Monday, July 21, 2014

Socialism a Humorous Explanition

Below is a web link if it doesn't show up right.
Web link

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The New Housing Bubble in California

Housing prices in San Marcos are about back to pre-bubble prices. A house like we rent for $1750 a month is now going for 560K. That would be about $3,000 a month to own it plus another $5,600 in property taxes. So renting costs us about $21,000 a year while owning would cost us about $41,600 a year. Notice the cost difference. If you wanted to turn the property into a rental, it wouldn’t be worth the effort at these prices.

In the past, many people said, that paying rent was just throwing your money away. Owners rationalize when the home is paid off, "they get to live in it rent free." Actually, they forgo the interest of the dollar value of the home. A paid off 560K home would generate 17K at 3% interest. So if you take the 17K and add the property taxes, of $5,600, you get $20,500. Divide that by 12 and they are still paying $1700 rent a month. We are not even talking repairs here, I've got a $7,000 repair bill to rebuild one bathroom on my rental.

The real reason for home ownership in the past; it was cheaper to own than to rent. The renter paid extra for the freedom to pick up and move when they felt like it. With housing prices up 160K in two years, that thinking has changed a bit. The funny thing for this area is that the people that bought at the height of the last bubble are still underwater after 8 years. They need 34K in equity just to pay the realtors fees if they were to sell without a loss.

In a roundabout way, the Federal Reserve and your retirement funds are what keep the real estate prices artificially high. Beginning in October, the Feds will no longer be buying the real estate paper. The estimates of the dollar value of the paper owned by them is around 2.3 trillion dollars. No big deal on this, the home loans will be paid off over thirty years and the 2.3 trillion will go to zero ---if the real estate doesn’t go back into foreclosure.

The trouble begins in October. Here is a simplification of how the present banking system handles real estate. The bank loans a home buyer 500K for a home loan. The bank then sells the loan to whomever, in this case the Federal Reserve and keeps a half percent of the loan for management fees. The bank then loans the money out again and does the same thing and gets another management fee. If the bank does this 10 times, it is getting 5% in management fees on their depositor’s 500k with little or no risk. Before the Federal Reserve and the Fannie and Freddie bail out, the loans were sold to private parties. So now, it looks as if interest rates will have to rise up about 300 basis points to create interested third parties willing to invest in the real estate note market. You ask why?--- the banks don't want to hold on to 30 year 5% paper. Will rates rise, or will the Fed throw in the towel and start buying more paper?

I think all of us can agree that the stock market has reached new highs for no good reason. A lot of hard working people have retired because they can’t find a job. Many college grads are finding out that their degree isn’t worth the money they borrowed to get it.

Our government has enabled every dreamer the right to become a failure. Buy a home, get a college education and become a part of the American dream. Buy a Lotto ticket and win. And if you can't speak Spanish, you'd better learn.

So we have a housing bubble in San Marcos, I wonder how it will end? If the government rewards failure, I guess we will get more of it; it’s tragic to think that we earned it by hard work rather than ineptness.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Invisible Derivative's Market Reprinted

This is a reprint from June 25, 2006, and later Aug 5, 2008 that may be of interest to some of you.

Call it gamblers insurance. The most common derivatives are Puts and Calls. If you think that Google is going to go down and you want to still hold it because of its upside potential you would buy a Put at say $375. So if Google was to drop to $200, you could "put it" to the option seller at $375. The cost of this insurance option varies, depending on the volatility of the stock. Now, if you thought Google was going to go to $1,000 you could purchase a Call at $400 strike price. If the stock rose to $600 you could exercise the Call and get the stock at the $400 dollar price or the difference between the Call price and the current value.

The figures vary somewhat, but about 90% of all options expire worthless in the U.S. Stock Market.

Enter the Gunslinger (slang term for wet behind the ears Mutual Fund trader) (never seen a real bear market in his life---there hasn't been one). This guy gets the bright idea to sell both Puts and Calls. As long as the market lumbers along the guy is raking in the coin.

Say the Dow has a bad day and drops 300 points. It seems like a big move, but since it is a measure of 30 stocks bought way back in 1910, multiply the 300 point drop in value by the Dow divisor (0.123) and you get a real dollar loss of $36.90 on the Dow. Divide that by the 30 Dow stocks and you get $1.23 per stock. If that were to happen, no big deal pay out to the Puts exercised. Notice, you only get burned on the Puts OR the Calls NOT BOTH in any one point in time. I stress the words "Point In Time."

The Derivatives Market is bigger than our stock market. One analogy used the comparison of an elephant to a mouse; here is a graph from one source that puts it at 35 trillion dollars.

Graph courtesy [postnote:The graph is somewhat dated, present figures suggest around 55 trillion.]

Now suppose the Dow Jones drops 1000 points. Then by some miracle the market comes back to even at lunch time. Then, it soars up 1,000 points by the close. The gunslinger gets hit going down and nailed again when it goes up (the double whammy). He would be selling Calls like crazy while the market is going down trying to recoup losses from his naked Puts, then as the market heads north he gets eaten alive by the Calls he wrote earlier.

We only picked one market; there is the bond market, the commodities market, and foreign exchange markets, to name a few. At this point, the gunslinger is in a situation that looks like the kiddy game Whack a Mole, where you have a hammer and hit the head that pops out of one of many different holes. The model turns into a real mess, when you realize that there are thousands of Mutual Fund Managers that will all be playing this game in real time. Naturally these different markets will be doing different things. The word "panic" comes to mind.

My suspicion with Mutual Funds and IRA's, is that when you specify how you want your portfolio invested, they are not moving your money from one investment to another, they are purchasing a derivative to satisfy your demands of asset allocation. This leaves them free to pursue the line of investment they feel most confident with.

So much for "what ifs," the Derivatives Market is a Fantasy Land; the playground of hedge funds and mutual funds. Where will it end? My best guess, somewhere between Ab Surdum and Ad Nausea (no, they are not towns in Iraq).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Nest Egg Inflation

As I get older, retirement seems further off in the distance. Inflation is nibbling away at my savings. But there are bigger problems that lie hidden just beneath the surface.

The Robert Reich movie "Inequality for All," talks about the 1% getting richer and the middle class getting poorer. On the one side, the middle class still earns the same amount, but it doesn’t go as far anymore. This is called inflation, but a better description would be government printing of dollars. If we look at the rich getting richer, one item eludes people, the increase in wealth doesn’t mean that they now spend more, it most probably goes into a bank account. These extra dollars are not sloshing around in the economy, they have been absorbed into what could be labeled a “wealth sponge.” The excess of printed dollars is effectively removed from circulation.

On top of that, we have many people approaching retirement squirreling dollars away in their IRA’s and 401K’s. Many people believe that Congress enabled these retirement plans to help people save for retirement. That concept was a great vote getter, but the real reason for these plans was to increase the money available for Congress to borrow.

In two years’ time, my mint flavored Altoids have increased in price from one dollar to three dollars. The dollar double cheeseburger at McDucks is now $1.69. On Reich's documentary, he interviewed a guy making 12 million a year, and the gentleman pointed out that he only needs three pairs of blue jeans a year. So we can’t depend on the rich to stimulate the economy, and at the same time, I’ve cut down on double cheeseburgers and Altoids. Put it another way, the burn time on retirement funds has halved.

People today, are not saving for retirement like they used to. The silver foxes are starting to withdraw their retirement dollars, while the young question the concept of even saving money. Why put it in the bank at one percent when you can get a new car instead? Interest rates this low almost demand that you satisfy your urge for immediate gratification.

If we go back to Bernie Madoff, we stumble upon another problem not considered. All of his investors were rich up until they were advised he was broke. It's amazing how an excel spread sheet and a LaserJet printer can give an investor the appearance of a fabulous monthly statement, while in reality they're dead broke and clueless of the fact.

The real feat of accomplishment, is the 14 trillion dollars borrowed by the US government. It was sucked out of the financial system in a span of 10 years. This money was deposited in the banks when interest rates were 8% and higher. What happens now, when the baby boomers retire and start to withdraw their nest egg dollars? What happens if there are no new dollars coming into the system to replace the ones withdrawn?

It's kind of like the government selling 14 trillion dollars worth of tickets to the latest movie and the theater only seats 2,000. There is no problem until you decide to see the movie.

inflation has had 40 years to ravage your nest egg. As you run out of funds in retirement, your kids will try to help you out and will come to the conclusion that you just didn't save enough. They will grow up wiser--- When it comes time for them to retire, they can use their government Social Security checks to pay off their government student loans. ---Why do I get the feeling that I'm missing something here?

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Computer Age, The New Brick Wall

Computers have changed the way the world works beyond imagination. Just as in the early 1920, the industrial age transformed the United States from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. The 80% farming the land in 1910 didn’t give up willingly, but the number of farmers dropped drastically as the Great Depression progressed. That was the “New Age” of; incandescent lighting, the telephone, electricity, the airplane, radio and the automobile. This new technology was going to make life better, and that was 1929. And it did for some.

Our present economy is in bad shape. Raising the minimum wage is not going to make better hamburger flippers, minimum wage jobs are already filled to beyond capacity. People need to realize that the work place has change dramatically with the introduction of computers, many jobs are gone for good. Try going to the Unemployment office to file a claim; you have to get on a computer and fill out the forms, and god help you if you can’t type. Just entering your data for a claim yourself, eliminates about 4 people that use to work in the unemployment office; the receptionist, the data collector, the interviewer, and the guy to match you up with a job. Type in your claim and the computer will search the data base and print out possible job positions and at the same time, determine if you are eligible for unemployment.

People without computer skills are the new frontier of unskilled laborers. Surprisingly college grads also enter into the unemployed mix. Many field have no jobs waiting for them, this includes lawyers, dentists, and health care techs. There are jobs in those field, but not tens of thousands of them. Colleges don’t guarantee jobs, they only enable the student to pursue the career selected. It is not their fault that more people will graduate this year as lawyers as there are people already practicing law.

Then you have middle management who have lost their jobs because of the computer revolution. One worker with the right software can now replace twenty people. Many people over 45, even with retraining, can’t expect to receive half of what they were previously earning--it probably took them 10 years to get to their present pay level. So they collect two years of unemployment and retire early at age 62.

This new age of technology has caught everyone flat footed just like it did in the roaring 1920’s. You could even go back to about 1906 when the mechanical calculator went into production and discover that the hundreds of thousands of accountants employed by the banking industry disappeared overnight. One person with a calculator replaced 80 workers.

Jump forward to today. The internet supplies us with many services we used to pay for. With Google, you can fix a washing machine, replace a garbage disposal or replace the brakes on your car. You can sell odds and ends to the rest of the world from the comfort of your own home.

Computer technology has made all sorts of tasks simpler and easier to accomplish. So it’s not surprising with all of the software, around, entrepreneurs have figured out that it is more cost effective to move simple repetitive jobs overseas. So in effect, we have a double whammy, a new work paradigm that revolves around computers, and an out sourcing of jobs that can be done cheaper in the third world.

The frustrating thing about the new technology is that you can spend a whole day on the phone trying to get a live person to talk to. And when a real person answers, you'll discover that you're talking to someone in India with an extremely limited English vocabulary; -- which proves you can work in this country without even being here. Theoretically a person in Hong Kong could robotically flip hamburgers in the US at 40 cents an hour---That has to be easier than flying a drone half way around the world and launching a stinger missile into Afghanistan. Let's see, I'll have one drone-burger, hold the onions and the missile.

Computer technology is the future. The trouble is, it's has transformed the labor market without telling anyone, leaving many people ill prepared or too old for tomorrow's jobs.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Federal Reserve "Saves" the Real Estate Market

The Federal Reserve bailed out of the banks, Freddie and Fannie a while back. Just before the real estate bubble burst, houses were sold for big bucks. The seller got the cash from the banks and the buyer got the house, which they gave back to the bank. Notice in a real estate transaction, the buyer normally will over a span of 20 to 30 years, pay back the loan with interest. At this point, the bank has an insurance loss on the home. It’s worth a couple of hundred thousand less than what the bank loaned money on.

What is not real clear here is the economic ramifications of a buyer walking away from a home and living in it for free for one to two years. The Federal Reserve is the insurance company that covers these failed loans and reimburses the banks for their loss. The original seller got 500K for the home and the Federal Reserve picks up the property. The Fed has an IOU written to itself for the amount it covered for the bank, in this case 250K plus the house itself. It now can offer very enticing interest rates to any buyer that would like to purchase the home at say $400K. Since the Federal Reserve doesn’t have to make a profit, the interest charged and the total payments over 30 years will probably cover to total cost that the Feds are on the hook to cover, 500K.

The seller got 500K when the buyer took possession. The bank was made whole with a 250K payment from the Federal Deposit insurance. That 250k was supposed to enter the market slowly over many years out of the buyers paychecks from wages earned. This was money that the homebuyer would not be able to spend on consumption because it was committed to house payments. That is no longer the case. The buyer took a walk, and the deficiency was dumped back into the market as an insurance payoff to the bank. Plus now, the ex-buyer is free to consume other things with his paycheck.

I could be shot again for my generalizations, but if we examine the real estate bubble, the house was well worth 250K pre bubble and sold for 500K. The seller made a 250k profit and the Fed dumped 250K into the banks’ balance sheet. And when you look at it, the money in the banks belongs to the savers, so everything is just terrific nobody has lost a dime. At this point you have 250k (seller profit) + 250k (FR insurance)=500K extra added to the economic market in purchasing power that no one ever even worked for. Now true, if the Fed sells the home for 400k, the 500K will come back to the Fed and we have a zero sum game, the trouble is, that date is 20 to 30 years away.

Where did all of this unearned money go? The answer is not really clear here. It is quite possible that it went into the real estate market, the stock market and IRA’s. If the banks wanted your money real bad, they would pay more than the paltry one percent interest. The one thing that is for certain, the Federal Reserve wants the highest price it can get for the real estate it manages (ergo keep interest rates low). Uncle Sam, the used car salesman, will give you the deal of the century on a used home. The lender of last resort, the Federal Reserve, has taken all risk out of the real estate market. Maybe that’s why the stock market is so inviting, no government controls.

The defaulted loans were a promise by the buyer, to surrender future earnings for the house being purchased. His labor over 20 to 30 years was going to pay for the house in a long drawn out time release program. Well, that didn't happen. The money that the seller received was his to keep. The money lost by the bank was depositor's savings and the amount was made whole again by the Federal Reserve. The sale of just one home worth 250k has blasted the financial market with 500k of money that was never earned by producing product. The funny thing is, all dollars are equal, the one you had to work for is no different than the one that was printed to cover up the real estate fiasco. Common sense suggests, that there is more money out there than there are goods to buy at present prices. And if you don't have a job, this sort of common sense is no consolation when it comes to paying the bills. But if you do have a job, it kind of explains why your paycheck doesn't go as far anymore. Two different perspectives and they are worlds apart.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Minimum Wage " A Tempest in a Teapot"

Listening to the radio driving home from work the other day I heard a 19 year old single mom saying she couldn’t raise her child on the minimum wage. I’d go so far to say that her wages probably wouldn’t even cover paying for day care while she worked. She had problems before she started looking for a job.

In the early 1980’s I couldn't find any work in Colorado, so I bought a lawnmower and placed an ad in the local paper. I had no trouble making lots of money, but cutting the same lawn time after time was not mentally stimulating to me, I was bored to death, but it left my winters open for skiing. My only point is that many people expect someone to offer them a job. It doesn’t have to be that way, you can create a job yourself---no job application required.

If we were to examine a small business today, employing 20 workers, at 8 dollars an hour, for 40 hours, just the payroll would be $6400 for the week. Now raise wages to $15 an hour. The employers’ budget is still $6400. He has 20 employees currently earning $320 a week. Divide that by $15 and we get a 21 hour work week. On the downside, the more productive employees will move to jobs with more hours, so in the long run, a worker who can hustle, will get the better wage. Over time the successful employer will have to pay more to keep their most productive employees. The increase in wages also changes the economic factors that determine if it is more practical to move production overseas.

Notice however, in the public sector, when you pay more to keep employees, you are also committed to paying the "dead wood" the same rate and there is no way to fire these bad apples. 40 years ago, civil service was a way to get experience for your future job in the private sector. The dead wood employees stayed there, at a low wage forever. Back then, there was a stigma attached to civil service employees—-loser was a polite term for them; they couldn’t get a real job. The neat thing about that era, was that the taxpayer didn’t pay extra for civil service incompetence, if you were good at what you did, the private sector had a job waiting for you at twice the pay. Things have sure changed since then.

Raising the minimum wage doesn’t necessarily increase the number of jobs available and lowering the minimum wage suggests that there might be more jobs offered but with fewer applicants applying for them. The minimum wage is really just a labor entry point, all the employer is saying is that he will train the employee and give them work experience. With the increase in the minimum wage, the worker is demanding more money for a job that takes no skills, with the thought, “I can do this until a real job comes along.”

In the fast food business, it is now practical to build a machine to grill hamburgers and I'm sure French fries won't be far behind. The entrepreneur has the option, to replace labor with machines. Robots don’t join labor unions and can work 24/7. If an automatic hamburger griller costs 100K and replaces 3 people, how long would it take to pay for the grill? At $8 per hour, about 2 years, at $15, a little more than a year. Do the math, that job will disappear.

These people picketing for an increase in the minimum wage to $15; how did they all of a sudden arrive at the “earth moving revelation” that you can’t raise a family on the current minimum wage? The graph below displays the minimum wages paid in other countries:

A school janitor today probably makes about 20 dollars an hour. Do you think that he graduated from high school and got hired for the job on the spot? I can still remember our high school janitor 50 years ago; an immigrant from Italy with a bad limp named Luigi (raising 3 boys). The school kids were cruel, they use to mimic his Italian accent and his limp. But there was a certain harsh reality that hasn't changed over time; “A high school education only prepares you for an entry job as a laborer.” Luigi worked hard to get a decent paying job and it didn't come overnight.

In today’s world, many jobs start at X amount more than the minimum wage. So raising the minimum wage increases everyone’s wages. Will the new reality reflect itself in the government Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)? Of course, maybe we ought to create a Gullibility Index for the nation based on an inverse of the COLA value. As the COLA’s decrease, the Gullibility Index for the nation increases.

The neat thing about raising the minimum wage is that it increases tax revenues. The poor will no longer be at the poverty level and will now pay taxes and consume less welfare---Why does that sound so absurdly insane?

So with the proposed pay raise, everyone will get paid more for the same amount of work and everything we consume will cost more. Economics tells us that the minimum wage is set by supply and demand not government edict. I'm sure that we can get Congress to repeal the Law of Supply and Demand. And while we are at it, maybe Congresswoman Pelosi will introduce a bill to rewrite Newton's Third Law so we can get better gas mileage.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Accumulating Real Wealth

There are people out there that are fabulously rich. Usually it’s through sports entertainment or invention. But most people get rich the old fashioned way by saving. They don’t get real rich, but nobody ever has enough money no matter how much they make.

There is a conundrum here that the politicians don’t quite understand. Once you get to the “rich” level, you don’t really spend any more than a poor person. The extra goes into savings. This is where the economy is dragging. The massive infusion of Fed funds into the economy has really gone nowhere. A lot of the funds have made it into retirement fund real estate investing or the stock market. Neither of these creates very many new jobs. Real estate investing in good years returned about 21% on the investment, and in today’s market, 10 percent is a very optimistic expectation. Stocks are doing a lot better than cash in the bank, but there is the question of “Why?” The economy is not in great shape.

Then there is the time element. Given 40 years, $100 a week for 20 years at 8% and then sitting on it for another 20 resulted in a million dollars. That was the expected in the 1960’s. In today’s world a million dollars might buy two tear down homes in Los Angeles. Notice one thing, the people that started saving 40 years ago, don’t have the buying power with their savings from 40 years ago. And it is too late for them to save more now.

We are also at a point with nonexistent interest rates, why even save? There is no added value for surrendering your immediate gratification for later consumption. Buy it now!

So basically we have a bunch of new savers looking down the road to retirement 40 years away, and reality hits them. The money in the bank is going nowhere. Whereas the old people that have saved for 40 years notice that inflation has reduced their buying power of their savings by a great amount. If your 20 years old, this concept is way over your head and makes no sense. Aggravatingly so, if you are over 65 nobody cares when you complain about inflation, you are invisible, you are an “Old Fart,”---- and what do they know.

The thing that really cracks me up lately, is all the ads for medications for the senior citizens. For the drug companies, it is a given, that old people are the target for buying these new pills that they want to sell. Take Preparation H, Cialis, and Viagra. I can’t figure out how the medications know where to go, you certainly don’t want erect hemorrhoids or a member with no sensation. But I digress.

Where to from here? We have a problem, the money not being spent by savers is squirreled away for retirement and is being eaten alive by government printing (inflation). Congress knows the syndrome, too old to complain—nothing to worry about they will die soon, so blow them off. Inflation is only a game; through time you will understand it’s consequences but until then, it will be too late to do anything about it. So grab a deck chair, and move it to another spot on the deck, give yourself that slight feeling that you are still in control.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Let Other People Work

Driving home from work the other day, I heard on the radio someone praise Obamacare, “I have been unemployed for 6 years and now I have health insurance.” For her, one less thing to worry about. You’ll probably bump into her at Walmart. She’s the one talking on a cell phone, a hundred pounds overweight, in tight stretch pants buying groceries with her EBT debit card. Of course, you might turn around and ask me, "Which one is her?" At that point, we can eliminate the "store greeter" and all of the cashiers. . . . . .

Later I was listening to some TV news program about saving for your child’s college education. I heard one parent state that he wasn’t saving for his son’s college expenses because his son wouldn’t qualify for as much financial aid. My eyes rolled on that one.

Then our "Banana Republic Presidente" stated that “We need more young people to sign up for health care, which they don’t consume much of, so the older folks won’t have to pay as much for coverage.” We have given these kids student loans that they can never pay back. Then these kids find that they have to live at home with mom and dad because they can’t find a job. How does higher education work? They give you a diploma when you graduate. Do you have to pay extra, for a brain to go with it?

College math: Graduate + new(health care -health -e) = Graduate + new car (BMW, Mercedes)
Obama math: Graduate + health care + student debt = "Rags to Riches" (indentured servant for life)

Where is the incentive to work? If you earn money, the government wants to tax it and give it to someone less fortunate. Ever hear of a lawyer suing someone that is broke? Deadbeats don’t pay traffic tickets, absolutely nothing will ever happen to them, no jail time, there is no room. And the car they drive is not registered to them; it’s not against the law to drive an uninsured car that belongs to someone else (of course they'll claim they thought it was insured after they hit you).

Getting ready to retire, make sure your savings are depleted (buy your kids a house). Then you qualify for SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and in California, it’s about $950 a month. Plus if you are a legal immigrant of retirement age, you qualify for SSI without ever having worked a day in this country.

Where to from here? There is a race on to prove how poor you are, so you can get a bigger slice of the pie. You don’t have to earn money to be entitled to a slice, but you become more entitled to a slice as you earn less. Our government will reward non productivity as long as it produces more people that vote for Democrats. The odd thing, if you go out and get a job, you lose all of those free benefits. Doesn't that feel like punishment? Who's to blame, those who provide the benefits, or those that take advantage of them?

Below is a cartoon that came out in 2008 that I really enjoyed, it gets more real with each passing day.
(Double click for a bigger picture)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why Even Bother to Save Your Money?

Simple question, why save money in any bank? At half a percent interest your money will double in 142 years. Wow, start saving at these terrific rates! There are people saving dollars in IRA’s and 401K’s to avoid paying taxes. Most of these people are in the 50 to 65 age bracket. The 20 to 45 age bracket are immortal and don’t even need to think of retirement, plus they pay into Social Security. So where are we with this mess? We have a government that can’t pay its bills. 17 Trillion In debt is just a number, it has no association or concept of understanding with the man on the street.

Where will the new rich come from? It certainly isn’t going to come from a savings account built up over 40 years. A million dollars in 1964 was a lot of money. At 3.5 percent interest, you would have had an interest income of $35,000 and never touched the principle. That was about 5 times more than what my dad at the time made in a year, to support our family of 4. In today’s world, that million will get you about $10,000 in interest income and the principle will be completely consumed in retirement after 35 years. This assumes you can live unassisted in your own home and need very little medical financing.

From 1964 to 2004, a zero was added to the price of everything. Houses went from 30K to 300K, and cigarettes went from 25 cents to $2.50 a pack. If that wasn’t bad enough, the price of Cigarettes, steak, beer, charcoal and gasoline have doubled in the last 10 years. The schools don’t teach concepts dealing with inflation and I can see why, it’s a meaningless exercise when the student’s world revolves around sex and music and hanging out. Our government is printing dollars, a lot of them, and inflation is a concept you begin to understand with age, it is a tax on long term savers.

So if we go back to the 1920’s, the banks loaned real money and got real money back. The dollar was backed by gold. In today’s world the dollar is backed by nothing. Why should I loan $100,000 to someone for 20 years at 3 percent interest and at the end of the transaction, the 100K now has the buying power of 10K from inflation?

There does appear to be a way to avoid the inflation produced by government spending when you are projecting for retirement income 40 years away. What you really need to do is buy gold and silver. They are worthless as income generators, but they preserve your savings from the Congressional printing tax (which is a lot higher than most investment returns). Our government has joked around and thinks that the national debt will never be a problem. Call it financial irresponsibility.

Normally in an inflation driven market, real estate is the best medium to be in, but, it is nothing more than a registered tax base, a piggy bank, that can be taxed as needed by the government with no say so from you. If you’re a landlord, the government could even freeze the rent you can charge. Buy a car in California and pay 8% sales tax on drive out. Buy a home, and pay 1% real estate tax every year you own it.

From the 1900’s to the 1960’s gold was about 32 dollars an ounce. Then for the next 40 years it never went below $300. 60 years of 30 dollar gold then 40 years of $300 dollar gold kind of suggests that maybe we are due for $3,000 gold a lot sooner than we think.

The increase in the price of gold only reflects the loss of purchasing power of the dollar. My grandfather lived to be 98 and died in 1964 and he understood inflation quite well. It took me 50 years to understand why his blood would boil when he explained how a loaf a bread was a nickel when he was a kid. He knew what the government had done to him and there was nothing he could do about it. Of course at the time in 1964 I was only 17 years old, and didn’t understand why the increase in the price of a loaf of bread could upset him so much, he had plenty of money.

So if you are starting a retirement plan that spans 40 years, Gold and Silver make more cents at these interest rates. If you don’t give a damn, spend it now and enjoy yourself, the government always seems to have money for those that have none or conveniently run out. Our government wants you to stimulate the economy and buy something. That way when you grow old, you can tell your grandson how you bought a loaf of bread for a dollar when you were a kid. Come to think of it, I just paid $4.29 for a loaf of Russian Rye bread the other day (Jewish Rye would have been more politically correct but the Russian rye has a stronger flavor).

The thing to realize at retirement age, is the value of assets that are visible. The house, the car, the bank account. Your visible assets can ultimately determine what future benefits you are entitled to and the taxes you have to pay.

So what do you want to save, Dollars or Gold and Silver? The older you are the more meaningless the decision becomes; time becomes your enemy. Congress can promise the moon with printed dollars, the poor will follow and the rich will get handed the bill.

In Europe they are proposing negative banking interest rates to induce investors to build new businesses. At the same time, we can get more money back on our credit cards by spending dollars than we can by saving them in a bank. This sort logic reminds me of an incident many years ago when my young nephew was using a hammer, he accidently hit his thumb with it. He was crying and I suggested with a serious face to do the same thing to the other thumb and make them both match. He stopped crying, kind of looked at me and backed away. To this day, I think he considers me to be a few cards shy of a full deck. You have to consider the secondary implications of any logical solution. The future pain might not be immediately apparent.

Compound interest is still the 8th wonder of the world, and we can all wonder where it went!