Can your family benefit from California’s unfortunate combination of poverty and aging demographics?

Recent talk at the California Economic Summit was of “two Californias”. Specifically, the more affluent coastal areas form the more economically viable “California”, while the financially struggling Inland Empire that includes cities like San Bernardino, Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley makes up a separate “California” with very different economic prospects.

But how can you benefit from California’s high poverty rate and changing demographics? Is there a lesson or an opportunity? Or both?

First, the state is aging. There are not too many better climates in the USA to woo retiring Californians to move elsewhere, so the graying of the state will continue. What’s more, the state is still a retirement destination for some out-of-state residents, which further skews the state’s age older.

An aging population might present some business opportunities. It will generate some reasonably well paid employment and business opportunities in communities with people who can afford to pay for services for the aging. Employment in caregiving, home maintenance, medical, and personal care could improve. For those willing to start a business offering personal services to the elderly, California could offer a bright financial future.

Second, Spanish is clearly the alternative language spoken in California. However, fluency in both English and Spanish is uncommon. Many bilinguals speak “Espanol casera” or “house Spanish” as opposed to a correctly spoken and vocabulary enriched version of Spanish like one would find at a University or at the professional level in a Spanish-speaking country. Teaching English as a second language to help “clean up” the English of those who need to speak and write English, but do so poorly, could be in demand. So if you are a foreign language enthusiast (like me!) you might find yourself teaching a Hispanic person how to communicate in Spanish correctly.

This opportunity is not limited to speaking and writing Spanish. Many opportunities are open for those who can speak and write clearly and correctly, regardless of language. English is a difficult language to learn for immigrants generally, and if you have the skills and the patience to become a tutor, you may find a lucrative career teaching professional communication skills in English for both native English speakers as well as those with a rudimentary command of the language.

Third, California’s population is exploding as some immigrant groups who populate much of California sometimes tend to have large families, even though new foreign immigration to the state has slowed. If you have an interest in pediatrics, education, social services or childcare, California may have a future job for you as the number of sons/daughters and grandchildren of immigrants multiply.

Fourth, if you have any experience in skills related to or supporting the petroleum industry, sunny California could be your next stop. Governor Jerry Brown has cautiously moved towards reducing restrictions against petroleum hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the vast Monterey shale oil bed. There could be a new energy boom centered on portions of California.

Despite these opportunities, poverty remains widespread in California, even in the more affluent coastal areas. The high cost of living skews poverty statistics downwards. The US Census Bureau’s traditional measure, which pegs the poverty line at $23,492 for a family of four, ignores geographical variations in the cost of living, as well as non-cash benefits such as tax credits. Include these variations, and the poverty rate of Los Angeles County, America’s largest county by population, climbs from 18% to 27%, according to a recent report from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality and the Public Policy Institute of California. Overall, accounting for geographical and non-cash factors, California’s poverty level rises to 22%. The US Census Bureau’s “supplemental poverty measure” has California’s poverty rate at 23.8%, which is the highest in the nation. In America’s largest state, 8 million people struggle every day to meet basic needs.

Over one-quarter of California’s children live in poverty. Almost one-third of California’s Latinos live in poverty. Two-thirds of California’s Latinos have not progressed past a high school diploma.

California’s unemployment rate is 8.7%, fifth worst in the US. If one adds in those not seeking work because they are discouraged, and includes those who are underemployed, then California’s unemployment rate rises further to the second worst in the country, surpassed only by Nevada. One-third of all US welfare recipients live in California. The state income dispersion is “hollowing out” in that between 2007-09 and 2010-12, the number of people earning between $75,000 and $100,000 fell by almost 75,000, while the populations in every other income bracket grew.

Many in power are criticized for not taking the California poverty issue seriously. California Governor Jerry Brown dismissed poverty rate concerns as “the flip side of California’s incredible attractiveness.”

I suppose I could have a pretty active practice in bankruptcy law if I moved to California. I am pleased with the bankruptcy, divorce, and estate planning practice that I have developed here in Washington State. So, no, I will not be hauling my family off to California any time soon.

If you are looking to get a fresh start and a clean slate that might make it possible for you to change your circumstances, perhaps bankruptcy can help. Please contact my office today for a free, no obligation consultation.