A friend confided in me that his FOMO (fear of missing out) is running hot. Stories of easy money have got to him and he wants to get in on the action!
This reminded me of 2005 – a year when I was planning a future life of luxury. I had a road map for how I would spend my paper profits… a house in Santa Barbara, a flat in Paris, summers in the high-country. The constant focus on acquiring more should have tipped me off, but I didn’t notice.
For Christmas 2005, I bought myself a copy of Fooled By Randomness.
It humbled, and deeply concerned, me. You should (re)read it.
In my business life, I had a personal guaranty outstanding. The guaranty was a modest amount of my “paper” assets but more than 100% of my liquid assets.
In my personal life, I had established a line of credit to pay my living expenses.
I realized I could be wiped out.
There are some games you don’t want to play.
Some risks we should never take.
Across 2006/2007/2008, I secured my financial life. This decision saved me from ruin.
I had NO idea about what was going to happen (still don’t).
I had a clear idea of the scenario that would wipe me out. Approaching 40, with a new wife, I didn’t want to get wiped out.
I addressed what I controlled: my cash flows, my debts and my obligations.
Do you know what could wipe you out? Look to your borrowings, your obligations and your cash flows.
Do you notice triggers that could create a shock to the system? In what ways is the recent past skewing our vision of the future?
- Debt-fueled political stability in Asia
- Negative yielding sovereign/corporate debt in Europe
- Easy money at a time of multigenerational employment highs in the US
- Global debt double 2008 levels
Across all markets, a low-interest rate policy:
- Delaying the consequences of poor decisions
- Pulling forward future returns
- Reducing interest service obligations => while global debt has doubled the price of debt has more than halved
It impossible to predict when the credit cycle will play itself out.
It is possible, and advisable, to understand how you are exposed to ruin.
- Cash flows compared to fixed commitments (taxes, debt service, core cost of living)
- Asset purchases via debt finance => particularly negative yielding luxury purchases
- Credit quality => Who can go bust and hurt you?
Things go wrong when people build assets, and debts, to the top of the credit cycle.
The photos were taken on the Twin Sisters in Rocky Mtn National Park – mountains provide an opportunity to teach about consequences.