|These are excerpts from the Finance tips column of the
2009-07-05 issue:It's funny how all sorts of "experts" are coming out of the woodwork now to recommend that people buy bonds "because they are safe."
A bond is a guaranteed financial loss. How the heck this is "safe" escapes me.
Why is a bond a guaranteed financial loss? A bond is not equity, it's debt. It creates no value. For that reason, it can never return enough to outpace inflation. While "investing" in a bond is safer than hoarding Federal Reserve Notes (the cotton "dollar bills" that people erroneously refer to as "paper money") and much safer than making an equity "investment" (stock) in something you know little about, it's not safe.
Stocks are safe, only if you understand what you are buying. Since stock is an equity (ownership) investment, it holds the potential to outpace inflation. You have to remember that you are buying ownership in an income-producing asset. You need to evaluate that asset before buying, and you need to understand the risks of ownership.
Unless you understand the products, management, market, and competitive environment of the company you are buying stock in, you are merely gambling. Since most people lack the education, information resources, time, and perseverance to understand these things, most people should not buy individual stocks. Mutual funds, yes--but only if you understand the management and the fund philosophy. If you are merely chasing returns, you are gambling.
What else can you do? Some obvious investments include:
Most people don't think of those three things as investment, but they should. Most people think in terms of buying something. OK, so let's go there.
In 1983, I read a book that profoundly influenced my thinking on investing. It talked about buying things on sale, and stocking up when you do. This was something my parents did, and though I didn't think of that in terms of investing, I followed this pattern more or less. However, you can manage this kind of buying in a way that vastly outstrips the "return" the average investor gets on "investment."
The key isn't to buy things just because they are on sale. Do that, and you merely accumulate clutter. The key is to buy things you'd use anyhow. For example, there's a sale on motor oil, 10% off. Buy the oil. If you use it 6 months later, you've made a 20% annual profit.
Inflation may not stay within reasonable bounds. So even if you were able to buy everything with, say, an annual profit of 20% you could still lose wealth at an alarming rate. Of course, your 20% return is much better than the 5% return someone else is making via a financial investment.
Most people will not do the math on investing. If they buy a case of oil and look at it six months later, they see a case of oil. There is no broker's statement showing they made 20% on it. So they don't understand that they made that kind of return on the investment. Plus, they are going to use the oil and then it's gone so all they see is that they spent money on oil.
If you think about it, this example is actually a leveraged investment. It's money you were going to spend (not have) anyhow, and so you make 20% on someone else's money but do so with real goods. Pretty hard to lose in that scenario.
I think the basic problem is people want to see something on paper showing their "profits" but don't understand that paper profits aren't real profits. They are just paper profits.
Let's look even closer at this, now. You don't pay income tax on the 20% return on that oil, but you will pay income tax on that 5% paper profit. Not only that, the IRS can seize your accounts (paper profit storage) with no warning or justification, but they aren't going to come to your house for that case of oil.
Does the word "duh" start coming to mind?
Investing isn't something you spend your money on. Investing is a strategy for how you spend your money. And your time.
2012-01-01 issue:First, a short lesson on federal "borrowing."
Stimulating in the Economy
Now that we are clear on federal "borrowing," we can understand why even more federal debt-added taxation doesn't "stimulate" the economy. It does stimulate unemployment, as the data clearly show and as common horse sense would predict. Other things it stimulates in the economy include foreclosures, plant closings, store closings, unpaid loans, bankruptcies, cutbacks in city services, and cutbacks in county services.
People who rejoice in the fact that the USA ranks at the bottom of all industrialized nations in literacy will be pleased to know that Obamanomics also stimulates the closing of public libraries, due to the shrinking county tax base resulting from the other things this insanity stimulates.
So be careful when you encounter the propaganda about money "helping" the economy via federal "stimulus." This is not merely a false idea. It's outright fraud.
The money isn't the result of a transaction, for example I spend money (that I earned) on something I want. What enters the economy is not new wealth (none is created in this scam) or even wealth taken from another party or loaned by another party. As we just noted, it's debt-added taxation.
Just to make sure this point hits home: when the Federal Reserve creates this money out of thin air for the govt to "borrow" (instantly debasing the currency), that does not "inject" money into the economy. It taxes us by degrading the value of money already in the economy, and amazingly the FR adds debt by invoicing us for the amount we are taxed!
Accounting for Stimulus
To believe in the hocus pocus of "stimulus," you would have to do Enron style accounting. This kind of fraud is illegal, which is why Ken Lay, et al, went to prison. Also, we flunk second graders (used to flunk them, anyhow) for not being able to differentiate between adding and subtracting. It's an elementary concept. It is impossible to increase by decreasing.
So when the federal govt spends (transfers to wealthy individuals via govt contracts) money it does not have, this can never stimulate the economy. It can, and does, stimulate job loss and a whole string of other negative consequences. Thanks to Obama, we have the empirical data to prove this and no longer have to rely on difficult concepts such as 4 - 2 = 2 not 6.
Stop the Stealing
The effect all this stealing has on your financial security is anything but positive. Please let your misrepresentative in CONgress know that the rampant spending, inflating, stealing, debt creation, and "Ken Lay accounting" must stop.
About 90% of all federal govt expenditures are illegal (see the 10th Amendment), so reducing the spending to something approaching sensible does not involve any hard choices. Unless, of course, you're on the take and are accepting illegal payments to induce you to spend money your fellow Americans do not have.
It's no coincidence that most members of CONgress don't take long to become millionaires once they are in office. If we are silent, they will continue to pillage and steal. So speak up. Your financial future depends on it.