Out of control debt is a problem … and an opportunity

Debt is a lot like religion and politics.  People have strong opinions … so it’s risky to talk about it in a group setting.

But we’re going to do it anyway … because there’s more debt in the world than ever before.  And it has big potential ramifications for real estate investors.

Most real estate investors use debt.  Some because they need to … others because they want to.

Consumer finance gurus hate debt.  They say cut up your credit cards, pay down your mortgage, drive an old car, and brown bag your lunch.

On the other hand, Robert Kiyosaki (the greatest-selling personal finance author in history) LOVES debt …

… but he makes an important distinction between “good” debt and “bad” debt.

“Bad” debt is used for non-productive purposes, and payments come from the earnings of the borrower. 

When you borrow more than you can service and eventually pay off, the debt first enslaves you … then bankrupts you.

That’s bad.  And it can happen to people, businesses, and countries.

“Good” debt is invested for productive purposes … creating income and capital gains exceeding the interest expense.  Good debt is profitable.

And when the payments come from the investment itself … the loan is essentially free, the return is infinite, and the debt goes from good to GREAT!

The topic of debt popped up when ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced he may run for President.

His pet worry?   According to this Time.com article

‘‘… the fact that the United States is $20 trillion in debt…” 

Actually, it’s closer to $22 trillion.  But who’s counting? 

It seems Schultz thinks the MAIN problem is Uncle Sam’s debt … and presumably he can fix it.

Maybe.  But we’ve seen dozens of politicians over the decades … both winners and losers … all warn about the national debt.

But no matter what combination of colors end up in control … one thing is SURE.  The debt grows … and grows … and GROWS.

So even if Schultz runs and wins, he’ll probably be the same as Donald Trump, who’s no different than Barack Obama, who was no different than Ronald Reagan.

There.  That should have offended pretty much everyone … so now we’re all on a level playing field.

But this isn’t about politics or personal preferences. 

The whole point is to cut through the noise and look at the structural realities so we can make better investing decisions.

Here’s the dirty little secret … the entire system is debt

When currency is borrowed into existence (which is how it works), then it can’t be paid back WITH interest … unless you borrow even MORE currency into existence to pay the interest too.

It’s an infinite loop of ever-expanding debt.  It’s not political.  It’s STRUCTURAL.

Like water in an aquarium, you can swim from one end to the other, hide under a rock or behind a plant, lurk in the depths, or float at the top. 

But no matter where you go or how you’re positioned, you’re ALWAYS in the water.  If you jump out, you suffocate.

Even if you personally manage to become “debt free” … your government goes into debt for you … then uses taxes and inflation to force you to debt service.

Depressed?  Don’t be. 

But that red pill reality check is the first step towards “confronting the brutal facts” … a pre-requisite to making better, more pragmatic decisions. 

Robert Kiysosaki understands the financial system is based on perpetual, growing debt.  You can’t effectively escape it.

In fact, on our 2012 Investor Summit at Sea™ …  after G. Edward Griffin (The Creature from Jekyll Island)  explained the debt-driven nature of the Federal Reserve system …

… Kiyosaki said, “Don’t fight the Fed.  BE the Fed.”

That’s a LOT of paradigm shattering brilliance all distilled into two short sentences.

But it begs the question … HOW?

Debt. 

The Fed uses debt to create currency and so can you.  The key is to use GOOD debt … and stay keenly aware of where you are in the “cycle.”

Consider this truism …

“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” 

 – Herbert Stein 

Debt can only grow safely if it can be serviced.  When payments are missed, then debts default, credit market seize, and asset prices plunge.

That’s what happened in 2008.  And it was GOOD … at least for those who saw it coming (or listened to them) and were properly positioned.

For investors, crashes are like sales.  You can stock up on quality assets … IF you’re emotionally, intellectually, and financially prepared to act quickly.

Good debt is the tool of choice for extracting equity while it’s available … and having it liquid for the next inevitable shopping spree.

And real estate is the collateral of choice …

… because the cash flows, large loan limits, tax breaks, favorable interest rates and amortization schedules make real estate debt the best good debt available.

Plus, you’re double-hedged against inflation because you have both a real asset AND long-term debt.

That’s important because …

Out-of-control debt virtually assures currency debasement.

That’s wonky talk for inflation. It takes more paper money to buy the same real things.

The sooner you “get real” with real estate, commodities, energy … the better you avoid the inflation tax.  Of course, real estate and oil also help avoid income tax too!

And one last thing …

(thanks to our Peak Prosperity pals Chris Martenson and Adam Taggart for enlightening us)

Economic activity requires resources.  Try making a product without raw materials or energy.  It ranges from not easy to impossible.

Debt requires payments … which come from profits … which come from productivity … which requires resources.

Growing debt requires growing supplies of resources.

But if supplies are limited, then growing demand will inevitably bid UP the prices of those resources.

And those who own, produce, process, and distribute those resources … and along with those who invest in the communities those folks live in … will be enriched.

There’s a reason we pay attention to precious metals, energy, farmland … in addition to our fascination with everyday real estate.

Real assets help build a resilient portfolio … even in the midst of a debt-fueled slow-motion train wreck. 

So go ahead and cheer your for your favorite politician.  Watch the Super Bowl, too.  They’re both cheap entertainment.

But remember to confront the brutal flaws of a debt-based system and then structure yourself accordingly.

Until next time … good investing!


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