…and I’m not going to take it anymore. This is the sentiment expressed around the US through the recent ‘Occupy Wall Street (OWS)’ movement that seems to be flaring tempers on both sides of the argument.
Living in Eastern Europe, I am somewhat sheltered from this, but with Facebook and all of the news outlets it’s impossible to avoid the implications of what’s going on with this movement.
The OWS movement reminds me of a scene from the movie ‘Network’ starring Peter Finch where he plays the role of network anchorman, presumably modeled after Walter Cronkite. Click here to watch the scene.
Finch repeatedly says, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”. This was during the ‘70’s when the US was suffering from a recession, high inflation, high gas prices, and record high unemployment. Sound familiar.
Today is a different world though. We live in the age of Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and blogs. We have reached a point of worldwide group consciousness never before seen in the history of mankind.
You can’t even burp in public anymore without someone recording the video on their iPhone, uploading it to YouTube and then sharing it with their 730 Facebook friends within seconds.
Some people believe the revolutions in Egypt and Libya wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for social media. I tend to agree. It provided a virtual medium for people to organize and plan for their civil (and sometimes not so civil) disobedience.
I personally have been dismissing the OWS movement as a bunch of ignorant, lazy, out of work 20 something hippies who don’t understand how the world works. To some extent, this is the case.
But admittedly, I have been wrong to dismiss this movement as short term hippie protest against capitalism. I feel the anger is misplaced toward Wall Street and the majority of the blame lies in Washington. I would feel a bit better if it were labeled, ‘Occupy DC’, but regardless there is merit to their protests, and it shouldn’t be dismissed.
People are angry with the current state of affairs, and rightly so. Maybe they don’t understand the underlying causes of the ongoing economic crisis, but nonetheless they have the right to be disenchanted with the way things are being handled.
I am sure many of you (if not all) agree that something is just not right today with the world. There is something out of sync.
We are angry that our elected officials have no fiscal responsibility and continue to rack up government debt that will drag down American productivity and decrease the quality of life for generations to come.
We are angry that huge corporations that fund political parties are not allowed to go bankrupt while our businesses suffer in the downturn. We are angry that our neighbor stopped paying his mortgage 2 years ago but still lives happily in his house while we continue to pay a mortgage payment on a house that is worth half of what we owe on it.
We are angry that big corporations have record amounts of cash on their balance sheets, but still refuse to hire. We are angry that the US seems to be turning into a fascist police state robbing you and me of our personal freedoms. We are angry that we used to have great 6-figure jobs and now have to work 2-3 shit jobs just to make ends meet.
We are angry that old ladies and children are subjected to intrusive pat downs by bullying TSA agents when they want to fly cross country and visit family. We are angry that politicians get to vote on the citizens’ healthcare and social insurance plans while they get to opt out in favor of much more lucrative plans for themselves.
We are angry when we go fill up our gas tanks for $90 and then read about the subsidies the oil companies receive. We are angry when we hear stories about companies like Halliburton who received billions in government contracts that were never put up for public bid – especially when we know the former US Vice President was also the former CEO of Halliburton.
Clearly I could go on and on. There is much to be angry about today.
The potential exists for the OWS movement to be the beginning of a US revolution. Not in the sense that the people take up arms and storm the White House, but in the economic sense that people are fed up with the system and they stop feeding the beast.
This is essentially what has been happening in Greece over the past few decades. Greece has a long history of stupid government. In 1922 the Greek finance minister declared that each drachma would be cut in half and the balance of value would be replaced by 20 year bonds paying a 6.5% coupon.
Imagine you had 10k drachma in your bank account in 1922 and the next day you have 5k drachma and a 5k bond paying 6.5% interest for 20 years. On the surface this sounds ok, but in reality the Greek government paid the coupon payments for a few more years then defaulted on the bonds.
Between 1940-1944, Greece re-denominated the drachma several times and created inflation that amounted to 160,000,000,000% during that period. As you may imagine, the people developed a severe distrust for the Greek government.
It’s not hard to understand why so many Greek business people ran the majority of their businesses in the ‘black market’ and outside of the watching eyes of the incompetent policymakers. Effectively the Greeks decided to stop feeding the beast.
They said, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”.
What comes next though is critically important.
What do you intend to do about it?
Do you plan to join the OWS crowd all across America and hold up signs protesting your anger? Do you plan to build a bunker under your house and stock it with water, can foods, gold, guns and ammo?
Or do you plan to protect the wealth you currently have and position yourself to profit from the market inefficiencies that are abundant today?
Obviously I am a big believer in proper asset protection planning. It is critically important to create a veil of privacy around your assets to keep the wolves at bay. A properly structured asset protection plan consists of limited liability companies (LLC), limited partnerships (LP or FLP), and asset protection trusts or living trusts to ensure your estate can pass on to your heirs without government interference.
I am also a big believer in providing value. Is your skill set sufficient for the globalized job market? Maybe you can learn a new language, get your master’s degree, learn how to write html code, learn to build wordpress sites, become proficient in options trading, or educate yourself on reading financial statements. The options for improvement are virtually endless. But sitting on your laurels does nothing to improve your own situation.
I recently talked with a friend of mine who saw a significant downturn in his business, so instead of whining and complaining then collected unemployment, he researched the job market. What he found was that in a certain part of the country the job market was booming due to recent oil and natural gas exploration. He packed up the car, moved there and got a blue collar job making about $80k per year.
Another friend who runs several different web stores went on a buying spree picking up website businesses selling for 1X profit. Yes, 1X profit. Sometimes even less.
I’ve got a couple of friends who have been buying up houses in a couple of specific markets for less than 50% of their sales price just 3 years ago. They are buying only newer houses, renting them out, and selling them as investment property to investors around the world. Then they do the property management on the backend.
Even my 15 year old daughter has taken it upon herself (sorry, I’m a proud papa) to leverage her skills into freelance work. She recently started taking jobs on Odesk writing and promoting a couple of fashion blogs. This is work she can do from anywhere in the world, it’s completely virtual.
There are thousands of available jobs on sites like Odesk or Elance and many people make their living doing various types of freelance work. For those of you looking for higher paying jobs, a quick search on ExecuNet showed thousands of available jobs both in the US and abroad paying well into the 6 figure range.
The point is that there is opportunity everywhere. In the ‘70s after the stock market crashed the majority of passive investors fled the equities markets. But many people built great wealth buying at that time.
I’ve said it many times, but where turmoil exists, opportunity persists. Personally I’d rather profit from the crisis instead of stock my bunker.