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$21,714 For Every Man, Woman And Child In The World – This Global Debt Bomb Is Ready To Explode March 12, 2017

Debt Bomb Globe - Public DomainAccording to the International Monetary Fund, global debt has grown to a staggering grand total of 152 trillion dollars.  Other estimates put that figure closer to 200 trillion dollars, but for the purposes of this article let’s use the more conservative number.  If you take 152 trillion dollars and divide it by the seven billion people living on the planet, you get $21,714, which would be the share of that debt for every man, woman and child in the world if it was divided up equally.

So if you have a family of four, your family’s share of the global debt load would be $86,856.

Very few families could write a check for that amount today, and we also must remember that we live in some of the wealthiest areas on the globe.  Considering the fact that more than 3 billion people around the world live on two dollars a day or less, the truth is that about half the planet would not be capable of contributing toward the repayment of our 152 trillion dollar debt at all.  So they should probably be excluded from these calculations entirely, and that would mean that your family’s share of the debt would ultimately be far, far higher.

Of course global debt repayment will never actually be apportioned by family.  The reason why I am sharing this example is to show you that it is literally impossible for all of this debt to ever be repaid.

We are living during the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and our financial engineers have got to keep figuring out ways to keep it growing much faster than global GDP because if it ever stops growing it will burst and destroy the entire global financial system.

Bill Gross, one of the most highly respected financial minds on the entire planet, recently observed that “our highly levered financial system is like a truckload of nitro glycerin on a bumpy road”.

And he is precisely correct.  Everything might seem fine for a while, but one day we are going to hit the wrong bump at the wrong time and the whole thing is going to go KA-BOOM.

The financial crisis of 2008 represented an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, but instead we just papered over our errors and cranked up the global debt creation machine to levels never seen before.  Here is more from Bill Gross

My lesson continued but the crux of it was that in 2017, the global economy has created more credit relative to GDP than that at the beginning of 2008’s disaster. In the U.S., credit of $65 trillion is roughly 350% of annual GDP and the ratio is rising. In China, the ratio has more than doubled in the past decade to nearly 300%. Since 2007, China has added $24 trillion worth of debt to its collective balance sheet. Over the same period, the U.S. and Europe only added $12 trillion each. Capitalism, with its adopted fractional reserve banking system, depends on credit expansion and the printing of additional reserves by central banks, which in turn are re-lent by private banks to create pizza stores, cell phones and a myriad of other products and business enterprises. But the credit creation has limits and the cost of credit (interest rates) must be carefully monitored so that borrowers (think subprime) can pay back the monthly servicing costs. If rates are too high (and credit as a % of GDP too high as well), then potential Lehman black swans can occur. On the other hand, if rates are too low (and credit as a % of GDP declines), then the system breaks down, as savers, pension funds and insurance companies become unable to earn a rate of return high enough to match and service their liabilities.

There is always a price to be paid for going into debt.  It mystifies me that so many Americans seem to not understand this very basic principle.

On an individual level, you could live like a Trump (at least for a while) by getting a whole bunch of credit cards and maxing all of them out.

But eventually a day of reckoning would come.

The same thing happens on a national level.  In recent years we have seen examples in Greece, Cyprus, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and various other European nations.

Here in the United States, more than 9 trillion dollars was added to the national debt during the Obama years.  If we had not taken more than 9 trillion dollars of consumption and brought it into the present, we would most assuredly be in the midst of an epic economic depression right now.

Instead of taking our pain in the short-term, we have sold future generations of Americans as debt slaves, and if they get the chance someday they will look back and curse us for what we have done to them.

Many believe that Donald Trump can make short-term economic conditions even better than Obama did, but how in the world is he going to do that?

Is he going to borrow another 9 trillion dollars?

A big test is coming up.  A while back, Barack Obama and the Republican Congress colluded to suspend the debt ceiling until March 15th, 2017, and this week we are going to hit that deadline.

The U.S. Treasury will be able to implement “emergency measures” for a while, but if the debt ceiling is not raised the U.S. government will not be able to borrow more money and will run out of cash very quickly.  The following comes from David Stockman

The Treasury will likely be out of cash shortly after Memorial Day. That is, the White House will be in the mother of all debt ceiling battles before the Donald and his team even see it coming.

With just $66 billion on hand it is now going to run out of cash before even the bloody battle over Obamacare Lite now underway in the House has been completed. That means that there will not be even a glimmer of hope for the vaunted Trump tax cut stimulus and economic rebound on the horizon.

Trump is going to find it quite challenging to find the votes to raise the debt ceiling.  After everything that has happened, very few Democrats are willing to help Trump with anything, and many Republicans are absolutely against raising the debt ceiling without major spending cut concessions.

So we shall see what happens.

If the debt ceiling is not raised, it will almost certainly mean that a major political crisis and a severe economic downturn are imminent.

But if the debt ceiling is raised, it will mean that Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress are willingly complicit in the destruction of this country’s long-term economic future.

When you go into debt there are consequences.

And when the greatest debt bubble in human history finally bursts, the consequences will be exceedingly severe.

The best that our leaders can do for now is to keep the bubble alive for as long as possible, because what comes after the bubble is gone will be absolutely unthinkable.

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Debt Apocalypse Beckons As U.S. Consumer Bankruptcies Do Something They Haven’t Done In Almost 7 Years February 5, 2017

Bankrupt - Public DomainWhen debt grows much faster than GDP for an extended period of time, it is inevitable that a good portion of that debt will start to go bad at some point.  We witnessed a perfect example of this in 2008, and now it is starting to happen again.  Commercial bankruptcies have been rising on a year-over-year basis since late 2015, and this is something that I have written about previously, but now consumer bankruptcies are also increasing.  In fact, we have just witnessed U.S. consumer bankruptcies do something that they haven’t done in nearly 7 years.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

US bankruptcy filings by consumers rose 5.4% in January, compared to January last year, to 52,421 according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. In December, they’d already risen 4.5% from a year earlier. This was the first time that consumer bankruptcies increased back-to-back since 2010.

However, business bankruptcies began to surge in November 2015 and continued surging on a year-over-year basis in 2016, to reach a full-year total of 37,823 filings, up 26% from the prior year and the highest since 2014.

Of course consumer bankruptcies are still much lower than they were during the last financial crisis, but what this could mean is that we have reached a turning point.

For years, the Federal Reserve has been encouraging reckless borrowing and spending by pushing interest rates to ultra-low levels.  Unfortunately, this created an absolutely enormous debt bubble, and now that debt bubble is beginning to burst.  Here is more from Wolf Richter

The dizzying borrowing by consumers and businesses that the Fed with its ultra-low interest rates and in its infinite wisdom has purposefully encouraged to fuel economic growth, if any, and to inflate asset prices, has caused debt to pile up. That debt is now eating up cash flows needed for other things, and this is causing pressures, just when interest rates have begun to rise, which will make refinancing this debt more expensive and, for a rising number of consumers and businesses, impossible. And so, the legacy of this binge will haunt the economy – and creditors – for years to come.

Despite all of the economic optimism that is out there right now, the truth is that U.S. consumers are tapped out.

If the U.S. economy truly was doing great, major retailers would not be closing hundreds of stores.  Sears, Macy’s and a whole host of other big retailers are closing stores because those stores are losing money.  It truly is a “retail apocalypse“, and this trend is not going to turn around until U.S. consumers start to become healthier financially.

We also see signs of trouble in the auto sales numbers.  Compared to 2016, sales were way down in January this year

Compared to January last year, car sales collapsed for all three US automakers, and the largest Japanese automakers didn’t do much better:

  • GM -21.1%
  • Ford -17.5%
  • Fiat Chrysler -35.8%
  • Toyota -19.9%
  • Honda -10.7%
  • Nissan -9.0%

For all automakers combined, car sales sagged 12.2% from a year ago.

A lot of attention is given to our 20 trillion dollar national debt, and rightly so, but a similar amount of attention should be paid to the fact that U.S. households are collectively more than 12 trillion dollars in debt.

About two-thirds of the nation is essentially living paycheck to paycheck.  Most families really struggle to pay the bills from month to month, and all it would take is a major event such as a job loss or a significant illness to plunge them into financial oblivion.

In America today we are told that the secret to success is a college education, but most young Americans have to go deep into debt to afford such an education.

As a result, most college graduates start out life in the “real world” with a mountain of debt.  And since many of them never find the “good jobs” that they were promised, repayment of that debt becomes a very big issue.  In fact, the Wall Street Journal has discovered that student loan repayment rates are much worse than we were being told…

Last Friday, the Education Department released a memo saying that it had overstated student loan repayment rates at most colleges and trade schools and provided updated numbers.

When The Wall Street Journal analyzed the new numbers, the data revealed that the Department previously had inflated the repayment rates for 99.8% of all colleges and trade schools in the country.

The new analysis shows that at more than 1,000 colleges and trade schools, or about a quarter of the total, at least half the students had defaulted or failed to pay down at least $1 on their debt within seven years.

If you do find yourself deep in debt, a lot of families have found success by following a plan that was pioneered by author Dave Ramsey.  His “Debt Snowball Plan” really works, but you have to be committed to it.

Getting out of debt can be tremendously freeing.  So many people spend so many sleepless nights consumed by financial stress, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Most of us have had to go into debt for some reason or another, and not all debt is bad debt.  For example, very few of us would be able to own a home without getting a mortgage, and usually mortgages come with very low interest rates these days.

But other forms of debt (such as credit card debt or payday loans) can be financially crippling.  When it comes to eliminating debt, it is often a really good idea to start with the most toxic forms of debt first.

It has been said that the borrower is the servant of the lender, and you don’t want to spend the best years of your life making somebody else rich.

Whether economic conditions turn out to be good or bad in 2017, the truth is that each one of us should be trying to do what we can to get out of debt.

Unfortunately, a lot of people never seem to learn from the past, and I have a feeling that both consumer and commercial bankruptcies will continue to rise throughout the rest of this year.

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Generation Snowflake: Percentage Of Young Adults Living With Their Parents Hasn’t Been This High Since 1940 December 21, 2016

snowflake-public-domainHave we failed this generation of young adults by not equipping them to be able to handle the harsh realities of the real world?  According to the Wall Street Journal, the percentage of Americans in the 18 to 34-year-old age bracket that are currently living with their parents hasn’t been this high in 75 years.  At this point nearly 40 percent of our young adults in that age range are living at home, and many are concerned that this could have some alarming implications for the future of our nation.

In the United States today, more than 60 million people live in multi-generational households, and it is a good thing to have a tight family.  But at some point young adults need to learn how to live their own independent lives, and in millions of cases this independence is being delayed or is never happening at all.

There are many factors involved in this trend.  First of all, there is truly a lack of good jobs despite what we are being told about an “economic recovery”.  Millions of young adults are graduating from college only to discover that there is a very limited number of good jobs available for our college graduates.  So some college graduates are able to secure the types of jobs that they were hoping for, but millions of others are not.

Normally when a recession ends, the percentage of young adults living with their parents starts to go back down.  But this has not happened this time around.  Instead, the percentage of young adults that live at home has just continued to rise

The trend runs counter to that of previous economic cycles, when after a recession-related spike, the number of younger Americans living with relatives declined as the economy improved.

The result is that there is far less demand for housing than would be expected for the millennial generation, now the largest in U.S. history. The number of adults under age 30 has increased by 5 million over the last decade, but the number of households for that age group grew by just 200,000 over the same period, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Another major factor in all of this is the fact that Americans are getting married later in life than ever before and they are having fewer kids than previous generations.

In the old days, people got married young and they set up their own households even if they were dirt poor.  But these days we have hordes of single young adults that are perfectly content to sit at home and sponge off of Mommy and Daddy.

There seems to be a real lack of toughness to this generation of young adults, and many that have perceived this lack of toughness have resorted to referring to them as “Generation Snowflake”.  Over the past 12 months this term has become so common that the Guardian has dubbed it “the defining insult of 2016″…

Until very recently, to call someone a snowflake would have involved the word “generation”, too, as it was typically used to describe, or insult, a person in their late teens or early 20s. At the start of November, the Collins English Dictionary added “snowflake generation” to its words of the year list, where it sits alongside other vogue-ish new additions such as “Brexit” and “hygge”. The Collins definition is as follows: “The young adults of the 2010s, viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations”. Depending on what you read, being part of the “snowflake generation” may be as benign as taking selfies or talking about feelings too much, or it may infer a sense of entitlement, an untamed narcissism, or a form of identity politics that is resistant to free speech.

The phrase came to prominence in the UK at the beginning of 2016, after Claire Fox, director of the thinktank Institute of Ideas, used it in her book I Find That Offensive to address a generation of young people whom she calls “easily offended and thin-skinned”.

Of course there are exceptions.  I have some close friends that are young adults in this age range, and they are extraordinary people.

But overall, we seem to have dramatically failed this generation.  Maybe it is because we tend to baby our children from a very early age, and we want to protect them from danger so much that we never allow them to be exposed to the challenges that they need to face in order to toughen up and mature.

And it certainly doesn’t help that many of our young adults enter “the real world” already drowning in tens of thousands of dollars of debt.  According to CNN, about 70 percent of all college graduates in the U.S. will leave school with student loan debt, and the average loan balance for those college graduates is approximately $28,950.  Paying off student loan debt can be extremely painful, and it can be financially crippling for young people that are just trying to start their new lives.

When our high school kids are looking toward the future, we very much encourage them to go to the very best schools that they can possibly get into, and we tell them to not even worry about the cost.  We promise them that there will be plenty of good jobs once they graduate, and we push them into these loans without even warning them to consider the future implications.

According to a stunning article in the Wall Street Journal, many Baby Boomers are actually having money taken out of their Social Security checks because of unpaid student loans.  So when you go into student loan debt, it can literally haunt you for the rest of your life…

The government has collected about $1.1 billion from Social Security recipients of all ages to go toward unpaid student loans since 2001, including $171 million last year, the Government Accountability Office said Tuesday. Most affected recipients in fiscal year 2015—114,000—were age 50 or older and receiving disability benefits, with the typical borrower losing about $140 a month. About 38,000 were above age 64.

The report highlights the sharp growth in baby boomers entering retirement with student debt, most of it borrowed years ago to cover their own educations but some used to pay for their children’s schooling. Overall, about seven million Americans age 50 and older owed about $205 billion in federal student debt last year. About 1 in 3 were in default, raising the likelihood that garnishments will increase as more boomers retire.

What we are doing is clearly not working, but I am not particularly optimistic that this system will be fixed any time soon.

If you are a young person, you need to have a solid plan before pursuing an expensive college education.  Many young people just major in anything that they want without even considering if it will lead to a good career.  And instead of working hard to graduate in four years, many decide that they want to stretch the “college experience” out for five or six years so that they can party as much as possible before entering the real world.

The real world is a cold, cruel place, and if you start your new life drowning in debt that is just going to make things even more difficult for you.

On a personal note, I want to thank everyone that has supported the growth of The Most Important News.  It is a central news hub where you can find all of my articles, posts by incredible guest authors and many of the key news stories from all over the globe all gathered in one place.  Some technical issues have forced the site to be down for extended periods of time lately, but now it is being migrated to a much more powerful server.  I will not be updating it during the migration, but I should resume a normal posting schedule again very soon.

And I would like to thank all of my readers for making 2016 an absolutely amazing year.  I love you all, and I wish you all the very best as we head into what should prove to be a very “interesting” 2017.

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