3 High-Income Skills You Should Know About In 2024

Nearly one-quarter of all US office space will be vacant by 2026 as working from home persists, slicing commercial property values by as much as $250 billion, according to a report from Moody’s.

Office-vacancy rates are expected to rise to 24% from 19.8% in the first quarter of this year in the US, reducing revenue for office landlords by between $8 billion and $10 billion when combined with the impact of lower rents and lease turnovers, the authors of the report said. That, in turn, could translate into “property value destruction” in the range of a quarter-trillion dollars, Todd Metcalfe, Moody’s associate director of commercial real estate (CRE) forecasting, and Tom LaSalvia, Moody’s head of CRE economics, said in a separate analysis that’s not contained in the report.

The figures illustrate the gloomy prospects faced by property owners and lenders as employers continue to jettison square footage or shift from multi-year leases to shorter-term and more flexible co-working arrangements. A full 85% of North American organizations polled by brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. have implemented hybrid work, and occupancy across offices in major US cities is stuck at about 50% of pre-pandemic levels. Wavering demand and increased borrowing costs have slammed office valuations, especially among older buildings.

“The argument for maintaining or even increasing remote work practices remains compelling for many businesses,” Moody’s authors said. “If productivity remains stable and costs can be reduced by forgoing physical office spaces, the rationale for mandating in-office attendance diminishes.”

Moody’s analysis focused on white-collar sectors that have the highest work-from-home rates and also account for the lion’s share of office property in the US, such as the finance, information, real estate, and administrative sectors. It controlled for those who worked from home before the pandemic and accounted for the ongoing decline in office space allotted per worker, which began after the 2008 financial crisis and has accelerated since then.

Using multiple sets of government and academic data including the Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes, Moody’s determined that office workers today need about 14% less office space than they did before the pandemic. The figure corresponds to research from the McKinsey Global Institute, which concluded that there will be 13% less demand for office space in a typical city globally by 2030. McKinsey also found that office-property values will decline by anywhere between $800 billion and $1.3 trillion over that period.

Eventually, Moody’s authors said, vacancy rates will plateau as enough offices are torn down or converted to other uses like warehouses or residential property.

“Right-sizing will continue over the next decade as the market shakes out less efficient space for flexible floorplans that support our relatively new working habits,” the report said.

When we think of "high-income skills," we often associate them with technical, complex abilities like data analytics, software development, project management, and artificial intelligence. These highly specialized competencies are in high demand and can lead to lucrative careers, whether as a freelancer or full-time employee. This is evident in the over 2 million professionals who have enrolled in Coursera's popular Google Career Certificate in data analytics since its launch in 2021.

However, there are other skills that, while perhaps not as glamorous as AI or data science, can also produce rewarding careers if developed and marketed effectively. These include:

1. Writing Skills: Writing is a fundamental human skill, but it is also a high-income skill with vast potential. With strong writing abilities, you could pursue careers as an email copywriter, e-book author, SEO content creator, presentation writer, social media marketer, blogger, or freelance journalist. Technical writers who can clearly explain complex information are also highly valued, earning average salaries of over $100,000.

2. Public Speaking and Communication Skills: Confident public speakers and effective communicators can find numerous money-making opportunities, such as becoming a professor, corporate trainer, workshop facilitator, coach, or online course creator.

3. Organizational Skills: Organizational skills are in high demand, particularly in the event planning industry, which was worth $890 billion globally in 2020 and is projected to grow to over $2 trillion by 2028. Event planners are needed to coordinate corporate functions, training, weddings, concerts, and more, even in the era of hybrid and remote events. Organizational skills can also be applied to careers in project management, supply chain management, property management, and program management.

While technical skills like data analytics and AI may be the most commonly associated with high-income potential, developing and marketing skills like writing, public speaking, and organization can also lead to lucrative and rewarding career paths. 

Ultimately, to get started in transforming your skills into high-income skills, write down each skill that you have, which you initially wouldn't imagine could have high-earning potential, and brainstorm all the ways you can monetize it, using idea generation tools and techniques such as mind-mapping, or even using generative AI to help you draft your list of ideas. Look out for significant demand, and then work to polish that skill. The key is to think strategically so that you can transform these lesser-known, unexpected skills, into high-income careers.

Americans earning comfortably into the six-figure salary range are increasingly worried about how they’ll make ends meet this year—to the point where they’re panicking about it more than employees earning between $40,000 and $99,999.

That’s according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia which interviewed around 5,000 people for its Labor, Income, Finances, and Expectations (LIFE) Survey released this month.

The survey found that 32.5% of people earning $150,000 or more are worried about paying their bills in the six months following their responses, with 30.8% of people earning between $100,000 and $149,999 saying the same.

However, those bringing in between $40,000 and $99,999 were far less concerned, with an average of 26.4% saying they were concerned about their finances in the immediate future.

Those on the lowest end of the income ladder—earning less than $40,000—were the most concerned about how they would fare financially in the next half a year. Four in 10 people said making ends meet in the next six months was a concern, though this figure has decreased from the previous iterations of the survey: in January approximately 43% raised concerns, and in October 2023 the figure stood at 43.2%.

The opposite is true of the wealthier end of the spectrum, who are only getting more concerned as time goes on. Take the $150,000-plus bracket for example, only 20.4% of them said in July last year they were worried about their immediate money situation.

That has increased every LIFE survey since: 24.3% in October 2023 and 29.6% in January 2024.

Responses across the spectrum give insight into how different demographics are responding to a slew of economic data. On the one hand, inflation is falling, down from 9.1% to 3.3% since its peak in June 2022. That being said, prices are still going up but simply at a slower pace with new factors now also influencing the market.

This ranges from increasing global geopolitical tensions through to a looming presidential election, and an ever-increasing national debt bill.

Cutting spending

Those earning $150,000+ have also acted on their fears. The Fed’s data showed approximately 17% of those in the top bracket had cut back on essential spending while 37.1% added they had cut back on discretionary spending in the past 12 months.

This was by far the wealthy’s preferred method of scaling back their spending, as a lower 15% said they’d taken an extra job and 10% said they’d borrowed from more formal sources.

Indeed cutting discretionary spending was—perhaps unsurprisingly—the favored method across all income groups, though those with less discretionary income were more likely to do so (for example, 46.6% of those earning $40,000 or less were using this coping strategy). 

What’s got the wealthy so worried?

As the saying goes: “mo’ money, mo’ problems.” When presented with seven points of concern by the Philly Fed, those earning $150,000 or more were more worried than anyone else on the earnings spectrum, bar one point: transportation.

However around four in 10 people earning more than $150,000 said they were worried about finding and keeping childcare, finding and keeping elder or senior care, getting laid off or their employer going bust.

Likewise, approximately 37% said they were worried about another shutdown knocking their employer, and 35% were worried about being exposed to an illness at work.

In each of these scenarios, the fear factor largely went down the lower down the income ladder the respondent was—bar an uptick at the end of the scale in the less than $40,000 category.

Those on the lower end of the income spectrum have also been more consistent in their concerns about the economy. When comparing Outlook now compared to the same question a year prior, 30.5% of respondents said they felt more positive while 34.6% said they felt more negative.

The outlook is only marginally better the next rung up, with those in the $40,000 to $69,000 bracket netting a more optimistic outlook of just 4% when compared to a year ago.

At the wealthier end of the scale, there is a more dramatic turnaround, with 55% of high-earners feeling more positive than a year ago versus 18% who feel more negatively—netting an overall outlook uptick of 37%.

That being said, consumer sentiment particularly relating to higher prices has stayed fairly consistent over the past year. The University of Michigan’s latest consumer sentiment index hit 65.6 in June.

Joanne Hsu, surveys of consumers director, added: “Consumer sentiment was little changed in June; this month’s reading was a statistically insignificant 3.5 index points below May and within the margin of error.

“Sentiment is currently about 31% above the trough seen in June 2022 amid the escalation in inflation. Assessments of personal finances dipped, due to modestly rising concerns over high prices as well as weakening incomes. Overall, consumers perceive few changes in the economy from May.”

America's schools, businesses, and cities are failing to help younger workers and underrepresented communities prepare for and land well-paid jobs, according to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon in an exclusive interview with Axios.

The issue is significant because job hunting has become extremely challenging for many workers entering the labor force for the first time. Dimon has criticized colleges for not focusing enough on helping their graduates secure good jobs.

"Businesses have to hire a lot of people and they have to train them, so when the school system doesn't do it, it makes this harder for companies," Dimon told Axios. "What you need in a lot of these things is, certificates and training that get them the good job."

Dimon is speaking out as the New York Jobs CEO Council, a nonprofit he started in 2020, released its annual report. The coalition works with schools, colleges, and companies to create curriculum and training programs to place workers, especially from low-income communities and the City University of New York (CUNY), into high-paying jobs through apprenticeships and other earn-and-learn programs.

Dimon said the council's efforts have "nothing to do with DEI" and that he's "not interested in labels." He emphasized that the goal is to fix a system that is failing to support whole segments of society. "If we leave behind whole parts of society, we're making a huge mistake for our country," he said.

In 2023, the council's member companies hired 10,388 low-income New Yorkers into jobs paying more than $69,000, with 41% of the hires not having a four-year degree. The nonprofit aims to hire 100,000 New Yorkers by the end of the decade.

The council's executive director, Kiersten Barnet, said entry-level jobs over $69,000 include "desirable campus recruiting roles" like data analysts, software engineers, and financial analysts. "When you think about what you need to do a job, it is skills. It's not a degree," Barnet said, noting that there are ways to make the process easier even in regulated industries like healthcare.

The Business Roundtable, a group of more than 200 top CEOs that includes Dimon, has also focused on skills-based hiring as a way to address the challenges faced by younger workers and underrepresented communities. 

If you haven’t heard, having children is expensive. As well as the eye-watering price of equipment for your new bundle of joy (strollers alone can cost around $1,000), you have to factor in the time off work to have the baby—and then, women also need to consider the $17,000 they will miss out on annually after becoming a mother.

That’s at least according to a new Bankrate analysis of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS).

The data reveals that in 2023, full-time working mothers with children under 18 earned $55,276 annually, while fathers earned $72,280—essentially 31% less than their male counterparts.

This discrepancy translates to $1,400 less in mothers’ pockets each month, $17,000 less a year and around a $500,000 loss over the course of a 30-year career. 

But of course, the average age of a first time mother is just a little older than 27 in the U.S. and nearly 31 years old in the U.K.—meaning that with the current average retirement age of 62 and 65 respectively, most working moms will be working for at least five more years than the study suggests and accruing an even bigger loss.

Meanwhile, fathers see their salaries increase

Separate research highlights that the “motherhood penalty” trap is virtually unavoidable. 

Douglas Almond, Yi Cheng, and Cecilia Machado examined more than 800,000 earnings reports and found that women experience a 51% dock in pay after giving birth. 

It didn’t matter if the mother worked for a woman or at a mostly woman-dominant firm. It also didn’t matter the size of the company the mother worked for. Or if she went to college. And it didn’t matter if the mother also happened to be the breadwinner in the family.

“What’s striking about the U.S. motherhood penalty is how universal it seems,” Almond told Fortune. “Even when the female partner outearns her male partner and we might expect the lower-paid dad to ‘step up’ at home, we find a still larger motherhood penalty: around 60% of earnings.”

Not only are high-earning mothers still penalized more than lower-earning fathers, but as Bankrate’s analysis highlights, men don’t experience a “fatherhood penalty” at all. 

Instead, after having children, men experience a significant boost in their salary.

In fact, full-time working fathers with children under 18 earned about 23% more than full-time working men without children, with median wages of $72,280 compared to $58,864, respectively.

Assuming earnings stay the same, fathers can expect to earn $400,000 more than childless men throughout a 30-year career. 

The ‘mommy track’

The research highlights that it’s when a woman marries that cracks really begin to appear in her earning potential.

Full-time working single women with no children under 18 earn 93 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts—the smallest pay gap among the groups analyzed. However, after marriage women without children earn 79 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned in 2023.

Of course, not all women who marry have kids: Some are increasingly happy with a DINK (double income, no kids) lifestyle or are childless not by choice. But, as Fortune found, just taking your spouse’s surname is enough to signal to your boss that you may want to start a family.

Despite working mothers being more visible than ever before, “outdated and toxic attitudes” around motherhood are still very much alive among managers.

Just insinuating you may one day have children is enough to be consigned to the “mommy track”.

Lauren Tetenbaum, a lawyer-turned-social worker, told Fortune that women are “afraid” to even inquire about a company’s parental leave policy: “It’s this unspoken secret that if they ask about it, even if they’re seeking information, they’ll be discriminated against.”

Unfortunately, this only gets worse when women do become pregnant; An ex-Peloton director told Fortune that disclosing her pregnancy killed her job prospects and a marketer echoed that she was compared to a broken race car as her pregnancy progressed.  

Plus, even when the baby bump disappears, research shows that outdated stereotypes continue to follow women well into motherhood and have a tangible impact on their long-term trajectory at work.

Douglas Almond, Yi Cheng, and Cecilia Machado found that six years after the first child’s birth, the pay gap between father and mother had actually increased. Meanwhile, Princeton University and the London School of Economics collected data from 134 countries and concluded that the Motherhood Penalty can still impact women’s careers 10 years after giving birth.

Tractors plow the farm fields without drivers, guided by satellites and iPhones. Solar-powered robots tend to plant on the ground like giant outdoor Roombas, while drones fly overhead spraying the crops.

It may sound like science fiction — perhaps Uncle Owen’s moisture farm in Star Wars — but it’s actually the future of agriculture in America, and it’s already being deployed in California vineyards and corn fields in Illinois. Automation and artificial intelligence promise to usher in a revolutionary shift for an industry long averse to change.

“We’ve really had relatively little innovation in tractors since we switched from metal wheels to rubber wheels about 100 years ago,” said Rob Myers, director of the center for regenerative agriculture at the University of Missouri. He adds that the transformation “won’t happen overnight,” as it will take time before autonomous features see wide use.

The new machinery is arriving at a time when growers are in desperate need of making farms more efficient and sustainable with fewer human operators. The American farmer is aging and the number of farms is dwindling, while the industry has been under pressure from sliding prices for key crops including corn and soybeans.

Here’s a closer look at how technology is reshaping agriculture.

Driverless Tractors

Elon Musk has a vision of US highways filled with driverless cars, yet autonomous vehicles may be easier to adapt to America’s farmlands.

Deere & Co., which has used automatic steering on its tractors since the 1990s, has started selling machines that can plow fields with farmers controlling them remotely using a smartphone. The world’s top farm machinery seller announced plans this spring to make its 2025-model 8 and 9 tractors autonomy-ready.

Driverless is the next step in so-called precision agriculture — the movement to help farmers be more exacting and eliminate human error. Deere’s new machines will hoe a straighter row without a farmer in the seat. To help get there, the company partnered with Musk’s SpaceX to equip the iconic green and yellow tractors with Starlink satellite connections providing ubiquitous connections to the internet.

In the 1990s, “when GPS started to become publicly available, we were within a foot or so,” said Than Hartsock, Deere’s vice president of precision upgrades. “Now we’re within a couple of centimeters.”

A CNH automated grain cart drives alongside a combine harvester.Source: Raven Cart

Deere’s rivals AGCO Corp. and CNH Industrial NV also are moving into autonomy, with each offering grain carts that can be partly automated. Typically, a grain cart driver has to follow the crop-cutting combine to collect harvested grain. Automating that process will eventually free up a driver to instead haul crops out of the field to a grain elevator.

“You want to be able to take the operator out, but then the machine has to know how to automate all the things that the operator used to do,” said AGCO Chief Executive Officer Eric Hansotia.

Robots and Drones

Robots are becoming more visible on the farm, taking over some of the drudge work from growers.

As Solinftec’s Solix Sprayer makes its way through the crops, multiple nozzles apply chemicals. The robots are designed to always stay in the fields, tending to them even when growers are far away, by recharging their batteries with built-in solar panels and a nearby docking station.

“The robots go to the corner, refuel themselves, and then go back to work,” said Guilherme Guine, Solinftec’s chief sustainability officer. “You’ll have full-season-long autonomy.”

Solinftec’s Solix SprayerSource: Solinftec

About 50 of the units, which are produced at a factory in Indiana, will be operating this season for a cost of about $50,000 each.

Read More: Robots and Specialized Software Help Develop New Solar Farms

Drones are also catching on. Swarms of them can spray crops with less disruption than ground-based sprayers and — unlike traditional crop-dusting planes — don’t need a pilot in the air.

Guardian Agriculture recently started full-scale production at its Boston factory, making drones for the likes of agribusiness Wilbur-Ellis Co. Sales orders are so strong that “if you have thumbs, you’re down on the factory floor putting robots together,” said Adam Bercu, Guardian’s chief executive officer and a one-time Battlebots competitor.

Battery Power

Cars, trucks and trains have gone electric, so why not tractors?

California winery owner Ryan Carr previously used a diesel tractor to haul fruit while a generator chugged along to light up the vineyards at night, when cooler temperatures make fieldwork more comfortable. Now he can go off the grid with a Monarch Tractor electric machine powered by solar panels. Going electric, there’s little noise, emissions, or fuel bill.

“The coolest part about it is not having to breathe those diesel fumes all night long,” Carr said. And without the noise, he has been able to play music — Mexican polka and 1970s disco — for the workers.

Monarch’s electric tractor is the first machine produced at iPhone maker Foxconn’s plant in Ohio, and the startup’s technology is also in tractors made by other companies, including CNH.

Monarch’s MK-V fully electric, driver-optional, smart tractorSource: Business Wire

The drawback is that the $90,000 vehicle tops out at about 70 horsepower, far below the massive 400-horsepower tractors that generate the most profits in the market. Still, these smaller machines may eventually play a bigger role, supplanting the larger machines that can cost more than $1 million.

Perhaps within the next decade, “what we’re going to start to see happening is where one person is sitting in their pickup truck or on the edge of the field, running six or eight machines across the field simultaneously,” said Myers, who has spent hundreds of hours riding tractors while growing up on a farm.

Hi-Tech Gadgets

Certainly, much of the new machinery can be costly for cash-strapped farmers, especially as falling crop prices make it more difficult for many growers to splurge on new tractors. The equipment makers are trying to accommodate farmers by offering other high-tech solutions to upgrade their existing equipment.

A tractor that was retrofitted with AGCO’s Precision Planting attachmentSource: AGCO Corp.

AGCO offers a tractor attachment that inserts seeds into the ground, 24 rows at a time. Deere continues to roll out its See & Spray technology, which uses AI to power ground rigs that scan crops to detect the difference between a plant and a weed, and then deliver the necessary treatment or herbicide.

In addition to retrofitting old machinery, companies are also focusing on keeping farmers connected to their high-tech equipment. Similar to Deere’s partnership with SpaceX, CNH is collaborating with Intelsat to equip tractors with satellite connections in Brazil, where large swaths of the Mato Grosso farm belt lack internet coverage.

Many believe these technological changes in agriculture are long overdue, considering the transformations that have already taken place with AI and automation in other businesses. Advancement has been slow not solely due to reluctant farmers, but also because only a small portion of US farms have high-quality internet, and electricity supply isn’t always reliable.

“Farms don’t tend to have a great grid,” said Tom McCalmont, CEO of Paired Power, whose charging system powers the Monarch tractor in Carr’s vineyard. “They often tend to be at the end of the distribution line.”

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post