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U.S. National Debt Clock

Up to the minute statistics you can use

Cent signI started learning the investment business in 1974 as a retail broker and have been an active investor ever since. That should tell you I am getting a bit long in the tooth, but am still standing, breathing in and out. I am a survivor.

Things have changed dramatically over the past 35 or 40 years. Most of what worked in the past is obsolete and useless now. Over that time, I probably have been wrong more often than right but still made a decent living. How?

Never risk it all. Russian Roulette is a good example: The odds of winning are 5:1. But one loss and you are out forever with no recovery possible. Don't ever put yourself in that investment position.

Remember that brokers, advisers, financial media and institutions make a living moving your money to their pocket legally. If they really knew what the markets were going to do, they would never speak to you. They would be investing instead of talking you into investing. The point is that YOU have a better chance of doing what is best for you than anyone else on earth, if you just use some common sense and stick with reality instead of wishful thinking. You're on Your own (YoYo), even with an advisor encouraging and comforting you.

  Today, the overriding, dominant financial reality is that most of the debt outstanding will never be repaid. To repeat, most of the personal, corporate and government debt around the world can't be repaid, so it won't be repaid. It will be discharged by some combination of currency debasement and default.

Start with that reality when making personal investment decisions in this day and age.

The investment community would have you focus on the Central Banks around the world (eg. - FED, ECB, Bank of Japan, Bank of China etc). That is a diversion to keep investors from focusing on the real problem.

The Central Banks set Monetary policy. They control the supply of money and debt and, by doing so, influence interest rates. With interest rates at zero (or even negative in Europe and Japan), Monetary Policy is at or beyond the limits of effectiveness. Nothing they do will change anything. The analogy of "pushing on a string" seems accurate.

The real problem is Fiscal Policy, which is controlled by the Central Governments (not Central Banks) around the world. Click the link at the top of this page and take a few minutes to study the US National Debt Clock. It shows total US government and personal debt (along with a lot of other useful information).

Fiscal Policy is balancing taxes and spending. That makes it a political problem as well as a financial problem. The vast majority of governments, from local school boards, towns, cities, counties, states, and sovereign nations, are operating at a deficit (ie. - current revenues are less than current spending) and have future obligations that cannot be met without dramatic increases in revenue. For governments, taxes are the primary, if not the only, source of revenue. These deficits are being covered by borrowing instead of raising taxes.

Even small governments that are required to balance their budget evade the spirit of the law by borrowing for capital projects that should actually be routine maintenance expenses. An example would be borrowing to build a new school because the local district doesn't have the money to fix the roof on the old one.

Central Banks have accommodated irresponsible government Fiscal policy by forcing interest rates down near zero. That has not only allowed government entities to be irresponsible, it has allowed corporations and individuals to be irresponsible. All debt has ballooned.

The shame of all this is that people who behaved responsibly get crushed as their savings yield zero return. That combination of rewarding irresponsible behaviour and punishing the responsible is not lost on young people. They are very observant and smart in spite of what us old geezers like to say. Massive debt is not only a financial and political problem, it is a social problem as well.

Don't be distracted by the FED hype. In this "Brave New World", investors should focus on Fiscal policy, not Monetary policy. How this overwhelming debt gets discharged will determine whether or not your investments are profitable or not.

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