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Copper: Critical Today, Tomorrow, and Forever

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As we go about checking our phones for the latest updates, watching our favorite television shows, or even cooking our daily meals, we often don’t think about the uses of copper and other metals that fuel, power, and drive our modern lives.

From electrical appliances to jewelry, healthcare, and transport—we use copper everywhere–and its applications are only growing as the world moves towards sustainable technologies.

The Material for a Modern Economy

Today’s infographic comes to us from Trilogy Metals and shines a light on the varied uses of copper and the important role it plays in enabling a cleaner, greener future.

Uses of copper infographic

Trilogy Metals

Understanding the Role of Copper Today

Modern economies rely on infrastructure, transportation, healthcare, construction, and energy utilities. Copper is critical to each one of these industries—supporting economic growth, urbanization, higher living standards, and a sustainable future.

How does copper do all this?

The element has five key properties that make it an integral part of the modern economy:

  1. High conductivity
  2. Pressure resistance
  3. Corrosion resistance
  4. Antimicrobial properties
  5. Ductility

Let’s look at how these properties factor into major uses of the red metal today.

Copper Builds: Construction and Infrastructure

The construction and infrastructure industries use more than 40% of all copper produced. Copper’s properties make it the optimal choice for various construction activities:

  • Roofing: Copper’s wind resistance, aesthetic appeal, and sustainability make it a great roofing material.
  • Tubing: Residential heating and water systems use copper tubes for copper’s high thermal conductivity and antimicrobial properties.
  • Electric grids: The generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption of electricity all rely on copper wiring for its electrical conductivity and malleability.

In addition, copper lightning conductors are the longstanding protectors of buildings when lightning strikes—a further testament to its electrical properties.

Despite its widespread usage, copper remains highly affordable. Without copper, powering, wiring, and protecting our homes would prove costly and difficult.

Copper Moves: Transportation

From gas-powered cars and electrical vehicles (EVs) to trains and airplanes, copper is an essential part of our daily commute.

Here are some interesting uses of copper in transportation:

Means of TransportationWhere Copper is UsedCopper's Role
AirplanesWiring and equipment
  • A single Boeing 747-200 Jet contains 632,000 feet of copper wire.

  • Copper is used to make busbars and lock wires for aircraft.

  • Landing gear parts and bearings make use of copper alloys to withstand high pressures.
Electric Vehicles (EVs)Wiring, voltage transmission, and motors
  • Electric vehicles can contain up to 368 kilograms (813 lbs) of copper, depending on their size and type.

  • EVs rely on copper’s electrical conductivity in batteries, wiring systems, and charging stations.

  • High-speed trains use copper alloys to maintain electrical contact at high speeds.
Cars and other modesWiring, radiators, brake-tubing, and motors
  • The average luxury car contains 1.6 km (5,249 feet) of copper.

  • Using copper in motors increases efficiency, resulting in higher power generation and longer distances.

  • Brake-tubing systems utilize copper’s anti-corrosive and pressure-resistant properties.

  • Copper makes heat radiators smaller, lighter, and more affordable.

As the global population grows, more transportation services will be required—and copper will continue to play a crucial role.

Copper Cares: Healthcare and Hospitals

Did you know that copper can kill 99.9% of E.Coli within two hours of exposure?

This, alongside the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, makes copper’s antimicrobial properties and healthcare applications more important than ever.

Copper helps us lead healthier lives in many ways.

Where Copper is FoundCopper's Role
HospitalsCopper’s ability to kill bacteria improves the safety of high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs and bed handles.
Daily DietsCopper is vital to the normal development of the brain, and adults require 1-2mg of copper in their daily diets.

More than 500 antimicrobial copper alloys are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. With further research, copper could play an even bigger role in healthcare.

Copper Strengthens: Jewelry and Coinage

Copper’s durability and aesthetic appeal make it ideal for usage in jewelry and coinage, where it’s present in significant quantities.

For instance, 18K gold jewelry typically contains 75% gold, 15% silver, and 10% copper. Not only does copper strengthen gold and silver jewelry, but its alloys (brass and bronze) are also commonly used to make jewelry items that are affordable and appealing.

Furthermore, many of the coins we use are made from copper and its alloys. To be precise, two properties of copper are key to producing durable and safe coins:

  1. Corrosion Resistance: Copper-nickel alloy coins do not tarnish.
  2. Electrical Conductivity: Copper-nickel coins have specific electronic signatures that help prevent fraud in vending and coin-handling machines.

Copper Comforts: Homes and Households

The average single-family home contains around 200 kilograms (439 lbs) of copper.

Here’s how it breaks down, along with the amount of copper in general appliances:

Appliance/MaterialAmount of Copper Contained (kg)
Building Wire88.5
Plumbing tubes and fittings68.5
Air conditioners 23.5
Heat Pumps21.7
Built-in appliances and other hardware21.0
Dishwashers2.2
Refrigerators2.1

But that’s not all.

In addition to home appliances, copper also plays an important role in objects that we use on a daily basis. According to BBC, a typical iPhone contains 15 grams of copper on average—approximately 10% of the phone’s weight.

Copper is an integral part of the modern economy today. Its unique properties enable urbanization and economic development at low costs—and the story doesn’t end here.

Why Copper Tomorrow?

As the world transitions towards a cleaner energy mix, copper will be an essential material in empowering a more sustainable future.

Copper in Renewable Energy

According to McKinsey, a whopping 73% of global power generation will come from renewable energy sources by 2050—and copper has a significant role to play in this transition.

Solar and wind energy farms are heavily dependent on copper. Cabling and heat-exchange in solar and wind farms are the primary applications of copper in renewable energy generation.

For starters, wind farms can contain anywhere between 4 to 15 million pounds of copper. Moreover, solar photovoltaic farms require 9,000 pounds of copper per megawatt of energy. To put that into context, India’s solar power generation capacity is 31,696 megawatts—which alone would require about 322 million pounds of copper.

Copper in Electric Vehicles

As the standard benchmark for electrical conductivity, copper is indispensable for EVs. The growing EV market could bolster copper demand in the near future.

Copper is used in EV batteries, coils, wiring, and charging stations. As per current growth projections, by 2030, more than 250,000 tonnes of copper will be needed as part of the windings in electric traction motors in on-road EVs.

The transition to clean energy, coupled with urbanization and economic development, implies that copper is critical for the future.

However, copper’s importance to the future is a double-edged sword and raises concerns about the sustainability of its supply—will there be enough?

Copper Forever: Sustainable Material

From the 5.8 trillion pounds of known copper resources, only 12% have been mined throughout history—and thanks to copper’s recyclability, almost all of that is still in circulation.

Not only does recycled copper offer the same quality and benefits as newly mined copper, but it also saves a massive 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Additionally, copper recycling uses 80-90% less energy than mining, and a total of 8.5 million tonnes of the red metal are produced from recycled scrap each year.

Copper’s recyclability makes it reusable for years to come, complementing the path to sustainable development.

Copper: Critical Today, Tomorrow, and Forever

The exceptional properties of copper allow for widespread applications, which continue to grow as the world shifts towards clean energy.

And since we need copper for all aspects of life, its demand will always persist.

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Retirement Spending: How Much Do Americans Plan to Spend Annually?

Retirement expenses can vary significantly from person to person. In this graphic, we show the range of expected retirement spending.

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Retirement Spending

Americans’ Expected Annual Retirement Spending

Planning for retirement can be a daunting task. How much money will you need? What will your retirement spending look like?

It varies from person to person, based on factors like your health, outstanding expenses, and desired lifestyle. One helpful trick is to break it down into how much you estimate you’ll spend each year.

In this graphic from Personal Capital, we show the expected annual retirement spending of Americans. It’s the last in a three-part series that explores Americans’ spending and savings.

The Range of Retirement Spending

To determine how much people expect to spend, we used anonymized data from users of Personal Capital’s retirement planning tool. It’s worth noting that these users are proactive regarding financial planning. They also have a median net worth of $829,000 compared to the $122,000 median net worth of the U.S. population overall.

Here is the range of expected annual retirement spending.

Expected Annual Retirement SpendingPercent of People
$10K1.3%
$20K3.3%
$30K7.5%
$40K9.8%
$50K5.2%
$60K12.7%
$70K10.2%
$80K6.4%
$90K9.1%
$100K5.4%
$110K1.5%
$120K9.7%
$130K1.5%
$140K2.8%
$150K2.2%
$160K0.9%
$170K0.4%
$180K2.7%
$190K0.7%
$200K0.8%
$210K0.5%
$220K0.2%
$230K0.1%
$240K1.6%
$250K0.3%
$260K0.2%
$270K0.1%
$280K0.1%
$290K0.1%
$300K0.7%
Over $300K2.1%

Users are a mix of single individuals and people in a relationship. In all cases, expected retirement spending is what the household expects to spend annually.

The most commonly-cited expected spending amount is $60,000. Interestingly, this is roughly in line with what Americans spend annually on their credit cards. This suggests that people may be using their current bills to help gauge their future retirement spending.

Median spending, or the middle value when spending is ordered from lowest to highest, falls at $70,000. However, average spending is a fair amount higher at $100,000. This is because the average is calculated by adding up all the expected retirement spending amounts and dividing by the total number of users. Higher expected spending amounts, some in excess of $300,000 per year, skew the average calculation upwards.

Of course, given their higher net worth, it’s perhaps not surprising that many Personal Capital users expect to spend larger amounts in retirement. How does this compare to the general population? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans age 65 and older spend about $48,000 per year on average.

Chances of Retirement Success

Once you’ve determined how much you’ll spend in retirement, your next step may be to wonder if your savings are on track. Based on an assessment of Personal Capital retirement planner users, here is the breakdown of people’s chance of success.

Retirement Spending Chance of Success

The good news: more than half of people have an 80% or better chance of meeting their retirement spending goals. This means they have sufficient financial assets and are contributing enough, regularly enough, to meet their expected spending amount. The not so good news: one in five people has a less than 50% chance of meeting their goals.

This problem is even more troublesome in the overall U.S. population. Only 50% of people have a retirement account, and the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates half of today’s workers are unprepared for retirement.

Setting Your Own Retirement Spending Goals

While seeing the goals of others is a starting point, your annual retirement spending will be very specific to you. Not sure where to start?

Financial planners typically recommend that you should plan on needing 70-80% of your pre-retirement income in retirement. This is because people generally no longer have certain expenses, such as commuting or childcare costs, when they retire. However, keep in mind your expenses could be higher if you still have a mortgage, encounter unforeseen medical expenses, or want to splurge on things like travel when you retire.

It requires some upfront planning, but being realistic about your retirement spending can give you confidence in your financial future.

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Navigating Market Volatility: Why ETFs Are Critical Tools

Historically, the trading volume of ETFs has spiked during market volatility. We explore why ETFs are preferred by institutional investors.

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ETFs During Market Volatility

Download the ETF Snapshot for free.

Why ETFs Are Critical Tools During Market Volatility

Investors experienced record-breaking volatility in 2020. During COVID-19 market turbulence, the CBOE Volatility index surpassed the previous peak seen in 2008.

In this infographic from iShares, we explore how ETFs rose in popularity during this time—and the characteristics that make them particularly useful during market volatility. It’s the first in a five-part series covering key insights from the ETF Snapshot, a comprehensive report on how institutional investors manage volatility.

The Methodology

To assess how institutional investors navigated this volatility, Institutional Investor published a report in 2021 based on a survey of 766 decision makers. Respondents were from various types of organizations, firm sizes, and regions.

For instance, here is how responses broke down by location:

  • 21% Asia Pacific
  • 36% North America
  • 29% Europe, Middle East and Africa
  • 14% Latin America

Here’s what the survey found.

Rebalancing During Market Volatility

In total, 90% of institutional investors said they rebalanced their portfolios between the first and third quarter of 2020. How did they do it?

Among all financial tools, ETFs were the most popular vehicle for rebalancing. For instance, ETFs were used by 70% of investors globally, compared to the 51% who used mutual funds or derivatives.

The popularity of ETFs was evident in market activity. From January to March 2020, ETFs as a proportion of total equity trading volume increased.

 January 2020February 2020March 2020
VIX142058
ETF trading volume$95B$136B$240B
ETF as % of equity volume26%27%36%

Based on an average of daily values. Reflects all listed U.S. ETFs across all asset classes.

This trend is true historically as well, as ETF trading volume has typically spiked during periods of volatility.

Want more institutional insights into ETFs?

Global Forecast 2022

Download The ETF Snapshot for free.

The Attributes Driving ETF Usage

Why are ETFs preferred by institutional investors? They offer three key characteristics:

  1. Liquidity: ETFs make it much simpler to buy and sell large portfolios instantly, instead of trading individual securities.
  2. Transparency: Among multi-asset managers, transparency of holdings is the top reason for using ETFs. A clear holdings breakdown helps these managers achieve exposures to particular asset classes, sectors, and styles.
  3. Efficiency: ETFs can be traded quickly. They typically also have lower transaction costs relative to the underlying basket of securities.

Based on these key benefits, ETFs were an invaluable tool during extreme market volatility.

Growing Momentum

ETFs are also poised to help institutional investors navigate the market going forward. Globally, 65% of institutional investors plan to increase their use of ETFs in the future.

In fact, this is already coming to fruition. As of September 2021, the average daily trading volume of ETFs was up more than 5% compared to 2020.

Evidently, ETFs play a critical part in helping institutional investors achieve their goals.

Download the ETF snapshot for free.

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