for ages, their plans to sell the business less obvious, while the decision to spend a fair chunk of the kids’ inheritance was justified by what appears to be a recently-acquired aversion to simple maths. Splitting things four ways “would only get messy”, so they’ve opted to spend most of their money themselves.
“We’re going to New York in June. Why don’t you both come?” my pal asked as we tackled perfectly-cooked roast potatoes.
“When?” I replied.
“For how long?”
“Three weeks? In New York?”
It transpires that they’re staying in the city for just five days, ostensibly to celebrate Independence Day on 4th July. So what’s this three weeks?
That’s right: they’re embarking on a cruise from Southampton on the Queen Mary II to see the Big Apple, spending almost a week each way crossing the Atlantic.
There are millions of baby boomers who daily take similar decisions to our friends. Not everyone goes off on a cruise, but an increasingly large proportion of grey-haired folks are content with a hassle-free life aboard a cruise ship as it transports them across the oceans.
Nor are they populated exclusively with Europeans and north Americans. Asian markets too have enormous potential, so it comes as no surprise to learn that cruising is, by some distance, the fastest-growing element of the travel sector. Younger investors not yet ready for leisurely strolls around the deck should take note, for those folks who enjoy nothing better than a fortnight or longer swanning around the Mediterranean or the Caribbean present them with a series of steady, longer-term investment opportunities.
The baby boomer demographic, or ‘senior’ if you’re in the US, owns an estimated three quarters of the world’s net financial wealth. It follows that companies capable of marketing products and services to them efficiently and profitably have an opportunity to grow at a faster rate and for longer than others.
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In addition to mulling over investments in the cruise industry, therefore, where shares in the sector’s biggest player, the Carnival Corporation, listed on the London and New York stock exchanges, recently enjoyed a timely boost, investment in areas such as healthcare and companies likely to profit from discretionary consumer expenditure, could pay handsome dividends.
Fortunately, a number of fund managers have capitalised on this longer-term trend and started the ball rolling by invested in companies such as Allergan, manufacturer of Botox, as well as in listed pharmaceutical outfits specialising in eye care diseases, other ailments related to ageing, diabetes or cancer treatment. One fund manager explained the popularity of healthcare, noting that the sector comprised a number of companies “whose future profit growth [appears] economically resilient and sustainable, primarily due to our ageing population.”
Elsewhere, managers of the Odier Golden Age fund invest in organisations set to benefit from boomers’ discretionary spending on items including cruises, or buying a golf resort membership, as well as in companies offering pension management, life insurance and wealth management to a burgeoning cohort of grey-haired types. The Golden Age fund also has around 45% of its clients’ cash invested in healthcare.
Like our friends, thousands of people will embark on a cruise for the first time next year, most of whom will probably love it and want to book another as soon as they can. Accordingly, with the rump of baby boomers now in their mid-50s, the cruise industry can look forward to several more decades when demand for its product exceeds supply.
However, it is possible to profit over the long term from the various other trends influencing boomers’ behaviour and spending. Investors who recognise this may first want to discuss a variety of investment fund options with an experienced financial adviser.
THE WEEK IN NUMBERS
Latest price of a barrel of Brent crude oil, the first time the cost has reached such heights since July 2015. Petrol is expected to rise by 3p a litre by Christmas as a result of oil’s soaring price.
Reduction in the number of high street bookshops between 2005-16. However, the Booksellers Association has announced that the numbers have increased this year from 2016’s low of 867.
Research conducted by University College London’s Institute for Education has found that girls believe they have a 71% chance of going to university, with 14% convinced they will go. The average expectation for boys is 63%, with less than 10% convinced they’ll get a place.
Only five (or less than half) of the UK’s 11 high-profile train companies are offering a full range of cheaper ‘advance purchase’ rail fares in the period before Christmas. The other six are being investigated by the Transport Secretary.
Number of homeless people who’ll be served Christmas dinner at Euston Station on Christmas Day thanks to an initiative thought up by Network Rail staff, around 30 of whom will attend as volunteers. There are no trains that day.
An anonymous millionaire is holding a competition to give away his £2.3 million mansion, set in 10 acres of garden (with gym, leisure complex, pool, natch), plus his Rolls Royce and £50,000 in cash. The competition closes next November. Tickets to win this gargantuan prize cost just £10.50.
Peter Sharkey read economics at the University of Bristol. He worked as an accountant on three continents and has been a company director and investor for more than 30 years, building and selling three different companies.