How to lose your wealth by doing nothing

by Paul Goodchild on May 18, 2009

Piggy bankI’d like to introduce you to the term ‘understatement’:

We are in very uncertain economic times.

So what’s new?  What is new, is how you should handle your finances/money/wealth.  Anyone who hasn’t been an adult during a depression will hopefully have realised by now that anything they have experienced up until this point will not have prepared them for what has happened, or what is going to happen.  Once you accept that, you will then hopefully see that we are each of us all in the same boat.  And that includes your “financial advisors”.

To wade through the mists here, I’m going to pose some important questions for you to consider.  Hopefully by the end of those and a little discussion, you’ll have a idea of just what state you’re in and what you can do about it.  Here goes…

Who is your financial advisor?

Pretty basic question; but pretty freaking important.  If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following, it’s time for a review of your finances:

  • news networks including television and newspapers
  • friends in “finance” who will not show you proof of their tasting of their own medicince and performance figures
  • politicians and policy makers
  • professional financial advisors who are hawking investment vehicles through which they earn commissions on your investments

Now I’m not saying, by any stretch of your imagination, that any of these sources are in any way disingenuous.  Your financial advisor be it an information/learning/educational source or a person/institution should simply be able to show you proof of the pudding and ideally have no vested interest in the performance of your financial management decisions i.e. they’re independent.  Now I know that that is very difficult to find, but it’s not impossible and here is where the world’s best informational resource, the Internet, plays its role.

My financial advisor ultimately is myself and education, and a wealthy friend who gives me excellent information and advice that has already saved me a lot of money.  I do not follow his advice blindly, but rather take the information he provides and add it to my own understanding and move from there.  That’s what has prompted me to write this article as I’m sharing what I’ve learned after hearing some of his insights.

Do you pay yourself first?

I didn’t know how best to word this question, and this is the result.  Allow me to explain.

A very simple, yet infinitely wise book that we should all read is ‘The richest man in Babylon’.  Contained within this are the 5 laws of gold, illustrated through very simple stories, the first law being:

  • Law I: Gold cometh gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will put by not less than 1 tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family.

This doesn’t mean you save up 1/10th of your earning for a raining day, your next holiday in Hawai, or that new car you’ve always wanted.  It means that for every 100 pounds, dollars, yen that you earn, you take 10 of them and put them towards savings for the future, as a very solid long term investment that will care for a time when you’re no longer in a position to earn money for yourself and your family.

This 1/10th comes before all else.  It comes before debt repayments, mortgages, utility bills, rent, travel, car insurance, clothes, shoes etc etc.  This is where the question comes from since it is closely tied to the idea that you should always pay yourself first.

This money is not designed either to be put into risky fund investments that promise great returns YoY… how you sure up your 1/10 is up to you, but less risk is better since you’re looking for steady growth of capital over the long term.  This topic could be addressed in a whole other dedicated article alone.

Do you understand the implications to your wealth from recent goverment intervention?

That’s a big question, but the answer is far bigger and infinitely more complex.  The important question, in my opinion, is not how long this period of depression is going to last – it doesn’t matter.  What is important to ask is how it will impact you and what state you will be in financially when you reach the other side.

So what is the impact of the government’s interventionist policies in response to the crisis?  Well by all accounts, they’re disasterous.  They make no sense and serve only to prop up a system that is destined to fail one way or the other… the problem now is that with the magicial creation of money by the central banks, the crash is going to be made a whole lot worse.

Why?  It’s complicated, and I don’t fully understand how it works, but I understand why.

Basically, bucket loads of products (derivatives) were zipping around being sold for increasingly larger and larger sums of money, while the inherent value of the underlying assets and commodities hardly moved.  ‘Wealth’ was being generated out of thin air and a demand for exotic products to sell on or use to finance other ventures and project.  Banks, institutions, countries, and investors were simply becoming massively over-leveraged and a giant house of cards was being constructed on the understanding that excessive consumer consumption will always be there, and real estate prices will always go up.

When the underlying value of goods and services remains constant but the amount of “money” in the system is increased significantly, then the inherent value of one unit of currency falls.  This is inflation – where the prices of goods and services get perpetually higher and higher and the buying power of your money falls.

Understand that the  “stimulus packages” being introduced by world governements is basically the magical creation of money.  It didn’t come from anywhere, except as a line on a ledger/balance sheet. The government “borrows” money from the central bank, gives it to the incompetent banks in exchange for all their toxic debt.  The tax payers, represented by the goverments money, are in reality left burdened with a heap of bad debt, while the banks are permited to walk away from the disaster they helped create.

These massive amounts of money pumped into the system become worthless and will ultimately force a market condition known as hyperinflation.  And this is the crux of the article.  You do not want to be left holding large quantities of cash as savings or otherwise while hyperinflation takes hold of the economy.

This is nothing new, and the Western world isn’t immune to it.  To see what can become of a currency that is griped by this, check out the Wiki article on it.  You can watch the inherent value of any savings you might have dwindle to practically nothing very quickly indeed.

How can you protect yourself against hyperinflation?

This is question I’ve been exploring myself lately and even today alone I’ve learned heaps about what hyperinflation is and how it is traditionally offset by financially savvy individuals.  I don’t have all the answers, but I’m now armed with the knowledge that this is a very real threat indeed and it’s better to be thinking about this now, than have to operate in reaction to further chaos and crisis.

Gold seems to be the over-riding concensus as a means to preserve wealth.  It isn’t meant in this scenario as an investment vehicle from which you earn your millions.  Rather than have your wealth stored in paper money whose value is being debased, you store it in a commodity that historically retains it’s value through these sorts of environments.

That is just one option and I can’t comment on it too much just yet since I have no experience with it and I’m only learning now how I might delve into the gold-purchasing realm.  One important point I have learned is that the best and most reliable way to do this is through the purchasing of physical gold, not securities and derivatives based on it.  Own your gold.

There is also the question of whether your particular currency will hyperinflate.  One prime candidate for this is the U.S. Dollar.  If the dollar goes this way, it may feed other markets and bring them down with it.  Who knows how this all will play out in the end?

Just a point to remember, I’m not a financial advisor and I never pretend to be remotely similar to one.  All I am doing here is trying to open your eyes to what may be coming and what options are apparently out there for you to research and investigate.  Do not stick your head in the sand… be proactive on this since failure to protect yourself in this case may leave you struggling more than you’d like.

Best of luck! : )

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul May 19, 2009 at 11:38

Indeed. Stocks are a loser’s game in this market.

Unfortunately, keeping your money in the bank and sitting tight, hoping to ride out the storm is probably not the most prudent approach either. We need a way where the average layman can protect reserve he/she may have.


David Stillwagon May 19, 2009 at 11:30

I think now a days more and more people will be reluctant to throw any money toward the stock market. Instead they will be paying off debt and putting money in the bank. Just like the old days.
I hope


Claro Connect May 20, 2009 at 05:39

Unfortunately, humans are just plain bad at predicting the future and therefore make bad investors. In fact, they usually do whatever worked best last year, which is why everyone is holding cash today. However, being conservatively diversified is still good advice.


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