August 10, 2011
I had a little piggy bank when I was kid. It was blue. And ceramic. In fact, I think I broke its nose off at one point and I was really sad about it. Most of all I remember loving the sound that the coins made when I dropped a new one inside.
That unmistakable chink spoke volumes to me. It reinforced my responsible behavior, and it encouraged me to keep saving. This is something I’ve carried with me for my entire life.
Today things are different. Central bankers have proven that conventional savers are mere patsies to be taken advantage of, sheeps to be fleeced.
With Ben Bernanke announcing that interest rates would remain at zero for the next 2-years, saving money in conventional ways has become a completely irrational choice. Based on the way that the government used to calculate inflation (a much more realistic approach than today), you’d be losing 7% annually in buying power.
Not to mention, the bank where you’re keeping your money is probably insolvent and can’t sustain itself without the constant aid of the federal government.
This is a long way from that chink chink sound in a piggy bank. It makes me wonder– what do people teach their children about money these days?
I have to imagine that any child watching the goings-on of American politics would conclude that:
– debt is wealth
– living beyond your means is completely sustainable
– if anyone tells you otherwise, denounce their mathematical errors
– if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying the same thing over and over
– working hard and saving money is bad
– spending money and not working is good
– if you have a problem, the government will bail you out
– people are entitled to things that they didn’t work for
– no one should be held accountable for the consequences of the risks they take
– it’s not illegal if the government does it
– despite what our eyes and ears tell us, inflation is not a concern
– everything is going to be OK simply because the government says so
The financial system is completely different than what it used to be, and the basic premises have been thrown out. The dollar is no longer stable. The US is no longer “risk free”. The government is not there to help. The happy-go-lucky days of safely putting our savings in bank CDs and T-bills are gone for good.
Everyone needs to understand that the game is being reset and the old rules don’t apply anymore. Everything has counterparty risk, and it can no longer be assumed away. Any investment should be considered for its inflation-adjusted, risk-adjusted return. Fear, paranoia, and extreme emotion will cause wild swings in all markets.
These are important lessons for anyone to learn, especially younger people who can develop this awareness at an early age. If you have children, I’d be interested in hearing from you– what do you teach them about finance, and what’s going on in the world?