I’ll start today with a confession: I’m an unabashed optimist.
I believe that this is one of the most exciting times in all of human history to be alive. And with good reason.
Think about it– compared to thousands of years of violent warfare that ravaged most of the world’s major cities, we live in an era of relative peace.
Pockets of conflict will always exist. But right now there’s no major world war… no persistent threat of nuclear annihilation.
We also live in a time when more than 1 billion people in developing countries are rapidly rising into the Middle Class.
Their standards of living are improving like never before seen, and this creates an abundance of compelling opportunity.
Also, we humans now have the capacity to live longer, healthier lives… and to stay productive for longer than ever before.
Just a few weeks ago, a Texas physicist named John Goodenough invented revolutionary new battery technology.
He’s 94, and he insists that he has plenty of great ideas left to invent.
Most of all we live in a time of astonishing technological transformation.
Entrepreneurs can start businesses in minutes and reach customers on the other side of the planet.
Consumers can find products from around the world and seek funding online through Peer-to-Peer websites instead of traditional banks.
It’s amazing what we’re able to do and achieve now thanks to modern technology, jus compared to even 10 or 20 years ago.
I count myself among the countless individuals who have been able to benefit from these exciting trends.
I’ve been able to travel to more than 120 countries, start (or acquire) successful businesses around the world in industries as diverse as agriculture (Chile), manufacturing (Australia), banking (Caribbean), and media (Asia).
Very little of this would have even been possible at the time of my birth 38-years ago.
And I marvel that so many of my employees are from former republics of the Soviet Union… something else what would have been impossible just 26-years ago.
Yet despite so much progress and extraordinary opportunity, it’s also important to stay realistic: the world has gotten itself into a twist.
Nearly every major western government is bankrupt with woefully unsustainable finances.
The United States leads the way with $20 trillion in debt and a total negative net worth of MINUS $76.7 trillion, according to its own annual financial report.
The US government loses money each year with no end in sight, posting a staggering loss of $1.05 trillion in 2016.
And relative to the sizes of their own economies, Japan, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom are not far off.
Moreover, pension funds across the world are in dire condition.
In the United States, Social Security and Medicare report each year that their programs are rapidly running out of money and have even calculated the date of their own insolvencies.
This isn’t some wild conspiracy theory, these are public reports signed by the Treasury Secretary of the United States.
We also see major risks with global central banks.
As I wrote to you just three days ago, the Federal Reserve is nearly insolvent.
And as they continue to increase interest rates throughout this year, they will effectively engineer their own bankruptcy.
In addition, major financial markets are extraordinarily overvalued.
Stocks in the United States trade at valuations only seen just prior to major crashes.
And as the Wall Street Journal reported just -this morning-, “insiders”, i.e. key shareholders and managers who have inside knowledge of their businesses, are actively selling their stocks.
Economic growth in most of the developed world has also fallen flat– just 1.6% in the United States in 2016, 1.4% in Canada, and 1.9% in Germany.
These are hardly inspiring numbers, especially given that inflation is rising around the world.
According to the US Labor Department, inflation reached 2.7% last month, which was higher than 2.5% in January, which was higher than 2.1% in December, which was higher than 1.7% in November.
Do you notice a trend?
On top of everything else, we also happen to be living through a period of rapidly deteriorating personal freedom.
Spy agencies are engaging in brazen surveillance on… everyone. Citizens. Allies. Everyone.
Civil Asset Forfeiture also continues to reach new heights; according to Justice Department data, total “financing sources”, i.e. money that the government stole from its citizens, more than doubled from 2015 to 2016.
And countless laws, rules, and regulations have turned the Land of the Free into a place where children can be arrested for eating French Fries on the metro.
These risks are already looming, and the potential consequences are severe.
We likely all remember what happened the last time a stock market bubble burst.
When central banks go bust, the impact can be even more substantial.
It happened in Iceland in 2008, and the country had to suffer through 8 years of capital controls as a result.
And we can see the impact of governments going bankrupt each day in the news headlines, primarily with Greece.
These risks are real. But they’re no cause for panic.
A rational, successful person merely needs to acknowledge the risks, and take some sensible steps to ensure that you’re not a victim.
If your stock market is massively overvalued, for example, consider rebalancing your investments into safer assets in markets that are deeply undervalued.
If your government is totally bankrupt, don’t keep 100% of your assets within its reach.
These are simple but effective concepts.