Individual Solutions: Building Financial Resiliency

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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,







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 The book is also available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.


submitted by jwithrow.Fishing Boat

We have been hearing all about how most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and not saving any money as justification for the brilliant (*cough*) myRA government savings plans so we felt that it would be prudent to take a deeper look at what ‘saving’ is.

You see, we don’t think that saving is about money. Money is involved, but it is not the focus. Saving is really about storing our productive efforts.

It goes back to the days of barter…

Back then the fisherman would catch extra fish in the morning and take them to the market in the afternoon to trade his extra fish with the farmer for vegetables. His wife liked to have vegetables with her fish for supper so he had to trade for vegetables instead of the painted rock that he really liked.

The fisherman had learned that fish would start to smell bad the day after being caught so he had no choice but to trade all of his extra fish every afternoon and go fishing for more again every morning.

Until the fisherman discovered gold. Then the fisherman could trade his extra fish for gold and take the next day off. The fisherman didn’t really care about amassing gold; he just figured out that gold would let him store his production so he didn’t have to go fishing every single day to feed his family. And it turned out that three day old gold smelled much better than three day old fish – this was a bonus.

So saving was born!

Somewhere along the line we forgot this and started to think that saving was about amassing money. And on top of that we started to think that money was paper and not gold. We are so forgetful!

So when saving became about money and not about production we opened the door to debt. We started to think that instead of saving we could just borrow whatever money we needed. After all, the credit money still bought stuff just like the saved money except we didn’t have to wait to use it!

But then when we had to start using our entire paycheck to pay back all of the credit money we found out that we had to be even more productive now than before we went into debt. Our plan backfired.

We didn’t learn from our smart fisherman ancestor and now we had to go fishing both in the morning and in the afternoon to have enough fish for our supper and also enough to trade for vegetables so our wife won’t get mad and also enough to give to the banker to pay him back for the credit money that bought us the really neat painted rock.

Darn painted rocks.

Forget the Interest Rate – It’s the Quantity of Interest That Matters

submitted by jwithrow.Mastering Interest

Financial success is all about understanding and mastering interest. You see, there are only three choices when it comes to financial matters:

  • Pay interest
  • Receive interest
  • Forego interest

That’s it.

All you must do to get ahead financially is to arrange your financial affairs such that more interest is coming in than going out.

It is the quantity of interest that’s important. This concept is not often discussed so most folks focus exclusively on the rate of interest instead.

3.5% for a mortgage? This is a great rate!

2.87% for a vehicle loan? We’ll take two!

.05% on a savings account? Well, we suppose something is better than nothing.

So the average person pays interest for their house and their cars and they forego interest when they buy their groceries and pursue entertainment. The interest that they do receive is negligible in comparison because they offer whatever capital they have leftover after expenses for a pittance.

So what’s the common man to do?

CNBC will say that the stock market is the only way to go.

What they will not tell you is that the stock market is ripe with risk. Getting into the stock market requires you to give up control of your capital and place it 100% at risk. All the while you have the hedge fund high frequency trading machines and the Wall Street insiders chomping at the bit to take your capital from you.

These forces are focused on the stock market every minute of every day, not just during business hours.
If you have the same amount of time and energy as well as access to the same amount of information as the insiders then you may be able to play the stock market and come out ahead in real terms.

We think that it is much more likely that you will only come out ahead in nominal terms at best if you come out ahead at all.

We think it a far better strategy to capitalize an IBC policy and then focus on employing that capital to develop sustainable sources of income.

The IBC policy ensures that your capital is generating a little bit of interest no matter what happens and your employment of that capital can be used to significantly increase the amount of interest coming in.

After all, what good is a 3.5% mortgage if you are not generating at least 3.6% in interest income consistently?

You see, interest rates are not terribly important – it is mastering the control of interest in vs. interest out that is truly the name of the game.

Distinguishing Wealth from Money

submitted by jwithrow.Wealthy Life

At Zenconomics we feel like it is extremely important to differentiate wealth from money.  Pop culture and mainstream personal finance relentlessly tell us that the two are one in the same but they are mistaken.

The key to differentiating wealth from money is to understand the difference between exchange value and use value.  You already implicitly understand this difference but it is not immediately apparent in our culture today.

Money, by nature, holds an exchange value.  You can exchange money for goods and services and the quantity of goods and services for which you can exchange money is determined by the value of your money.  But this is all that money is good for – serving as a medium of exchange.

Wealth, on the other hand, holds both exchange value and use value.

You can exchange wealth for goods and services and the quantity of goods and services for which you can exchange wealth is determined by the accepted value of your wealth.  Wealth in most forms, however, is not as easily exchanged for goods and services and this is precisely why money plays a vital role in a developed economy.

Unlike money, wealth also holds a use value.  You can ‘use’ wealth in some capacity. Take real estate for example.

If you own residential real estate then you can either live in the home or you can rent the home out to a tenant to generate income.  These actions both utilize use value.  Of course, you can also sell real estate for money which utilizes exchange value.

Maybe your real estate consists of farm land which could be used to produce food.  Now your real estate, which is wealth if owned outright, can be utilized to produce additional wealth in the form of food.  Now your food has both an exchange value and a use value.  You can take your fruits and vegetables down to the farmers market and exchange them for money if you want to utilize the exchange value.  Or you can eat your fruits and vegetables if you want to utilize their use value.

It is important to point out that an asset must be owned free and clear of an attached debt in order for it to be considered personal wealth.

If you own a home with a big mortgage on it then you are one financial emergency away from losing the home and thus the case could be made that you do not truly own the home yet.  This is not to say that taking out a mortgage to buy a property is a bad idea, but be cognizant of the fact that you will need to satisfy the mortgage before the property can truly be considered wealth.

It is also important to point out that some forms of wealth may hold better exchange value than others.  A classic car collection may be extremely valuable to the owner but it may be difficult to find a willing buyer if the owner wished to exchange the collection for money in the future.

To reiterate, money is not wealth.

In fact, the only reason to hold money is to use it to purchase desired goods and services.  There is no other use for money.

And if you want to maximize your own wealth, you must wisely use money as a tool to acquire wealth.

**For more of Joe’s thoughts on the “Great Reset” and personalized asset allocation please read “The Individual is Rising: 2nd edition” which will be available later this year. Please sign up for the notifications mailing list at

The Stock Market Deception

submitted by jwithrow.GW Paper Money

The stock market is comprised of numerous exchanges through which buyers and sellers can trade securities. The New York Stock Exchange is the world’s largest stock exchange followed by the NASDAQ. The Tokyo Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange are third and fourth in terms of market capitalization.

As we mentioned, the exchanges enable buyers and sellers to trade securities with one another.

We repeat this statement to emphasize the next one:

The exchanges are not where businesses raise capital unless an initial public offering (IPO) is taking place.

We think it is important to recognize this fact.

The vast majority of trades on a stock exchange are simply speculative – there is very little productive activity taking place. Even IPOs are usually not terribly productive as the intent is often not to raise capital for business operation but rather to enrich the owners and private investors.

So if most trades are just speculation then why do we view the stock market as a gauge of economic health? Why do we assume that the underlying economy is good when stock prices go up?

We do not assume that the economy is good when corn or oil prices go up. But corn and oil contracts are also traded on futures exchanges and there are speculators who profit when their price rises.

Conversely, why do we assume that the underlying economy is bad when stock prices go down?

Nothing real is destroyed when stock prices fall. Buildings don’t collapse. Equipment doesn’t break. Goods don’t go up in smoke. Engineers don’t lose their knowledge.

Maybe there was a time when stock prices somewhat reflected the financial health of individual companies, but those days are long gone. With mark to unicorn accounting, leveraged stock buy-backs, and all other manner of financial wizardry, CEO’s can and do manipulate stock prices regularly.

Additionally, the Federal Reserve has spent the past three decades ensuring that liquidity flows directly into the stock market so that equity prices continuously rise in unison over time.

The point is that there is a huge disconnect between the stock market and the productive sector that mainstream finance pays no attention to. In fact, mainstream finance has convinced most people that speculating in the stock market is the _only_ way to invest for retirement.

There may be a place for stocks within your asset allocation model, but it is important to recognize the stock market deception for what it is and understand the game you are playing if you do delve into the market. I would highly recommend enlisting the services of independent financial analysts if you do allocate some of your capital to the financial markets.

As we have touched on in a number of other essays here at Zenconomics, financial planning should be comprehensive and diversified according to your own unique circumstances. Simply amassing paper equities denominated in fiat currency is a very fragile plan.

As Nelson Nash says: “If you know what’s going on, you’ll know what to do.”

Be wary of the stock market deception and plan accordingly.

**Want more information on how to build a sustainable financial plan? Are you ready to turbo-charge your retirement portfolio? Do you yearn to exit the rat-race? Is financial freedom calling to your spirit?

Do not take a backseat when it comes to your own finances. Learn everything you need to know to master your finances in 30 days by enrolling in Finance for Freedom today!

Steps to Self-Sufficiency

submitted by jwithrow.Finance-for-Self-Sufficiency

This list is certainly not comprehensive but it is our hope that it serves as food for thought.

1. Become money-conscious

Before you can begin to create self-sufficiency and build wealth, you must become money-conscious. Wealth does not come to those who are careless or lazy and it does not come overnight with a stroke of luck. You must begin to recognize that nearly everything that you do has an impact on your self-sufficiency and accumulation of wealth. You must begin to recognize the rules of the universe as it relates to money. And you must begin to take action immediately. Begin to track your expenses tirelessly and eliminate unnecessary spending where possible. This does not require you to become “cheap” but it does require frugality. Once you become money-conscious you will identify ways to reduce your expenses and you will free up additional income to use towards the attainment of self-sufficiency.

2. Consider contributing to a 401(k) if your employer matches your contribution

After assessing your income and expenses and getting your financial house in order, consider contributing to a 401(k) up to the employer match percentage each month. It is important to review the vesting requirements (time of employment required before you can cash out the matching contributions) and determine whether or not you will be at this company for that length of time before deciding to contribute to the plan. The employer match will serve to multiply your deferred savings and your 401(k) contribution will reduce your taxable income. We would not recommend contributing any more than the employer match rate as 401(k) plans are very limited and the rest of your income would better serve you elsewhere. Be aware of the fact that you will have to pay a 10% penalty to the IRS if you cash out the 401(k) prior to retirement but the tax shelter provided will serve to offset some of this penalty. With that said, we would suggest that a 401(k) plan is not a very strong part of a retirement plan and that the funds accumulated would probably better serve you as capital to be deployed once you have developed a more specific investment plan. The 401(k) will allow you to automatically put aside a very small amount of income for use once you are farther along on your road to financial freedom. This vehicle may not be suitable for everyone, but it may be useful if you are still working on creating a sound investment or business plan.

3. Develop a plan to eliminate all consumer debt

You must eliminate all consumer debt before you can effectively begin to build wealth and your first target should be credit card debt. The interest rate on your credit card, in all likelihood, will far outweigh any return on investment that you could consistently generate with your money. So develop a plan to pay all credit card debt off as soon as possible. The most effective way to do this is to determine exactly what dollar amount you can afford to pay towards your credit card debt with each paycheck, and to pay that amount immediately as soon as your paycheck is received. Do not leave yourself short on other bills but make sure that you are paying a sizeable chunk of debt down each month at the same time. If you have multiple credit cards then you should pay the card with the highest interest rate off first. Once all credit card debt is eliminated, move on to the next highest interest rate obligation that you have. The one exception to paying down the highest interest rate debt first is if you have a smaller obligation that could be paid off very quickly in order to free up additional cash flow that could then be directed towards the higher interest debt. While eliminating consumer debt may seem like a long and slow process, be patient and persistent. Imagine a world in which you have no consumer debt to pay and imagine how much extra money you will have at your disposal once you are free of consumer debt.

4. Develop a plan to eliminate or reduce mortgage debt

This step could possibly be interchanged with the next steps depending on your situation but the idea is to either eliminate or reduce your monthly mortgage debt significantly now that you have additional free cash flow from eliminating consumer debt. While the many possibilities cannot be described in this article due to the variety and complexity of mortgage types, we do discuss mortgages in more detail here. Broadly speaking, assess your mortgage and determine if an action can be taken to enhance your financial situation (reducing the LTV, refinancing, etc).

5. Build a six month cash reserve

If you have not already built a cash reserve then now is the time to do so (if you have dependents then you may want to consider making this step two). A cash reserve should be extremely liquid so that you have access to the money in a timely manner in case of emergency. A standard checking account would serve this purpose. Interest bearing savings or money market accounts are acceptable choices although you can rest assured that the interest paid on these accounts will be negligible. Cash under the pillow is another option. Gold or silver bullion could be a wise choice but you will probably want to have direct and immediate access to some cash. While six months is a good benchmark, you could consider building a one year cash reserve as well. Just make sure that you are prepared to sustain yourself and meet obligations in case of an emergency.

6. Set up an IBC whole life insurance policy

If you are unfamiliar with the IBC (Infinite Banking Concept) strategy then this step will require some research before you are comfortable with the idea. Now, do not be put off by seeing this recommendation for ‘life insurance’ – learning about an IBC policy will completely shatter your preconceived notions about what life insurance can do. The reason you have not heard about this type of policy before is because Wall Street would go out of business very quickly if the masses learned and implemented this financial strategy. An IBC policy is about building an ever-growing pool of capital in a way that is advantageous in both the tax and liability realms. The IBC strategy is not about death benefits and it is not about rates of return – these are just bonuses.

When structured properly, IBC policies allow you to funnel income into the policy rather than a bank account. Unlike your bank account, your life insurance cash value is secure from creditors, bail-ins, and bank runs. The cash value also generates a small rate of return without sacrificing liquidity – you can access your cash value tax free at any time for any reason. The implementation of this strategy does require a long-term commitment because it will take on average 8-10 years before an IBC policy ‘breaks even’ internally (cash value equals premium outlay).

Please feel free to email us if you would like more information on this concept.

7. Build diversified income streams in fields that interest you

At this point you have done your due diligence and are in a financial position that will allow you to work on pursuing income in ways that are enjoyable to you. If you are already engaged in work that is satisfying and meaningful to you then this step may not be relevant to you. But if you are like most of us who simply tolerate or maybe despise our job then now is the time to make changes. And even if you are content in your current profession it may be wise to build side businesses as economic conditions are tentative at best at this juncture in time.

Start by deciding what it is that you would like to do with your time and then develop a plan to generate income from your chosen field. While this is an embarrassingly simplistic statement, it is entirely possible to generate income from any good or service for which there is a market. Build a big business. Build several small businesses. Buy rental properties. Become a freelancer in your areas of expertise. Whatever your plan is, the important thing is to engage in work that is enjoyable and meaningful to you – income is useless if it comes with the sacrifice of happiness.

8. Convert income into real assets

Once you have developed a source or sources of stable income then it is time to convert this income into real assets. The most widely accepted choices would be gold and silver bullion, real estate, and/or farm land but you are not limited to these. Real assets could also be things that increase your household’s self sustainability such as alternative energy sources or a family garden. You could also choose more speculative items such as art work or a wine collection but these assets would be much less liquid and thus much more risky (well, the wine would be liquid but in a different kind of way). If you venture into the realm of these speculative investments then make sure that you have a portfolio consisting of the more widely accepted assets as well.


Note that we wittingly omitted any mention of investing in paper equities (stocks, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, bonds). The first reason for this is that the financial services industry has sold this type of investment as the only one suitable for retirement which is a lie. There may be a place for this type of investment within your portfolio but it will require much diligence and should serve only as one asset class amongst several within your portfolio. Holding a mixture of stocks across different industries is said by the experts to be the key to diversifying your portfolio. We would suggest that holding a mixture of stocks, real estate, gold and silver bullion, etc. would be the key to a diversified portfolio and that holding only paper equities would be terribly risky. So if you do choose to include equity investments in your portfolio please make sure that you do your research and that you also diversify amongst other, more tangible asset classes as well.

Think of real assets as a ‘backing’ to the cash value of your IBC whole life insurance policy that we discussed in step 6. By building a significant pool of capital (IBC policy) and solidifying it with real assets you are doing exactly what the elite central banks do – except without resorting to fraud. The central banks, Wall Street, and the power elite in general have done a wonderful job of convincing the masses that the key to success is to accumulate exclusively stocks and bonds. And this is true. But what they did not disclose to the masses is that such a strategy is key to the success of the central banks, Wall Street, and the power elite, not the masses themselves.

We hope that this brief article serves as a guide towards maximizing your personal liberty, resiliency, and self-sufficiency.

Always remember that happiness, fulfillment, and calmness of mind and spirit are the most precious of commodities and be mindful not to lose sight of these ideals on the road to building wealth and obtaining self-sufficiency. Also, never be afraid to follow your heart and stand on your principles; this life is but a journey in search of experience and wisdom, and that journey is best undertaken to the beat of one’s own drum.