Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Wage Collapse

 Wage Collapse

One of the greatest challenges Americans have faced over the past 3 years is the collapse in real wages caused by poor fiscal and monetary policy. 

As an investor, one of the primary goals is to increase the value of your portfolio over time. Value is typically associated with a dollar sign, ie the more your portfolio is worth in dollars over time, then logically one would assume that it is more valuable as well. That assumption would be a serious mistake.

M2, or money supply, generally increases over time for a variety of reasons. Ideally that increase is stable, predictable, and backed by productivity gains. Since the US Dollar is a fiat currency (ie not backed by anything but "the full faith and credit" of the United States government), an investor should keep a close eye on the M2. Why?

As M2 increases without a corresponding increase in productivity or physical commodity backing, it DILUTES the value of every other dollar. So say you're a guy named Dollar Bill just minding your own business looking to make a purchase of a good or service. And out of nowhere a hundred, perhaps thousands of NEW Dollar Bills appear out of nowhere and want the SAME good or service that you do!

The net effect of too many Dollar Bills is dilution in purchasing power. Value has decreased. The illusion created by flooding the country with dollars is one of prosperity and wealth, the reality is just the opposite. Wage earners feel the bite of this con worse than anyone else because wages are typically fixed, whereas the monetary supply, stock market, and gold market react immediately and exactly to the con.

Consider the charts below representing 5-year snapshots. The M2 increased by some $7,000,000,000,000 ($7 Trillion) over the past five years in nominal terms or roughly 50% MORE U.S. Dollars were created out of thin air. Not surprisingly, the stock market, as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, also "gained" some 50%. As did the price of gold. Did your wage increase by 50%? Probably not.

As a proactive investor, it behooves you to understand the greatest challenge you face is probably inflation, especially if you are a wage earner. And broadly speaking, probably 80%+ of all Americans are wage earners; whether you are a blue collar worker on an assembly line with an hourly salary or a white collar worker behind a desk or in an office with a fixed salary or even a "no collar" worker on the gig economy with a hybrid salary, the vast majority of us are all subject to a recurring price paid for labor. Typically the wage lags, or never catches up, the price charged by the manufacturer or service lead.

What does this all mean? Vigilance coupled without action is useless. So the prudent financial farmer needs to have what I call an "Argentine Mindset." Americans can learn a lot from socialist countries that are corrupt and face raging inflation. Namely, what do their citizens do with cash when they get it from their jobs?
Answer: They dump local currency ASAP and turn it into (pick one or more): a more stable currency, gold, real estate, stocks and/or physical goods or tools. They literally cannot spend it fast enough because it depreciates so rapidly. Indeed, it has been recounted frequently that inflation was so bad in the Weimar Republic (pre-WW2 Germany) that a cart full of banknotes was left outside a bakery. When the owner returned, the cart was stolen.

If the goal is to increase the value of a portfolio over time, one should understand the true value of their country's money and deploy it accordingly.