Monday, November 23, 2009

Balancing all our baskets on one egg: The idiocy we call our economy

Regarding the economy, my current mindset is not: "I once had faith in the mechanisms of our economic system, but now I do not."

My crisis is: "I've never thought much about our economy. Now that I have, I think it's an absurd rollercoaster designed to plow right into the pavement after zooming down the next steep incline."

The premise of the North American economic system is ludicrous: it's based primarily on consumption, yet the jobs that allow consumers to consume are being shipped overseas at a staggering rate. Explain our system to a child, and a six year old could tell you that it's stupid and unworkable.

This consumption economy is diversified only by "debt products" and science fiction investment products (such as derivatives; see The derivatives bubble = $190K per person on planet) that seem to have been created out of the air during power lunches of Wild Turkey and crack cocaine.

All of which is part of our baseline Rape and Pillage Economic model that's geared more to decimate than cultivate the economic landscape. Who has time to develop a relationship with an investor when that investor and his family can be skull-fucked into damnation with investment tools that would drain the blood from the face of the fiercest interrogators of the Spanish Inquisition.

Not that anyone would care, but I've never had any use for investments, investment advisors, the stock market, or any other arm of the World Casino we call The Markets.

A TV ad, years ago, summed it up best when it asked the question, "If your financial advisor is so good, why is he still working?"

My skepticism began in my early 20s when I consulted a financial advisor on the advice of friends. The advisor was slick, had more buzz words and industry lingo than I'd ever encountered in one place -- and gave off the singular stench I associate with shysters. I invested some money with him, but took it out a few months later, losing $50 in penalties. The people who had recommended him to me lost tens of thousands of dollars with that jerk.

My Rule of Thumb: If an expert in any field can't describe something about that field to me in a way I can understand, then that expert doesn't know what he's talking about. That goes for auto mechanics, computer techs or chiropractors. If they know what they're talking about, they can describe a particular problem or situation to me in a way I can understand.

Not that I'm leaving my future financial to the deities to sort out. My grandfather worked at Ford Motor Company through the 1940s, '50s and '60s. He bought Canadian Savings Bonds his whole life, and never wanted for anything in his retirement. I realize the mere mention of government savings bonds is grounds for laughter and ridicule. I get into that every time with the financial advisor through whom I buy my RRSPs. No matter how I lay the groundwork in an email before going in to buy an RRSP, the advisor assails me with a myriad of other options. Far from sitting there, a meek listener, I am quite vocal about my feelings about this legalized rip-off we call "the stock market." Every time I leave my advisor's office, I feel like I've spent the previous 45 minutes punching a side of beef.

No, my impression of the stock market is that the only people making money there are insider traders. It's schlubs like me who fill the fish tank with money so that piranha like AIG executives and Bernie Madoffs can feed on it at will.

So what do we do? The people driving our economy off a cliff are not elected officials. Elected officials don't seem to have any better idea about how to fix things than I do. And the situation doesn't look like it's going to change for the better any time soon. In the meantime, as long as I continue making my financial advisor turn green with nausea with my decisions, I'll consider myself on the right track.

PBS Frontline's: The Warning

The Madoff Affair

Hall of Shame: 12 of the Worst Financial Gurus

Jim Cramer's Advice Slightly Worse Than A Coin Toss?

The History of the Credit Card

The Day of the Dollar

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