Monday, September 03, 2012
Slow Money Vs Fast Money
Believe it or not, there are two types of money. It sounds implausible, but it’s true. If you live paycheck to paycheck, you have “fast money;” it’s here today and gone tomorrow. “Slow money” is the funds socked away for that rainy day, years in the future.
Enter someone like Bernie Madoff. His investment program was a Ponzi scheme. The money he was using was "slow money,” investors didn't need for several years out. Rich people are rich as long as they don’t spend the money, which goes without saying. Notice though, Bernie’s rich investors were rich up and to the day the scheme was uncovered, they didn’t get poor slowly over time--it happened immediately. What did him in was a bad economy. His investors needed funds to cover losses. As a group, their increased withdrawals, was the monkey wrench that fell into the gears. Bernie’s “slow money” accounts were turning to “fast money” obligations before his eyes.
Our government “borrowed” the 2.6 trillion in the Social Security trust fund and spent it. Then Congress purloined 4 trillion to cover the housing mess and it's gone. Then there is that 8-10 trillion in IRA savings that we have loaned indirectly to the government, spent also. So long as everyone doesn’t decide to retire at the same time, there isn’t much of a problem. The trouble is, that is just what is happening. People unemployed and 62 years old, are not going to wait until age 65 to 70 to retire and they are cashing in their IRAs. These people are no longer paying taxes; they are now receiving tax money (i.e. Social Security benefits). The government’s financial pain is further exacerbated by high unemployment, low tax collections and legislative fiscal irresponsibility.
It's becoming more obvious that the present system cannot last without reducing the massive government spending. “Kicking the can down the road” or “Rearranging deck chairs,” both point to that moment in time where things get real. It’s a little like promising to quit smoking. Everyone quits eventually--- For most, it’s not a planned event.
Our national debt is comprised mostly of “slow money” borrowed from financial institutions worldwide. With the deteriorating economy and the higher than normal redemption of funds, the government needs to borrow more, or an option not available to Bernie, print more dollars.
People are beginning to dip into their “slow money” accounts. As long as the money wasn’t needed, the government had no problem. Everyone assumes that FDIC insurance is to protect the depositor. It isn’t, it’s there to keep depositors from withdrawing their funds from the banking system in times of financial stress. Our government has already borrowed and spent a great deal of this bank money and needs access to the banks in order to borrow more.
Lack of "slow money" was the problem that Bernie Madoff faced. The system works perfectly as long as more is being deposited than is being withdrawn. All of this “slow money” that the government borrowed and spent will suddenly turn to fast money obligations. How do you pay back 17 trillion when you are borrowing an extra trillion a year to add on to it? Just like Bernie Madoff’s clients, you have a piece of paper stating how much you have in your accounts. It isn't a cash balance, its an IOU. The money was spent.
Reality is when your wife puts 170k on the family credit card. There is a complete disconnect when the Federal Government puts 17 trillion on plastic. We don’t have to pay that one—do we??? Bottom line, your retirement funds paid for the party that is still in progress. Learn the full particulars sometime after the next election.
Copyright 2012 by Jim Brubaker