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The chaos of a currency collapse

Last month Belarus witnessed the effects of a collapsed currency when the Government cut the rouble’s value against the US dollar by almost half. Previously 3155 roubles would buy a dollar but in the blink of an eye they decided 4930 would be needed. This was not even the reality because perception of the collapsing currency meant the situation was even worse as people scrambled for foreign exchange on the black market where you needed at least 6000 roubles to buy a dollar.

So what sparked this crisis?

President Lukashenko had promised to raise public sector wages by a third during his election campaign, which he duly carried out. This was sustainable only because of the support Belarus received from Moscow in terms of loans. However, as fears grew about the country’s finances, support from Russia waned and even near neighbours from the EU didn’t fancy the risk thus sparking a sharp drop in confidence in the currency.
To exacerbate the problem there was a shortage of foreign exchange currencies, dollars or euros, in the country.

The consequences of a collapse

Shelves quickly emptied of food and any "tangible asset" that would hold value better than their currency

Wide spread panic broke out as the economy effectively became paralyzed and people suddenly realised their currency was of diminishing worth. Shops were quickly emptied of everything that could be bought. Everyday food was snapped up at “luxury” style prices as people thought of survival but also they also bought electric goods like toasters, microwaves, canned goods and virtually anything that was for sale as they rushed to convert their currency into “any tangible assets” that were not losing value as quickly as their roubles.
The empty shelves throughout the towns seemed eerily reminiscent of the Soviet controlled days.
Shoppers knew that anything they could purchase could be more useful as a form of barter than the diminishing currency in their purses and wallets.

The human cost was quickly evident from the stories of employees sent on unpaid leave as companies also struggled to cope and comprehend the impact. Andrei, a computer company employee explained how he queued for a week in Minsk trying to buy dollars but didn’t even get one. “In just one month, I have been made bankrupt, the entire country is bankrupt” he said, adding that “even during the Soviet collapse we never suffered such a nightmare”.

There are many more stories of hardship, families without food or the means to buy any, shops without stock for them to buy even if they had the means.

Dmitry who is a 48 year old factory worker explained how he closed his bank account to get out 5 Million roubles in cash so he “could buy something before my money turns to dust”.

Tensions are growing as many people blame the President for mismanaging the economy.
Staple food supplies are now hoarded but people feel anxious that unrest is starting that could spill over into conflict at any time.
Revolution is always more likely when the population are starving.

Which country is next?

This may all seem so far away from wherever you are reading this but the causes of currency collapse may be closer to your doorstep than you think.

How many countries are in deep debt and reliant on support loans and bailouts right now?
Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Japan, USA, Belarus and virtually all of Eastern Europe and the Euro zone (only they never put it in the headlines!)

What happens when the support cannot be maintained?
Currency Collapse.

It could be the US Dollar, the Euro, the Yen who knows?
But even if it isn’t your currency that collapses what will be the knock on effects in every developed country if one of these currencies collapses?
The same as in Belarus.

Globalisation has been the buzz word for expanding Capitalism but it also means that economies are now inextricably linked and inter-twined to such an extent that when one sneezes they all catch a cold!

Remember the level of Sovereign Debt is spiralling out of control in the US, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and others are close behind such as Spain and the UK. Austerity measures in all countries are hurting normal folk badly – they are losing their jobs, suffering pay freezes, inflation and pension erosion. Social unrest and industrial action looms large across Europe and this will itself impact the recovery and debt repayment. This has already started in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and large scale protests in the UK are gathering momentum with the Autumn likely to be the boiling point of anger.

The discontent and despair of regular folk is understandable as they are bearing the brunt of all the hardship and it just isn’t fair.
Politicians spout their practiced rhetoric about how to fix things but the reality is they just don’t care that much as they are not the ones affected. They have means to isolate them from the hardships and many of them are actually responsible for producing the mess. How can they care about regular people or preach what we need to give up when they don’t – ever met a poor politician? Enough said!

There is now even talk of a “sub-prime” type problem in China because of over-indulgence in property speculation, leaving huge swathes of developments empty or under-occupied and therefore leaking money and ready to default.

We need more than lip service!

Mainstream news outlets are all controlled by self-interest groups (private and Governments) and they never provide the whole story about global economic frailty as there would be worldwide panic if they told the truth. The situation right now is on a knife edge and the next Belarus is not far away. Politicians won’t admit it but then again they won’t suffer like the rest of us as they’re all rich enough and well connected to see out any storm. They care too much for their own popularity to be honest.
Posh boys and rich kids rule the world and their assets are well protected in advance.

Remember what happened when panic struck in Belarus, people bought any tangible asset they could because it would maintain value better than their currency.
This phenomenon is happening daily – your bank account is the best place to keep currency if you want it to devalue!

Currency is not a means of preserving wealth because it has no inherent value especially when confidence is lost – then it is just a piece of paper.

The only real money available is a tangible asset that maintains its value whatever happens to printed bits of paper currency – and that is gold!

A lesson on Money and currency

We need to understand the difference between money and currency as one is real and the other a promise. Money can be defined as a medium of exchange and a store of value and until fairly recent times was in fact coins made out of precious metal with an intrinsic value or for ease of use, notes backed by precious metal.
Money, when considered as the fruit of many years’ industry, as the reward of labor, sweat and toil, as the widow’s dowry and children’s portion, and as the means of procuring the necessaries and alleviating the afflictions of life, and making old age a scene of rest, has something in it sacred that is not to be sported with, or trusted to the airy bubble of paper currency. Thomas Paine (1737 – 1809)
Currency is still a medium of exchange but is not a store of value as it only derives its value by government degree or “fiat”. It’s value is based on the issuing the authority’s guarantee to pay the stated (face) amount on demand, and not on any intrinsic worth or extrinsic backing. All national currencies in circulation, issued and managed by the respective central banks, are fiat currencies.

A days wages in Germany 1923

The problem is that fiat currency runs the risk of central bankers printing too much and causing large inflation or worse. The more that is printed the more the currency is debased just as the Fed is doing now with the dollar. This has been going on for decades with central banks indiscriminately creating money to cover expenditure and ever increasing debt. There are examples throughout history and in the 20th Century most of us are aware that in Germany in 1923 it would take a barrow load of Deutschmarks to buy a loaf of bread but an ounce of gold could buy a reasonable house and one dollar was worth 4 trillion marks.

This irresponsible printing of money has eaten away at the value of the world’s reserve currency the USD dollar and dollar based assets, to such an extent that they have lost 82% of value since 1971, the year the US cut links with the gold standard. The GBP has fared even worse that the USD losing around 85% of value since 1971. There are many illustrations of then and now and how owning gold with intrinsic value would have more purchasing pro rata than currency. E.g the latest model Cadillac Eldorado would have taken 180 ounces of gold at $42.02 to pay the showroom price of $7,546. This same 180 ounces is now worth over $200k and would buy two Cadillac convertibles with enough left over to fuel to first service. In the UK an average family car cost £1000 around 60 oz of gold and now the same would cost £17000 around 23 oz of gold. The 60 ounces would have bought the same family car for you a sports car for your wife and a hatchback for your son or daughter. Gold retains its purchasing power year after year.

Not long ago the gold standard imposed monetary discipline on countries as they had to hold enough gold to cover the money in circulation but this all changed with the Jamaica agreement in 1971 when the decision was taken by President Nixon on the 15th August 1971 to suspend the direct convertibility of dollars into gold, the keystone of the financial system created in July 1944 (the Bretton Woods Agreement). On the 1st October 1971 the general assembly of the IMF asked the board of trustees to study and propose a comprehensive reform. This would be adopted by member States during a meeting held in Kingston (Jamaica) on the 7th and 8th January 1976, and included a set of provisions which put an end to the reign of gold. The US money supply in 1971 was $776 billion and quickly became an upward curve which rose dramatically over the last decade where the US money supply doubled from below $7 trillion to $14.3 trillion indicating that spending is out of control.

The US National debt is now greater than this!

The US though still likes to play the rich kid on the block and bizarrely gives aid to those supporting its debt as a report in the Daily Mail of London illustrates:
The U.S. is providing hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign aid to some of the world’s richest countries – while at the same time borrowing billions back, according to report seen by Congress.

The Congressional Research Service released the report last month which shows that in 2010 the U.S. handed out a total of $1.4bn to 16 foreign countries that held at least $10bn in Treasury securities.

Four countries in the world’s top 10 richest received foreign aid last year with China receiving $27.2m, India $126.6m, Brazil $25m, and Russia $71.5m. Mexico also received $316.7m and Egypt $255.7m.

And yet despite the massive outgoings in foreign aid, the receiving countries hold trillions of dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds.

China is the largest holder with $1.1trillion as of March, according to the Treasury Department.

Brazil held $193.5bn, Russia $127.8bn, India $39.8bn, Mexico $28.1bn and Egypt had $15.3bn.
Maybe it’s just additional interest on the debt to keep them sweet!

Greece figures predominantly in the spotlight and unrest is growing – will the Government have to mortgage the Acropolis and Parthenon or even sell them off to pay their debts?
Clearly they can never work their way out of this debt because they would have to increase GDP by 12% a year for 30 years in order to grow their way out of debt.
The Sovereign Debt crisis is well and truly out of control and the only solution will be to default on the debts and devalue currencies.

As discussed in the example of Belarus, chaos ensues when currencies collapse and regular folk suffer badly as they don’t see it coming or refuse to believe it could happen to them.

Be warned: A currency collapse is coming near you.
Be prepared: don’t put faith in bits of paper which have no inherent value.
Protect yourself: Invest in tangible assets that hold real value at all times, especially during a crisis.
Remember: Real money has inherent value, it is worth something because of what it is not because of what is written on it.
Now you know why people buy gold to protect themselves from crisis – it always holds value and is the only real money.

In summary:
Currency is not money and its value can be changed by monetary policy makers
Currency can be created and printed at will with no substance to support it
• Currency depreciation in value is accelerating with subsequent loss of purchasing power
• National debt is increasing to disastrous levels with threat of sovereign debt default
• Confidence in the USD is waning and its use as a reserve currency is under threat
Countries and investors are shedding their dollar assets
Central Banks are diversifying into gold and out of dollar assets
Smart investors are diversifying their portfolios with a proportion of gold
• The value of gold has been consistent in retaining its purchasing power
Gold is insurance for your wealth
• Gold is the only real money

I rest my case!

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Thoughts
"For a mountaineer, the important things are the effort, the posture and the muscles. The rope that holds him serves no purpose when everything works but it gives him a sense of security. In the same way, all gold does is ensure confidence; it's a safe haven."