1) Physical cash
This is an easy option for just about anyone. Holding cash completely eliminates the risk of keeping your savings in a shaky bank.
You can secure your cash by storing it in a safe at your home, or at a non-bank private vault facility.
It means your savings won’t be gambled away by your banker on the latest investment fad.
You can’t have your account frozen by any one of dozens of government agencies.
And if something goes wrong with the banking system, your savings will survive untouched.
But cash is no panacea. While it dramatically reduces the risk to your savings posed by potential challenges in the banking system, you may also want to consider…
2) Precious metals
While cash is a great hedge against problems in the banking system, precious metals are a fantastic hedge against problems in the broader monetary system.
If the market ever wises up and realizes that all these pieces of paper passed off as money are simply worthless claims on bankrupt governments, OR there comes a day when central banks print the straw that breaks the camel’s back, you’ll want to make sure you own gold and silver.
Gold is a real asset with a 5,000 year history of value and marketability, three times as old as the oldest paper currency still in use (the British pound).
Now, like any form of savings, gold by itself doesn’t produce a rate of return.
Cash in a bank account earns about 0%. Cash in a safety deposit box earns 0%. Gold in a safety deposit box earns 0%.
So in order to earn some return on your savings, it’s necessary to consider owning…
3) Deep-value investments
Own profitable businesses managed by talented people of integrity, and buy them when the share price is below the company’s intrinsic value.
Share prices go up and down day to day. But over the course of several years, wonderful, well-managed businesses perform extremely well in any environment.
In the event of inflation, they go up in value. In deflation, they produce valuable cash flow. Even in a crisis, they’re the first to recover.
Great businesses often pay steady dividends as well, so you can expect to earn healthy cash flow while honest, talented executives look after your savings.
Between 1999, when gold bottomed at $250, and the 2011 peak at $1,920 there was only one major correction lasting 8 months in 2008. The ensuing correction from the 2011 top at $1,920 of almost $900 seemed to take an eternity until it finally finished in December 2015. During those four years it was always clear to me that the uptrend in the precious metals was still intact although I must admit that I did not expect a correction of that duration.
But after a long life in markets, patience becomes a virtue that is absolutely essential. If your investment decisions are based on sound principles at the outset, there is no reason to change your opinion because the market takes longer to accomplish what it must do.
And as we know, the financial system almost went under in 2007-9. With $25 trillion of printed money, credit and guarantees the system was given a temporary stay of execution. But these $25 trillion was just the initial package. Since 2006 global debt has increased by $90 trillion plus unfunded liabilities and derivatives of several hundred trillion dollars. This explosion of debt has confirmed the risks that we saw already back in 2002.
Now entering 2017, the financial system seems that cannot survive intact. Global debt has gone from $20 trillion to $230 trillion, a more than 10 times increase in the last 25 years and none of this debt can be repaid with real money. Governments and central banks have totally run out of ammunition. In their desperate attempts to save the financial system, they have manipulated every single market and financial instrument. They print money, they set false interest rates (now negative), they buy their own debt, they support stock markets and they also sell gold in the paper market.
All of this action or deceitful manipulation is just creating bigger bubbles that will eventually lead to a total implosion of the financial system and all the bubble assets such as stocks, bonds and property.
In addition, bank stocks in Europe are now showing all the signs of going to zero. Most major banks are down 70-90% since 2006 and many have fallen 25% in the last few days. The European banking system is on the way to bankruptcy. And many U.S. banks like Bank of America and Citigroup are showing the same signs. The coming months will be extremely volatile and disruptive in world financial markets.
The problem is that no one is prepared for the coming shock. The world believes that the Shangri-La state that central bankers, led by the Fed, have created in the last 100 years will last forever. A privileged few have accumulated unreal wealth. Most normal people in the West believe that they are better off, not realizing that their higher standard of living is based on government debt and deficit spending as well as a massive increase in personal debt.
But before the financial system implodes, there will be the most massive money printing program that the world has ever seen. They will need to print money in a final and futile attempt to save the bankrupt banks. With $1.5 quadrillion in derivatives outstanding, the printing presses (or the computers) will run hot. With Deutsche Bank’s derivatives at $75 trillion and JP Morgan at almost $100 trillion, only those two banks need support at 2.5 times global GDP.
It is of course not just the financial system that will need support. Governments will run out of any significant tax revenue and will need to print money for all their expenditure. Remember that Japan, for example, already today prints 50% of its annual expenditure.
All of this printing will result in global hyperinflation of at least similar proportions to the Weimar republic or Zimbabwe with the dollar, euro, yen and pound all reaching their intrinsic value of zero.
Throughout history, gold (and sometimes silver) has been the only money that has survived. Every paper or fiat currency has always been destroyed by governments through deficit spending and money printing. In the last 100 years all major currencies have declined 97-99% against gold. It is virtually guaranteed that they will go down the final 1-3% to zero. But it must be remembered that this decline means a 100% fall from here.
This final decline of the currencies will be reflected in the gold and silver prices. I am still convinced that we will see gold at $10,000 and silver at $500 and possibly in the next 5 years and that those levels will be reached even with normal inflation. But if we get hyperinflation, we could add quite a few zeros to the price.
So from a wealth protection or insurance point of view, it is absolutely essential to own gold and some silver. And although I said that precious metals are primarily for a privileged few, this is actually not the case. In India, virtually everyone owns gold and many of the Chinese save in gold. Any ordinary person can buy, say, one gram gold or more a month. One gram is $40, which many people could afford to save monthly.
Gold at $1,330 and silver at $19 is a bargain. But the metals will not stay at these low levels for very long. With the correction finished and the next uptrend in place, we could soon see the metals accelerate very fast.
The problem is that there is very little physical gold available in the world and we have reached peak gold from a production point of view. With the massive outstanding paper gold position in the system, we will soon see the paper shorts running for cover. Once demand increases, it can only be satisfied by much higher prices.