Monetary History in Ten Minutes

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Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Monetary History in Ten Minutes

August 23, 2016
Hot Springs, VA

Money, moreover is the economic area most encrusted and entangled with centuries of government meddling. Many people – many economists – usually devoted to the free market stop short at money. Money, they insist, is different; it must be supplied by government and regulated by government. They never think of state control of money as interference in the free market… If we favor the free market in other directions, if we wish to eliminate government invasion of person and property, we have no more important task than to explore the ways and means of a free market in money.”Murray Rothbard

The S&P closed out Tuesday at $2,183. Gold closed at $1,343 per ounce. Crude Oil closed at $46.81 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 1.58%. Bitcoin is trading around $585 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

Little Maddie is rapidly approaching her second birthday, and I swear she is going on twelve. Like her mother, Madison is quite adept at the art of talking, and she communicates with us very well. This makes life so much easier when she tells us exactly what she wants for dinner; it makes life just a touch more difficult when she wakes up in the wee hours of the morning and tells us she wants to watch Mickey Mouse.

While this seems terribly inconvenient to her parents now, I can only imagine how immaterial it will seem when Maddie is a teenager and we just hope she comes home before the wee hours of the morning. Nevertheless, it all makes perfect sense when she looks up at us with her blue eyes shining bright and says I love you sooo much!

Moving on to finance… Continue reading “Monetary History in Ten Minutes”

Why the U.S. Faces a Currency Crisis

submitted by jwithrow.currency crisis

Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Why the U.S. Faces a Currency Crisis

September 11, 2015
Hot Springs, VA

The S&P closed out Thursday at $1,952. Gold closed at $1,109 per ounce. Oil closed at $45.92 per barrel, and the 10-year Treasury rate closed at 2.22%. Bitcoin is trading around $239 per BTC today.

Dear Journal,

Little Maddie is now on the verge of becoming a toddler. She has mastered the art of the crawl and the leveraged stand-up. Walking is the next frontier, and she knows it. To aid Madison in her quest, wife Rachel bought her a plastic toy that doubles as an obnoxious farm animal noise making machine and a child’s walker. Somewhat to my surprise, Madison instantly knew what to do – she pulled herself up on the handles and walked six steps using the contraption to achieve balance.

It was an exciting moment for a first-time dad, but the philosopher’s mind has a tendency to wander and I couldn’t help but envision the future. What happens when, in fifty years perhaps, little Madison buys her mother a walker? Will Rachel instantly understand the intricacies of its function as her daughter once did fifty years prior? Time shall tell.

Moving on to the wonderful world of finance and economics… all of the focus is currently on the Federal Reserve. Having beaten interest rates down to zero and left them for dead for six years in an effort to prevent the market economy from liquidating the cronies, the Fed has recently been talking tough about raising rates. Some say the Fed will follow-through and raise rates next week. Others say by the end of the year. Still others say they can’t raise rates without torpedoing the debt markets. My suspicion is that the economy has become so dependent upon low interest rates that any interest rate hike would be minuscule and nothing but an effort to save face. Continue reading “Why the U.S. Faces a Currency Crisis”

Risk Update: Belief That Gold Will Fall When the Dollar Climbs

by Jeff Clark – Hard Assets Alliance :

Gold and the US dollar typically exhibit an inverse relationship—when one climbs, the other tends to fall. But that relationship disappeared over three months ago.

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Why the new romance between gold and the dollar? Primarily because what has been supportive for the dollar has also been good for gold.

This trend should continue. I’m not the only one to think so:

• “The resilience of gold in the face of a surging dollar and collapsing oil price supports our view that the precious metal will recover further this year and next.” (Capital Economics head of research Julian Jessop)

Do you believe there is greater or lesser risk in the financial markets? Will there be more or less fear in the world in 2015?

If you suspect that ever-optimistic government figures are masking far uglier truths… if you understand that the US economy depends on the global economy for far more than exports… if you believe the truly historic amount of money printing in the US and around the world must eventually result in inflation… or if for any reason you doubt that 2015 will be rosy, then the best investment strategy is one that includes a meaningful amount of gold bullion.

Remember: The issue is not inflation vs. deflation, the USD vs. euro, or even supply vs. demand. It’s fear and chaos vs. confidence and stability. Whichever of these you see as the stronger trend in the years ahead should drive your action plan.

In our view, the response we’ve seen thus far in gold has been a small foretaste of the major move we can expect when the wheels come off the global financial system, whatever form that may take.

My friends, buffer your investments and way of life against a growing level of financial risk. I urge you to continue adding low-cost bullion to your Hard Assets Alliance account.

Article originally posted in the February issue of Smart Metals Investor at HardAssetsAlliance.com.

Individual Solutions: Building Financial Resiliency

submitted by jwithrow.financial resiliency - individual solutions

Journal of a Wayward Philosopher
Individual Solutions: Building Financial Resiliency

February 12, 2015
Hot Springs, VA

The S&P opened at $2,071 today. Gold is down to $1,226 per ounce. Oil is floating around $49 per barrel. Bitcoin is hanging around $221 per BTC, and the 10-year Treasury rate opened at 2.03% today.

Ten central banks have cut interest rates so far in 2015. The list includes: Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, India, Egypt, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, and Turkey. Additionally, both the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank are actively buying sovereign debt… with counterfeited currency created from thin air. The Federal Reserve is taking a break from this exercise after nearly six years of creating currency to shop at the U.S. Treasury and go yard-saling on Wall Street. Of course the $4.5 trillion worth of sovereign debt and mortgage-backed securities still sits on the Fed’s balance sheet in the interim.

All of this economic intervention is a concerted effort to stave off a major credit contraction. The central bankers talk about hitting certain GDP and unemployment rate metrics but that is all part of their dog and pony show. If creating currency out of thin air could actually grow an economy and create jobs then we would already live in a utopian paradise. But that’s just not how the world works.

Try as they may to avoid it, the coming credit contraction is inevitable. You see, the global monetary system has been fraudulent for a little more than four decades now. Gold officially anchored the global monetary system for two centuries prior to 1971. Then, in 1971, President Nixon’s administration acted to break away from two hundred years of tradition and the U.S. ended direct convertibility of the dollar to gold. Of course the “Great Society” welfare programs and the Vietnam War had a lot to do with this decision.

“Your dollar will be worth just as much tomorrow as it is today,” Nixon proclaimed on television with a straight face. “The effect of this action, in other words, will be to stabilize the dollar.”

Of course the exact opposite happened: the U.S. dollar fell off a cliff. Anyone living during the 70’s can attest to this. What was the price of a new home back then? A new car? A hamburger? The difference between what those items cost in 1971 and what they cost today represents how far the U.S. dollar has fallen in purchasing power.

How did this happen?

Well, with all ties to gold removed governments and central banks discovered they could conjure currency into existence to pay for anything they wanted. Tanks, fighter jets, food stamps, Medicare part D, $800 trash cans… no problem! So they embarked upon this historic credit expansion armed with a magical monetary system that provided them with money for nothing.

But governments weren’t the only beneficiaries. The companies making the tanks and the bombs made out like bandits. So did all of the bureaucrats who were hired as government expanded. And the people receiving welfare benefits found the system quite palatable as well. Pretty soon smart people learned that the best business in the world was to sell something to the U.S. government because it had unlimited money to spend. So they descended upon K Street like buzzards on road-kill and pretty soon the suburbs surrounding D.C. claimed home to six of the wealthiest ten counties in the U.S.

The champagne has been flowing up on the Hill and in the lobbyist offices on K Street for four decades now thanks mostly to the fraudulent fiat monetary system in place since 1971. The establishment hails their elastic currency system as a major success but theirs is a self-serving and short term view. Credit has been constantly expanding since 1971 but do we really think this can go on forever? Can we continue to run up debt, print money to pay interest on that debt, and then buy all of the fighter jets, disability checks, politicians, and cheap junk from China without ever having to think twice about it? If not, what happens when the credit contracts and we can no longer afford all of these expenditures?

The Austrian School of Economics tells us what the result of this madness will be: a “crack-up boom” followed by a monstrous bust as all of the bad debt and malinvestments are finally liquidated.

The crack-up boom occurs as the prices of assets and real goods are driven up to the moon by enormous amounts of excess currency conjured into existence in an attempt to perpetuate the credit expansion. After all, that new currency has to go somewhere. This scheme will work to stave off the credit contraction… until it doesn’t. Then cometh the bust.

While Austrian Economics can make the diagnosis, the timing of the bust cannot be predicted. There are too many interconnected factors at play. What’s important is that there is still time to build financial resiliency in advance. The cornerstone of financial resiliency is knowledge and understanding. Understand fiat money is an illusion. Understand the difference between money and wealth. Study Austrian Economics to get a feel for what’s really going on in the economy.

Once you understand how the monetary system actually works you can formulate a customized asset allocation model based upon your personal circumstances.

A resilient asset allocation model will consist of cash (20-30%), precious metals (10-30%), real estate (30-60%), and strategic equities (10-15%).

At minimum you should carry enough cash to cover at least 6-12 months of expenses. Distressed assets will go on sale when then bust hits so any cash in excess of your reserve fund can be used to acquire these distressed assets (real estate, stocks, businesses, etc.) when they are cheap.

Your precious metals allocation should consist of physical gold and silver bullion stored at home or in a legal segregated account overseas. Never store precious metals in a domestic bank vault – Americans learned this the hard way back in the 30’s when the banks closed and FDR raided the vaults to confiscate gold. Remember, precious metals are insurance not speculation. The price of gold (and silver) will skyrocket in terms of fiat currency, but its purchasing power will remain relatively constant just as it has for thousands of years. Those who save in fiat currency will see their wealth evaporate as the credit contraction unfolds while those who hold precious metals will weather the storm. J.P Morgan testified before Congress in 1912: “Gold is money. Everything else is credit.” Don’t be fooled.

Real estate presents a unique opportunity currently as we are living during a period of historically low interest rates and lenders are willing to offer long term mortgages at these low rates. This provides a tremendous opportunity to lock in these low rates on real estate for thirty years during which time interest rates will inevitably rise significantly.

We firmly believe stocks should make up the smallest percentage of a resilient portfolio under current economic conditions. Stockholders have been the primary beneficiaries of the massive credit expansion and all of the easy-money chicanery over the past several years. Financial institutions have poured new money into the equities markets and publicly-traded companies have used a ton of excess cash to buy back shares of their own stock. As a result current stock valuations do not reflect the underlying health of the economy. Though stocks will run for a bit longer, we are closer to the end than the beginning of the bull cycle. We think the exception is in the resource and commodity sector, however. The stocks of well-managed companies in this sector could do extremely well over the next few years as the global financial system continues to falter.

Nobody can control macroeconomic conditions but we can each control our individual response to them. Building financial resiliency by constructing a diversified portfolio across several asset classes is an individual solution to a collective problem. Financial resiliency is just half of the picture, however. Tomorrow we will look at what we call home resiliency.

Until the morrow,

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Joe Withrow

Wayward Philosopher

For more of Joe’s thoughts on the “Great Reset” and the paradigm shift underway please read “The Individual is Rising” which is available at http://www.theindividualisrising.com/. The book is also available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

The Folly of the Fed’s Central Planning

by Ron Paul – Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:Ron Paul

Over the last 100 years the Fed has had many mandates and policy changes in its pursuit of becoming the chief central economic planner for the United States. Not only has it pursued this utopian dream of planning the US economy and financing every boondoggle conceivable in the welfare/warfare state, it has become the manipulator of the premier world reserve currency.

As Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke explained to me, the once profoundly successful world currency – gold – was no longer money. This meant that he believed, and the world has accepted, the fiat dollar as the most important currency of the world, and the US has the privilege and responsibility for managing it. He might even believe, along with his Fed colleagues, both past and present, that the fiat dollar will replace gold for millennia to come. I remain unconvinced.

At its inception the Fed got its marching orders: to become the ultimate lender of last resort to banks and business interests. And to do that it needed an “elastic” currency. The supporters of the new central bank in 1913 were well aware that commodity money did not “stretch” enough to satisfy the politician’s appetite for welfare and war spending. A printing press and computer, along with the removal of the gold standard, would eventually provide the tools for a worldwide fiat currency. We’ve been there since 1971 and the results are not good.

Many modifications of policy mandates occurred between 1913 and 1971, and the Fed continues today in a desperate effort to prevent the total unwinding and collapse of a monetary system built on sand. A storm is brewing and when it hits, it will reveal the fragility of the entire world financial system.

The Fed and its friends in the financial industry are frantically hoping their next mandate or strategy for managing the system will continue to bail them out of each new crisis.

The seeds were sown with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act in December 1913. The lender of last resort would target special beneficiaries with its ability to create unlimited credit. It was granted power to channel credit in a special way. Average citizens, struggling with a mortgage or a small business about to go under, were not the Fed’s concern. Commercial, agricultural, and industrial paper was to be bought when the Fed’s friends were in trouble and the economy needed to be propped up. At its inception the Fed was given no permission to buy speculative financial debt or U.S. Treasury debt.

It didn’t take long for Congress to amend the Federal Reserve Act to allow the purchase of US debt to finance World War I and subsequently all the many wars to follow. These changes eventually led to trillions of dollars being used in the current crisis to bail out banks and mortgage companies in over their heads with derivative speculations and worthless mortgage-backed securities.

It took a while to go from a gold standard in 1913 to the unbelievable paper bailouts that occurred during the crash of 2008 and 2009.

In 1979 the dual mandate was proposed by Congress to solve the problem of high inflation and high unemployment, which defied the conventional wisdom of the Phillips curve that supported the idea that inflation could be a trade-off for decreasing unemployment. The stagflation of the 1970s was an eye-opener for all the establishment and government economists. None of them had anticipated the serious financial and banking problems in the 1970s that concluded with very high interest rates.

That’s when the Congress instructed the Fed to follow a “dual mandate” to achieve, through monetary manipulation, a policy of “stable prices” and “maximum employment.” The goal was to have Congress wave a wand and presto the problem would be solved, without the Fed giving up power to create money out of thin air that allows it to guarantee a bailout for its Wall Street friends and the financial markets when needed.

The dual mandate was really a triple mandate. The Fed was also instructed to maintain “moderate long-term interest rates.” “Moderate” was not defined. I now have personally witnessed nominal interest rates as high as 21% and rates below 1%. Real interest rates today are actually below zero.

The dual, or the triple mandate, has only compounded the problems we face today. Temporary relief was achieved in the 1980s and confidence in the dollar was restored after Volcker raised interest rates up to 21%, but structural problems remained.

Nevertheless, the stock market crashed in 1987 and the Fed needed more help. President Reagan’s Executive Order 12631 created the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, also known as the Plunge Protection Team. This Executive Order gave more power to the Federal Reserve, Treasury, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission to come to the rescue of Wall Street if market declines got out of hand. Though their friends on Wall Street were bailed out in the 2000 and 2008 panics, this new power obviously did not create a sound economy. Secrecy was of the utmost importance to prevent the public from seeing just how this “mandate” operated and exactly who was benefiting.

Since 2008 real economic growth has not returned. From the viewpoint of the central economic planners, wages aren’t going up fast enough, which is like saying the currency is not being debased rapidly enough. That’s the same explanation they give for prices not rising fast enough as measured by the government-rigged Consumer Price Index. In essence it seems like they believe that making the cost of living go up for average people is a solution to the economic crisis. Rather bizarre!

The obsession now is to get price inflation up to at least a 2% level per year. The assumption is that if the Fed can get prices to rise, the economy will rebound. This too is monetary policy nonsense.

If the result of a congressional mandate placed on the Fed for moderate and stable interest rates results in interest rates ranging from 0% to 21%, then believing the Fed can achieve a healthy economy by getting consumer prices to increase by 2% per year is a pie-in-the-sky dream. Money managers CAN’T do it and if they could it would achieve nothing except compounding the errors that have been driving monetary policy for a hundred years.

A mandate for 2% price inflation is not only a goal for the central planners in the United States but for most central bankers worldwide.

It’s interesting to note that the idea of a 2% inflation rate was conceived 25 years ago in New Zealand to curtail double-digit price inflation. The claim was made that since conditions improved in New Zealand after they lowered their inflation rate to 2% that there was something magical about it. And from this they assumed that anything lower than 2% must be a detriment and the inflation rate must be raised. Of course, the only tool central bankers have to achieve this rate is to print money and hope it flows in the direction of raising the particular prices that the Fed wants to raise.

One problem is that although newly created money by central banks does inflate prices, the central planners can’t control which prices will increase or when it will happen. Instead of consumer prices rising, the price inflation may go into other areas, as determined by millions of individuals making their own choices. Today we can find very high prices for stocks, bonds, educational costs, medical care and food, yet the CPI stays under 2%.

The CPI, though the Fed currently wants it to be even higher, is misreported on the low side. The Fed’s real goal is to make sure there is no opposition to the money printing press they need to run at full speed to keep the financial markets afloat. This is for the purpose of propping up in particular stock prices, debt derivatives, and bonds in order to take care of their friends on Wall Street.

This “mandate” that the Fed follows, unlike others, is of their own creation. No questions are asked by the legislators, who are always in need of monetary inflation to paper over the debt run up by welfare/warfare spending. There will be a day when the obsession with the goal of zero interest rates and 2% price inflation will be laughed at by future economic historians. It will be seen as just as silly as John Law’s inflationary scheme in the 18th century for perpetual wealth for France by creating the Mississippi bubble – which ended in disaster. After a mere two years, 1719 to 1720, of runaway inflation Law was forced to leave France in disgrace. The current scenario will not be precisely the same as with this giant bubble but the consequences will very likely be much greater than that which occurred with the bursting of the Mississippi bubble.

The fiat dollar standard is worldwide and nothing similar to this has ever existed before. The Fed and all the world central banks now endorse the monetary principles that motivated John Law in his goal of a new paradigm for French prosperity. His thesis was simple: first increase paper notes in order to increase the money supply in circulation. This he claimed would revitalize the finances of the French government and the French economy. His theory was no more complicated than that.

This is exactly what the Federal Reserve has been attempting to do for the past six years. It has created $4 trillion of new money, and used it to buy government Treasury bills and $1.7 trillion of worthless home mortgages. Real growth and a high standard of living for a large majority of Americans have not occurred, whereas the Wall Street elite have done quite well. This has resulted in aggravating the persistent class warfare that has been going on for quite some time.

The Fed has failed at following its many mandates, whether legislatively directed or spontaneously decided upon by the Fed itself – like the 2% price inflation rate. But in addition, to compound the mischief caused by distorting the much-needed market rate of interest, the Fed is much more involved than just running the printing presses. It regulates and manages the inflation tax. The Fed was the chief architect of the bailouts in 2008. It facilitates the accumulation of government debt, whether it’s to finance wars or the welfare transfer programs directed at both rich and poor. The Fed provides a backstop for the speculative derivatives dealings of the banks considered too big to fail. Together with the FDIC’s insurance for bank accounts, these programs generate a huge moral hazard while the Fed obfuscates monetary and economic reality.

The Federal Reserve reports that it has over 300 PhD’s on its payroll. There are hundreds more in the Federal Reserve’s District Banks and many more associated scholars under contract at many universities. The exact cost to get all this wonderful advice is unknown. The Federal Reserve on its website assures the American public that these economists “represent an exceptional diverse range of interest in specific area of expertise.” Of course this is with the exception that gold is of no interest to them in their hundreds and thousands of papers written for the Fed.

This academic effort by subsidized learned professors ensures that our college graduates are well-indoctrinated in the ways of inflation and economic planning. As a consequence too, essentially all members of Congress have learned these same lessons.

Fed policy is a hodgepodge of monetary mismanagement and economic interference in the marketplace. Sadly, little effort is being made to seriously consider real monetary reform, which is what we need. That will only come after a major currency crisis.

I have quite frequently made the point about the error of central banks assuming that they know exactly what interest rates best serve the economy and at what rate price inflation should be. Currently the obsession with a 2% increase in the CPI per year and a zero rate of interest is rather silly.

In spite of all the mandates, flip-flopping on policy, and irrational regulatory exuberance, there’s an overwhelming fear that is shared by all central bankers, on which they dwell day and night. That is the dreaded possibility of DEFLATION.

A major problem is that of defining the terms commonly used. It’s hard to explain a policy dealing with deflation when Keynesians claim a falling average price level – something hard to measure – is deflation, when the Austrian free-market school describes deflation as a decrease in the money supply.

The hysterical fear of deflation is because deflation is equated with the 1930s Great Depression and all central banks now are doing everything conceivable to prevent that from happening again through massive monetary inflation. Though the money supply is rapidly rising and some prices like oil are falling, we are NOT experiencing deflation.

Under today’s conditions, fighting the deflation phantom only prevents the needed correction and liquidation from decades of an inflationary/mal-investment bubble economy.

It is true that even though there is lots of monetary inflation being generated, much of it is not going where the planners would like it to go. Economic growth is stagnant and lots of bubbles are being formed, like in stocks, student debt, oil drilling, and others. Our economic planners don’t realize it but they are having trouble with centrally controlling individual “human action.”

Real economic growth is being hindered by a rational and justified loss of confidence in planning business expansions. This is a consequence of the chaos caused by the Fed’s encouragement of over-taxation, excessive regulations, and diverting wealth away from domestic investments and instead using it in wealth-consuming and dangerous unnecessary wars overseas. Without the Fed monetizing debt, these excesses would not occur.

Lessons yet to be learned:

1. Increasing money and credit by the Fed is not the same as increasing wealth. It in fact does the opposite.

2. More government spending is not equivalent to increasing wealth.

3. Liquidation of debt and correction in wages, salaries, and consumer prices is not the monster that many fear.

4. Corrections, allowed to run their course, are beneficial and should not be prolonged by bailouts with massive monetary inflation.

5. The people spending their own money is far superior to the government spending it for them.

6. Propping up stock and bond prices, the current Fed goal, is not a road to economic recovery.

7. Though bailouts help the insiders and the elite 1%, they hinder the economic recovery.

8. Production and savings should be the source of capital needed for economic growth.

9. Monetary expansion can never substitute for savings but guarantees mal–investment.

10. Market rates of interest are required to provide for the economic calculation necessary for growth and reversing an economic downturn.

11. Wars provide no solution to a recession/depression. Wars only make a country poorer while war profiteers benefit.

12. Bits of paper with ink on them or computer entries are not money – gold is.

13. Higher consumer prices per se have nothing to do with a healthy economy.

14. Lower consumer prices should be expected in a healthy economy as we experienced with computers, TVs, and cell phones.

All this effort by thousands of planners in the Federal Reserve, Congress, and the bureaucracy to achieve a stable financial system and healthy economic growth has failed.

It must be the case that it has all been misdirected. And just maybe a free market and a limited government philosophy are the answers for sorting it all out without the economic planners setting interest and CPI rate increases.

A simpler solution to achieving a healthy economy would be to concentrate on providing a “SOUND DOLLAR” as the Founders of the country suggested. A gold dollar will always outperform a paper dollar in duration and economic performance while holding government growth in check. This is the only monetary system that protects liberty while enhancing the opportunity for peace and prosperity.

Article originally posted at The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

Nominal Income vs. Real Income

submitted by jwithrow.US Dollar Purchasing Power

Most of us understand that inflation is a given in our world today but not too many of us think about how inflation affects our income. We tend to think of our income in nominal terms rather than in real terms because we can explicitly see the nominal picture whereas we must do a little analysis in order to see the real picture.

Nominal income is our income defined only by its dollar amount. While this just seems like common sense, there is an inherent problem with this view given our current monetary system. You can start to see the flaw with the nominal view of income when you compare it over periods of time.

If our income was $48,000 last year and we make $50,000 this year then nominally our income is 4% higher this year and we are pretty happy about that.

But if we think of income in real terms then we may not be so happy. Real income is income defined by its purchasing power; basically it is nominal income adjusted for inflation.

So, using the same example from above, if the inflation rate (hypothetically) between this year and last was 5% then our income actually decreased by 1% in real terms. We can buy 1% less this year then we could last year. So we actually earned less money in terms of purchasing power this year even though our paychecks were nominally bigger.

What a sucker we are, right?

Simply put, real income measures purchasing power which becomes relevant when comparing the value of the dollar to goods and services. This is why the Austrian School of Economics views inflation as an insidious tax. If nominal income kept pace with the inflation rate then inflation would not be quite so deceptive. But certain types of income, namely wages and fixed income, very rarely keep up with the inflation rate.

Now, wages do tend to do a pretty good job of keeping up with the Consumer Price Index (CPI), but this index has been adjusted several times to heavily disregard food and fuel price increases. Coincidentally, Social Security promises periodic cost of living increases tied to the CPI – do you think that this has anything to do with the CPI calculation changes? If you measure inflation without discounting food and fuel prices (see Shadowstats.com) then it becomes very clear that wages typically do not keep up with inflation.

It is impossible to gauge our true personal financial situation without a solid understanding of real income.

This concept also exposes the retirement folly pushed by the financial services industry that suggests we all must reach a magic “number” in terms of dollars saved for retirement so that we can securely live off of the income generated by this number during our retirement years. If we think in terms of real income and purchasing power then it becomes impossible to pinpoint a specific number; that magic number is like the proverbial carrot on a string.

So, we would suggest that the only way to truly take control of our own financial destiny is to think in real terms and to recognize the nominal view of money for the illusion that it is.