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Are you Prepared?

69 Percent Of Americans Do Not Have An Adequate Emergency Fund June 20, 2017

Do you have an emergency fund?  If you even have one penny in emergency savings, you are already ahead of about one-fourth of the country.  I write about this stuff all the time, but it always astounds me how many Americans are literally living on the edge financially.  Back in 2008 when the economy tanked and millions of people lost their jobs, large numbers of Americans suddenly couldn’t pay their bills because they were living paycheck to paycheck.  Now the stage is set for it to happen again.  Another major recession is going to happen at some point, and when it does millions of people are going to get blindsided by it.

Despite all of our emphasis on education, we never seem to teach our young people how to handle money.  But this is one of the most basic skills that everyone needs.  Personally, I went through high school, college and law school without ever being taught about the dangers of going into debt or the importance of saving money.

If you are ever going to build any wealth, you have got to spend less than you earn.  That is just basic common sense.  Unfortunately, nearly one out of every four Americans does not have even a single penny in emergency savings…

Bankrate’s newly released June Financial Security Index survey indicates that 24 percent of Americans have not saved any money at all for their emergency funds.

This is despite experts recommending that people strive for a savings cushion equivalent to the amount needed to cover three to six months’ worth of expenses.

For years, I have been telling my readers that at a minimum they need to have an emergency fund that can cover at least six months of expenses.  It is great to have more than that, but everyone should strive to have at least a six month cushion.

Unfortunately, that same Bankrate survey found that only 31 percent of Americans actually have such a cushion

The June survey also found that 31 percent of Americans have what Bankrate considers an ‘adequate’ savings cushion — six or more months’ worth of money to pay expenses — which means that nearly two-thirds of the country isn’t saving enough money.

That means that a whopping 69 percent of all Americans do not have an adequate emergency fund.

So what is going to happen if another great crisis arrives and millions of people suddenly lose their jobs?

Just like last time, mortgage defaults will start soaring and countless numbers of families will lose their homes.

If you do not have anything to fall back on, you can lose your spot in the middle class really fast.  And in the case of a truly catastrophic national crisis, trying to operate without any money at all is going to be exceedingly challenging.

Just recently, the Federal Reserve conducted a survey that discovered that 44 percent of all Americans do not even have enough money “to cover an unexpected $400 expense”.

That is almost half the country.

And a different survey by CareerBuilder found that 75 percent of all Americans have lived paycheck to paycheck “at least some of the time”.

Unfortunately, in a desperate attempt to make ends meet many of us continue to pile up more and more debt.  According to Moneyish, Americans have now accumulated more than a trillion dollars of credit card debt, more than a trillion dollars of student loan debt, and more than a trillion dollars of auto loan debt.

We’ve racked up $1 trillion in credit card debt — and that’s just a fraction of what we owe. That’s according to data released this year from the Federal Reserve, which found that U.S. consumers owe $1.0004 trillion on their cards, up 6.2% from a year ago; this is the highest amount owed since January 2009. What’s more, this isn’t the only consumer debt to top $1 trillion. We now also owe more than $1 trillion for our cars, and for our student loans, the data showed.

Overall, U.S. consumers are now more than 12 trillion dollars in debt.

We often criticize the federal government for being nearly 20 trillion dollars in debt.  And that criticism is definitely valid.  What we are doing to future generations of Americans is beyond criminal.

But are we not doing something similar to ourselves?

When you divide the total amount of consumer debt by the size of the U.S. population, it breaks down to roughly $40,000 for every man, woman and child in our country.

When someone lends you money, you have to pay back more than you originally borrow.  And in the case of high interest debt, you can end up paying back several times what you originally borrowed.

If you carry a balance from month to month on a high interest credit card, it is absolutely crippling you financially.  But many Americans don’t understand this.  Instead, they just keep sending off the “minimum payment” every month because that is the easiest thing to do.

If you ever want to achieve financial freedom, you have got to get rid of your toxic debts.  There are some forms of low interest debt, such as mortgage debt, that are not going to financially cripple you.  But anything with a high rate of interest you will want to pay off as soon as possible.

And everyone needs a financial cushion.  Unless you can guarantee that your life is always going to go super smoothly and you are never going to have any problems, you need an emergency fund to fall back on.

Yes, you may need to make some sacrifices in order to make that happen.  Nobody ever said that it would be easy.  But just about everyone has somewhere that a little “belt tightening” can be done, and in the long-term it will be worth it.

When you don’t have to constantly worry about how you are going to pay the bills next month, it will help you sleep a lot easier at night.  Many of us have put a lot of unnecessary stress on ourselves by spending money that we didn’t have for things that we really didn’t need.

And now is the time to get your financial house in order, because it appears that another major economic downturn is not too far away.

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The Tens Of Millions Of Forgotten Americans That The U.S. Economy Has Left Behind May 21, 2017

The evidence that the middle class in America is dying continues to mount.  As you will see below, nearly half the country would be unable “to cover an unexpected $400 expense”, and about two-thirds of the population lives paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time.  Of course the economy has not been doing that well overall in recent years.  Barack Obama was the only president in all of U.S. history not to have a single year when the economy grew by at least 3 percent, and U.S. GDP growth during the first quarter of 2017 was an anemic 0.7 percent.  During the Obama era, it is true that wealthy enclaves in New York, northern California and Washington D.C. did thrive, but meanwhile most of the rest of the country has been left behind.

Today, there are approximately 205 million working age Americans, and close to half of them have no financial cushion whatsoever.  In fact, a new survey conducted by the Federal Reserve has found that 44 percent of Americans do not even have enough money “to cover an unexpected $400 expense”

Nearly eight years into an economic recovery, nearly half of Americans didn’t have enough cash available to cover a $400 emergency. Specifically, the survey found that, in line with what the Fed had disclosed in previous years, 44% of respondents said they wouldn’t be able to cover an unexpected $400 expense like a car repair or medical bill, or would have to borrow money or sell something to meet it.

Not only that, the same survey discovered that 23 percent of U.S. adults will not be able to pay their bills this month

Just as concerning were other findings from the study: just under one-fourth of adults, or 23%, are not able to pay all of their current month’s bills in full while 25% reported skipping medical treatments due to cost in the prior year. Additionally, 28% of adults who haven’t retired yet reported to being grossly unprepared, indicating they had no retirement savings or pension whatsoever.

But just because you can pay your bills does not mean that you are doing well.  Tens of millions of Americans barely scrape by from paycheck to paycheck each and every month.

In fact, a survey by CareerBuilder discovered that 75 percent of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck at least some of the time…

Three-quarters of Americans (75 percent) are living paycheck-to-paycheck to make ends meet, according to a survey from CareerBuilder. Thirty-eight percent of employees said they sometimes live paycheck-to-paycheck, 15 percent said they usually do and 23 percent said they always do. While making ends meet is a struggle for many post-recession, those with minimum wage jobs continue to be hit the hardest. Of workers who currently have a minimum wage job or have held one in the past, 66 percent said they couldn’t make ends meet and 50 percent said they had to work more than one job to make it work.

So please don’t be fooled into thinking that the U.S. economy is doing well because the stock market has been hitting new record highs.

The stock market was soaring just before the financial crisis of 2008 too, and we remember how that turned out.

The truth is that the long-term trends that have been eating away at the foundations of the U.S. economy continue to accelerate, and the real economy is in substantially worse shape this year than it was last year.

Just about everywhere you look, businesses are struggling and stores are shutting down.  Yes, there are a few wealthy enclaves where everything seems wonderful for the moment, but for most of the country it seems like the last recession never ended.

In a desperate attempt to stay afloat, a lot of families have been turning to debt to make ends meet.  U.S. household debt has just hit a brand new all-time record high of 12.7 trillion dollars, but we are starting to see an alarming rise in auto loan defaults and consumer bankruptcies.  This is precisely what we would expect to see if the U.S. economy was moving into another major recession.

In fact, we are seeing all sorts of signs that point to a major economic slowdown right now.  Just check out the following from Wolf Richter’s latest article

Over the past five decades, each time commercial and industrial loan balances at US banks shrank or stalled as companies cut back or as banks tightened their lending standards in reaction to the economy they found themselves in, a recession was either already in progress or would start soon. There has been no exception since the 1960s. Last time this happened was during the Financial Crisis.

Now it’s happening again – with a 1990/91 recession twist.

Commercial and industrial loans outstanding fell to $2.095 trillion on May 10, according to the Fed’s Board of Governors weekly report on Friday. That’s down 4.5% from the peak on November 16, 2016. It’s below the level of outstanding C&I loans on October 19. And it marks the 30th week in a row of no growth in C&I loans.

Perhaps we will be very fortunate and break this pattern that has held up all the way back to the 1960s.

But I wouldn’t count on it.  Here is what Zero Hedge has to say about this alarming contraction in commercial and industrial loans…

Here’s the bottom line: unless there is a sharp rebound in loan growth in the next 3-6 months – whether due to greater demand or easier supply – this most accurate of leading economic indicators guarantees that a recession is now inevitable.

We are way overdue for a recession, the hard economic numbers are screaming that one is coming, and the financial markets are absolutely primed for a major crash.

As Americans, we tend to have such short memories.  Every time a new financial bubble starts forming, a lot of people out there start behaving as if it can last indefinitely.

But of course no financial bubble is going to last forever.  They all burst eventually, and now the biggest one in U.S. history is about to end in spectacular fashion.

Trump will get a lot of the blame since he is the current occupant of the White House, but the truth is that the conditions for the next crisis have been building up for many years, and the horrors that the U.S. economy is heading for were entirely predictable.

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U.S. Auto Sales Plunge Dramatically As The Consumer Debt Bubble Continues To Collapse May 2, 2017

One sector of the economy that is acting as if we were already in the middle of a horrible recession is the auto industry.  We just got sales figures for the month of April, and every single major U.S. auto manufacturer missed their sales projections.  And compared to one year ago, sales were way down across the entire industry.  When you add this latest news to all of the other signals that the U.S. economy is slowly down substantially, a very disturbing picture begins to emerge.  Either the U.S. economy is steamrolling toward a major slowdown, or this is one heck of a head fake.

One analyst that has been waiting for auto sales to start declining is Graham Summers.  According to Summers, the boom in auto sales that we witnessed in previous years was largely fueled by subprime lending, and now that subprime auto loan bubble is starting to burst

Auto-loan generation has gone absolutely vertical since 2009, rising an incredible 56% in seven years. Even more incredibly roughly 1/3 of this ~$450 billion in new loans are subprime AKA garbage.

In the simplest of terms, this is Subprime 2.0… the tip of the $199 TRILLION debt iceberg, just as subprime mortgages were for the Housing Bubble.

I’ve been watching this industry for months now, waiting for the signal that it’s ready to explode.

That signal just hit.

The signal that Summers is referring to is a persistent decline in U.S. auto sales.  It would be easy to dismiss one bad month, but U.S. auto sales have been falling for a number of months now, and the sales figures for April were absolutely dismal.  Just check out how much sales declined in April compared to one year ago for the biggest auto manufacturers

General Motors: -5.8 percent

Ford: -7.1 percent

Fiat Chrysler: -7.0 percent

Toyota: -4.4 percent

Honda: -7.0 percent

For auto manufacturers, those are truly frightening numbers, and nobody is really projecting that they will get better any time soon.

At the same time, unsold vehicles continue to pile up on dealer lots at a staggering pace

Meanwhile, inventory days are still trending higher as OEMs continue to push product on to dealer lots even though sale through to end customers has seemingly stalled.

GM, one of the few OEMs to actually disclose dealer inventories in monthly sales releases, reported that April inventories increased to 100 days (935,758 vehicles) from 98 days at the end of March and just 71 days (681,402 vehicles) in April 2016.

So why is this happening?

Of course there are a lot of factors, but one of the main reasons for this crisis is the fact that U.S. consumers are already drowning in debt and are simply tapped out

Now, a new survey from Northwestern Mutual helps to shed some light on why Americans are completely incapable of saving money.

First, roughly 50% of Americans have debt balances, excluding mortgages mind you, of over $25,000, with the average person owing over $37,000, versus a median personal income of just over $30,000.

Therefore, it’s not difficult to believe, as Northwestern Mutual points out, that 45% of Americans spend up to half of their monthly take home pay on debt service alone.…which, again, excludes mortgage debt.

When you are already up to your eyeballs in debt, it is hard just to make payments on that debt.  So for many American families a new car is simply out of the question.

And it isn’t just the U.S. auto industry that is in trouble.  The credit card industry is also starting to show signs of distress

Synchrony Financial – GE’s spin-off that issues credit cards for Walmart and Amazon – disclosed on Friday that, despite assurances to the contrary just three months ago, net charge-off would rise to at least 5% this year. Its shares plunged 16% and are down 27% year-to-date.

Credit-card specialist Capital One disclosed in its Q1 earnings report last week that provisions for credit losses rose to $2 billion, with net charge-offs jumping 28% year-over-year to $1.5 billion.

If you didn’t understand all of that, what is essentially being said is that credit card companies are starting to have to set aside more money for bad credit card debts.

Previously I have reported that consumer bankruptcies and commercial bankruptcies are both rising at the fastest rate that we have seen since the last recession.  This trend is starting to spook lenders, and so many of them are starting to pull back on various forms of lending.  For example, Bloomberg is reporting that lending by regional U.S. banks was down significantly during the first quarter of 2017…

Total loans at the 15 largest U.S. regional banks declined by about $10 billion to $1.73 trillion in the first quarter, compared with the previous three-month period, the first such drop in four years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. All but two of those banks missed analysts’ estimates for total loans, as a slump in commercial and industrial lending sapped growth.

This is how a credit crunch begins.  When the flow of credit starts restricting, that slows down economic activity, and in turn that usually results in even more credit defaults.  Of course that just causes lending to get even tighter, and pretty soon you have a spiral that is hard to stop.

Just about everywhere you look, there are early warning signs of a new economic downturn.  And just like we saw prior to the great crash of 2008, those that are wise are getting prepared for what is coming ahead of time.  Unfortunately, most people usually end up getting blindsided by economic downturns because they believe the mainstream media when they insist that everything is going to be just fine.

Thankfully, there are at least a few people that are telling the truth, and one of them is Marc Faber.  Just a few days ago, he told CNBC that the U.S. economy is “terminally ill”…

“Dr. Doom” Marc Faber says the U.S. economy is “terminally ill,” and the current outlook doesn’t seem to be improving.

“The U.S. has run a deficit for [so long],” he said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.” “The conditions today are more fragile than they were ever before, and unless somebody comes and introduces minus 5 percent interest rates, I think the economy is really not in such a great shape.”

“I’m actually amazed that people are so optimistic,” the editor and publisher of the “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report” added.

I have to agree with Faber on this point.

We are more primed for a major economic downturn and a horrifying stock market crash than we were back in 2008.

It isn’t going to take much to push us over the edge, and with our world becoming more unstable with each passing month, it appears that our day of reckoning is likely to come sooner rather than later.

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