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Recession 2017? Things Are Happening That Usually Never Happen Unless A New Recession Is Beginning

New Crisis - Public DomainIs the U.S. economy about to get slammed by a major recession?  According to Gallup, U.S. economic confidence has soared to the highest level ever recorded, but meanwhile a whole host of key economic indicators are absolutely screaming that a new recession is beginning.  And if the U.S. economy does officially enter recession territory in 2017, it certainly won’t be a shock, because the truth is that we are well overdue for one.  Donald Trump has inherited quite an economic mess from Barack Obama, and it was probably inevitable that we were headed for a significant economic downturn no matter who won the election.

One of the key indicators to watch is average weekly hours.  When the economy shifts into recession mode, employers tend to start cutting back hours, and that is happening right now.  In fact, as Graham Summers has pointed out, we just witnessed the largest percentage decline in average weekly hours since the recession of 2008…

Average Weekly Hours

In addition to the decline in hours, Summers has suggested that there are a number of other reasons to believe that a new recession is here…

The fact is that the GDP growth of 4%-5% is not just around the corner. The US most likely slid into recession in the last three months. GDP growth collapsed in 4Q16, with a large portion of the “growth” coming from accounting gimmicks.

Consider the following:

  • Tax receipts indicate the US is in recession.
  • Gross private domestic investment indicates were are in a recession.
  • Retailers are showing that the US consumer is tapped out (see AMZN’s recent miss).
  • UPS, another economic bellweather, dramatically lowered 2017 forecasts.

To me, even more alarming is the tightening of lending standards.  In our debt-based economy, the flow of credit is absolutely critical to economic growth, and when credit starts to get tight that almost always leads to a recession.

So the fact that lending standards have now tightened for medium and large sized firms for six quarters in a row is very bad news.  The following comes from Business Insider

“Although modest over the past couple of quarters, it is still worth noting that this is now the sixth quarter in succession that standards have tightened for large and medium sized firms,” Deutsche Bank economist Jim Reid wrote in a research note to clients.

“This usually only happens in recessions.”

Reid is 100 percent correct on this point.  This is precisely the kind of thing that we would expect to see if a new recession was beginning, and if this trend continues it is hard to imagine that the U.S. economy will be able to continue to grow.

And it is interesting to note that job growth at S&P 500 companies has gone negative for the first time since the last recession, and so large firms are definitely starting to feel the pressure.

Simultaneously, lending standards are also tightening up for consumers

“The most notable tightening in standards though was in consumer loans,” the Fed said. “During the quarter, banks reported an 8.3% net tightening in credit standards for credit cards and 11.6% net tightening for auto loans.”

US consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity and is thus a key driver of growth in the world’s largest economy.

Those numbers for credit cards and auto loans are major red flags.

It is very simple.  Tighter credit means less economic activity which means slower economic growth.  The U.S. economy grew at a dismal 1.9 percent annual rate during the 4th quarter of 2016, and it would be absolutely no surprise if we end up with a negative number for the first quarter of 2017.

One of the big reasons why lending standards are tightening is because bankruptcies are rising.

As I reported the other day, consumer bankruptcies just rose on a year-over-year basis in back to back months for the first time in almost seven years.  Commercial bankruptcies had already been rising on a year-over-year basis throughout 2016, and so the fact that consumer bankruptcies have now joined the party is a very bad sign.

And we have also just learned that real median household income declined in 2016

Its official! The spectacular Obama/Fed “recovery” produced no increase in real medin household income in 2016 (the last year of Obama’s reign of [economic] error). In fact, real median annual household income in December 2016 ($57,827) was 0.9 percent lower than in December 2015 ($58,356).

Yes, I understand that there is a tremendous amount of optimism out there right now because of Donald Trump.

But the truth is that it is literally going to take some sort of an economic miracle to avoid a recession.

And if a recession is going to happen anyway, the Trump administration should want it to occur as quickly as possible.

You see, if a recession starts a year from now, it will be much more difficult for Trump to blame it on Obama.  But if a recession starts right now, he will definitely be able to argue that it happened because of the mess that he inherited from the last administration.

In addition, the sooner the next recession ends the sooner the next recovery can begin.  If a recession is still going on during the 2020 campaign, that would be really bad for Trump, but if a recovery is well underway by then that would be really good for his chances.

If you doubt this, just go back and look at the 1984 campaign.  After a very difficult recession, the U.S. economy bounced back strongly and Ronald Reagan was able to ride that momentum to an easy victory.

So this may sound very strange to many of you, but the truth is that if a new recession is coming Trump supporters should want it to happen as rapidly as possible.

Unfortunately, once a new recession begins it may not play out like recessions normally do.  The U.S. government is 20 trillion dollars in debt, we are in the midst of one of the biggest stock market bubbles in history, and our planet is becoming more unstable with each passing day.  So even though Trump is in the White House and Obama is gone, let there be no doubt that a catastrophic economic crisis could literally erupt at any moment.  I continue to encourage my readers to do all that they can to get prepared, because those that are prepared in advance will have the best chance of successfully getting through what is coming.

Unfortunately, a lot of people out there seem to believe that all of our problems have somehow evaporated just because Donald Trump is now living in the White House.

That is simply not true, and we all need to be praying for guidance and wisdom for Trump and his team as they prepare to deal with the great challenges that are ahead for our nation.

Tis The Season For Credit Card Debt: This Christmas Americans Will Spend An Average Of 422 Dollars Per Child

christmas-gifts-public-domainFor many Americans, the quality of Christmas is determined by the quality of the presents.  This is especially true for our children, and some of them literally spend months anticipating their haul on Christmas morning.  I know that when I was growing up Christmas was all about the presents.  Yes, adults would give lip service to the other elements of Christmas, but all of the other holiday activities could have faded away and it still would have been Christmas as long as presents were under that tree on the morning of December 25th.  Perhaps things are different in your family, but it is undeniable that for our society as a whole gifts are the central feature of the holiday season.

And that is why so many parents feel such immense pressure to spend a tremendous amount of money on gifts for their children each year.  Of course this pressure that they feel is constantly being reinforced by television ads and big Hollywood movies that continuously hammer home what a “good Christmas” should look like.

Once again in 2016, parents will spend far more money than they should because they want to make their children happy.  According to a brand new survey from T. Rowe Price, parents in the United States will spend an average of 422 dollars per child this holiday season…

More than half of parents report they aim to get everything on their kids’ wish lists this year, spending an average of $422 per child, according to a new survey from T. Rowe Price.

To me, that seems like a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a single child, but this is apparently what people are doing.

But can most families really afford to be spending so wildly?

Of course not.  As I have detailed previously, 69 percent of all Americans have less than $1,000 in savings.  That means that about two-thirds of the country is essentially living paycheck to paycheck.

So all of this reckless spending brings with it a lot of additional financial pressure.  But because we are a “buy now, pay later” society, we do it anyway.  We are willing to mortgage a little bit of the future in order to have a nice Christmas now.

Another new survey has found that close to half the country feels “pressure to spend more than they can afford during the holiday season”

The SunTrust Banks, Inc. (NYSE: STI) annual Holiday Financial Confidence survey reveals that 43 percent of Americans feel pressure to spend more than they can afford during the holiday season. Pressure to overspend is up four percent since the survey was first conducted in 2014 by Harris Poll, but down slightly from a high of 46 percent last year.

Ultimately, much of this spending ends up going on credit cards, and credit card debt is one of the most insidious forms of debt.

And the truth is that credit card debt was already surging nationally even before we got to the holiday season

But at least one indicator suggests that much of the US is actually struggling financially: Americans are piling on credit card debt at record levels that we haven’t seen since the financial crisis.

Households added $21.9 billion in credit card debt in the third quarter — the largest increase for that period since 2007 — bringing the amount of outstanding credit card debt to $927.1 billion, according to the latest study from WalletHub.

Debt takes future consumption and brings it into the present, but there is a price to be paid for doing that.

Because we have to pay interest on that debt, we always have to pay back more money than we originally borrowed.  And because interest rates on credit cards are so high, paying back credit card debt can be particularly painful.

According to Business Insider, the average American household currently owes nearly $8,000 to the credit card companies, and it is being suggested that this is a sign that the economy is much weaker than we have been led to believe…

The fact that the average household with debt now owes $7,941 to credit card companies, according to WalletHub, suggests that America’s putative economic strength might be a mirage — that the economy may in fact be a lot weaker than all the happy indicators are leading people to believe.

“I think it is a cause of concern because it says consumers are struggling despite the low unemployment figures,” says Lucia Dunn, an economics professor at Ohio State University. “I think the rise in debt arises from weakness in the economy. People whose incomes have dropped may be trying to maintain an older level of consumption by just charging everything.”

And guess what?

The Federal Reserve just raised interest rates, and so that means that paying off credit card debt will be even more painful for Americans in 2017 than it was in 2016.

Could it be possible that we have lost our way?

Could it be possible that we need to entirely rethink our approach to “the holiday season”?

According to an old NBC News story, one survey discovered that 45 percent of all Americans would prefer to skip Christmas altogether because of all the financial pressure…

Some 45 percent of those polled said the holiday season brings so much financial pressure, they would prefer to skip it altogether. Almost half said their level of stress related to holiday expenses is high or extremely high.

That’s probably because nearly the same amount — some 45 percent — say they do not expect to have enough money set aside to cover holiday expenses.

As a society, we need to learn that things will never make us happy.

Life is not about accumulating toys.  Rather, we were created to love and to be loved.

If you want to live a great life, learn how to be a person of great love.  Unfortunately, most people never seem to learn that lesson.

A couple of months ago, I reported that the total amount of household debt in the United States had reached a grand total of 12.3 trillion dollars.

If you break that number down, it comes to approximately $38,557 for every man, woman and child in the entire country.

In addition to that, we must also remember that corporate debt has approximately doubled while Barack Obama has been in the White House, state and local government debt is completely out of control, and the U.S. national debt is now sitting just under 20 trillion dollars.

Our greed is absolutely killing us, but we can’t stop.

So we will continue to party until eventually somebody comes along and turns out the lights.

Instead Of Black Friday Materialism, Thanksgiving Weekend Should Be A Time To Live, Laugh And Love

thanksgiving-dinner-public-domainOn Friday, hordes of desperate zombies were spotted desperately trying to save a few dollars on toys, apparel and cheaply made electronic goods all over America.  Seemingly oblivious to the fact that virtually all of these goods were made outside of the United States in nations where it is legal to pay slave labor wages, these zombies often clashed violently with one another over items such as soap, toilet paper and jumbo-sized televisions.  Black Friday puts the worst excesses of American materialism on display for the whole world to see, but most Americans don’t seem to care how pathetic we appear to be to the rest of the planet.  The only thing that most Americans know is that it is “the holiday season”, and so now it is time to spend, spend, spend even if it means going into crippling amounts of credit card debt.

Overall, it is being projected that Americans will spend an all-time record high of 650 billion dollars this holiday season.  That is an amount of money roughly equivalent to the yearly GDP of the nation of Saudi Arabia.

But it would be one thing if we did all of this spending with some class.  But instead, many Americans braved freezing cold temperatures and stood in very long lines on Thanksgiving evening so that they could have the opportunity to fight over “great deals” such as $1.60 towels

In video apparently recorded inside a Walmart in Bainbridge, Georgia, showed shoppers fighting over towels that were on sale for $1.60 during the Black Friday rush on Thursday.

At one point, one woman so eager to get her hands on a towels that she fell into the box.

Meanwhile, shoppers at a Walmart in Houston broke into an all-out melee on Black Friday, as customers battled it out for some $99 kiddie convertibles.

We have become a nation that is entirely consumed by greed.  The average American has the television on approximately five hours a day, and that means that we are being endlessly exposed to commercials that are telling us to buy stuff.  Sadly, all of this “programming” does cause many Americans to actually behave like zombies as filmmaker Mark Dice has so brilliantly illustrated

And unfortunately, the violence on Black Friday is often not limited to the ridiculous brawls over Chinese-made electronic goods.  In fact, according to WND four people were shot around the country during the Black Friday “festivities”…

One shooting happened on Thanksgiving Day in a Walmart parking lot in Nevada, apparently as a result of a dispute over a parking spot.

In New Jersey early Friday, two people were shot, one fatally, in a parking lot outside a Macy’s store at the Hamilton Mall, the New York Post said.

Also early Friday, in Tennessee, a man was hit and injured when shots were fired at Wolfchase Galleria Mall in Memphis.

Personally, I don’t understand why people would want to deal with all of this mayhem just to save a few bucks on mass-produced trinkets that they and their families probably don’t even need.

Fortunately, a lot of people are starting to reject Black Friday altogether.  For example, one group is now promoting the day after Thanksgiving as “Buy Nothing Day”

International “Buy Nothing Day” falls on the day after American Thanksgiving each year. Celebrated since the 1990s, the day is meant to inspire worldwide action against mass consumerism, according to Adbusters, a not-for-profit anti-consumerism magazine. 

“Buy Nothing Day isn’t just about changing your habits for one day it is about rediscovering what it means to live freely,” according to Adbusters. “Join millions of us in over 60 countries on November 25, 2016, for Buy Nothing Day and see what it feels like to take a stand against corporate domination.”

And I am a big proponent of buying nothing on the day after Thanksgiving as well, but for different reasons.

Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that virtually everyone can agree on, and it is one of the only times of the year when families all over the country gather together.

Ultimately, the experience of spending time with family and friends is far more valuable than any “deals” you may be able to pick up at the stores.  If I was going to be the next president, I would strongly consider making the entire four-day period over the long Thanksgiving weekend a national holiday.  But the only way that I would do that is if I could pass a law that the stores must shut down as well.

Because the truth is that the vast majority of us do not need any more stuff, but without a doubt we could all definitely use some more love in our lives.

It has been said that “he who dies with the most stuff wins”, but that is a total lie.

Some of the most miserable people in the world are also some of the most wealthy.  And there are lots of people out there that “make a lot of money” that are some of the coldest, cruelest people that you would ever want to come across.

Success in life is not measured by how much money you make.

Rather, it is measured by how much love you give.

And the more love you spread to those around you, the more likely it is that you will be loved in return.

Sadly, in our day and age love has become heavily linked with sex.  But having a sexual relationship with someone does not mean that you are loved.  Just ask any prostitute.

Others feel like they aren’t loved because they are not in a romantic relationship at the moment.  But that is not what love is all about either.  In fact, some of the loneliest individuals on this holiday are people that are actually married.

And even if you don’t have any family at all this holiday, that doesn’t mean that you have to miss out.  Some people have deeper and more meaningful relationships with close friends than they ever had with their family.  And even though I am very thankful for my family, I have friendships that I have cultivated over the past couple of years that I consider to be on the same level because I love those individuals so dearly.

Look, you can run out and buy stuff at Wal-Mart any time.

But how many times a year do you get to spend concentrated time with those that you love in a quiet, peaceful environment?

The long Thanksgiving weekend should be a time to live, to laugh and to love.

Unfortunately, many Americans have become completely blinded by greed and they have forgotten what really matters…

Drowning In Debt: 35 Percent Of All Americans Have Debt That Is At Least 180 Days Past Due

drowning-help-public-domainMore than a third of all Americans can’t pay their debts.  I don’t know about you, but to me that is a shocking figure.  As you will see below, 35 percent of the people living in this country have debt in collections.  When a debt is in  collections, it is at least 180 days past due.  And this is happening during the “economic recovery” that the mainstream media keeps touting, although the truth is that Barack Obama is going to be the only president in United States history to never have a single year when the economy grew by at least 3 percent.  But at least things are fairly stable for the moment, and if this many Americans are having trouble paying their bills right now, what are things going to look like when the economy becomes extremely unstable once again.

The 35 percent figure is a nugget that I discovered in a CNN article about Detroit that I was reading earlier today

And the city’s troubles have left a mark on the financial stability of its residents in a big way, according to a new report from the Urban Institute.

About 66% of residents have debt in collections — meaning more than 180 days past due — at a median amount of $1,847. Across the U.S., 35% of Americans have debt in collections.

It is hard to believe that 66 percent of the residents of one of our largest cities could have debt in collections, but without a doubt the city of Detroit is a complete and utter economic wasteland at this point.

But to me, the 35 percent figure for the nation as a whole is a much greater concern.

And much of the debt that is in collections is credit card debt.

In the immediate aftermath of the last financial crisis, many Americans started getting out of debt, and that was a very good thing.

Unfortunately, that trend has completely reversed itself over the past few years, and now credit card balances are rising at a pace that is quite alarming

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve, ValuePenguin found that the average credit card debt for households that carry a balance is a shocking $16,048 — a figure that has risen by 10% over the past three years. At the average variable credit card interest rate of 16.1%, this translates to nearly $2,600 in credit card interest alone. And many credit cards have interest rates much higher than the average.

Even scarier, consider that based on the average interest rate and a minimum payment of 1.5% of the balance, it would take nearly 14 years for the typical indebted household to pay off its existing credit card debt, at a staggering cost of more than $40,200. Keep in mind that this assumes no additional credit card debt is added to the tab along the way.

Those that have been there know exactly how it feels to be drowning in credit card debt.

You know, they don’t teach you about credit cards in high school or in college.  At least they didn’t in my day.  So once I got out into the “real world” and discovered the joy of instantly getting whatever I wanted with a credit card, I didn’t understand how painful it would be to pay that money back someday.

If you have credit card balances that are out of control, they can keep you up late into the night.  The worry and the fear can eat away at you like a cancer, and many people play a game of moving balances from one card to another in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.

Fortunately I learned my hard lessons at an early enough age to get things turned around.  Now I warn others about the danger of credit card debt through my writing, and my hope is that the things that I share on my websites are doing some good for others that may be struggling financially.

When you are deep in debt, it is exceedingly difficult to build up any wealth of your own.  This is one of the primary reasons why 69 percent of all Americans have less than $1,000 in savings today.

In essence, more than two-thirds of the country is living paycheck to paycheck, and that is a recipe for disaster when the next major economic downturn in the U.S. strikes.

Overall, household debt in America has now reached a grand total of 12.3 trillion dollars.  When you break that down, it comes to $38,557 for every man, woman and child in the entire nation.

So for a family of five, your share of that total would be $192,785.

And remember, that is just household debt.  That total does not include any form of business debt or any form of government debt.

We truly are a “buy now, pay later” society.  We were the wealthiest and most prosperous nation on the entire planet, and previous generations handed us the keys to the greatest economic machine in world history, but that wasn’t good enough for us.

We always had to have more, more, more – and now we have accumulated more debt than any society in the history of the globe.

It is inevitable that this giant debt bubble is going to burst.  Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see that.

What we experienced in 2008 was just a preview of the hard times that are coming.  The next recession is going to be even worse, and most economists are convinced that it will happen within the next four years no matter who is elected president in November.  The following comes from the Wall Street Journal via the Calculated Risk blog

Economists in The Wall Street Journal’s latest monthly survey of economists put the odds of the next downturn happening within the next four years at nearly 60%.

Just like the last time around, millions of those that are “living on the edge” financially will fall out of the middle class and into poverty when they lose their jobs.

Hopefully most of you that have been reading my work for an extended period of time have already been getting out of debt and have been building up a financial cushion.

Sadly, most of the country continues to act as if they are living in a pre-2008 world, and the economic wake up call that is coming is going to be incredibly painful for those that thought they could get away with being exceedingly reckless financially.

America The Debt Pig: We Are A ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Society – And ‘Pay Later’ Is Rapidly Approaching

America The Pig - Public DomainIf you really wanted to live like a millionaire, you could start doing it right now.  All you have to do is to apply for as many credit cards as possible and then begin running up credit card balances like there is no tomorrow.  At this point, I know what most of you are probably thinking.  You are probably thinking that such a lifestyle would not last for long and that a day of reckoning would eventually come, and you would be exactly right.  In fact, anyone that has ever had a tremendous amount of credit card debt knows how painful that day of reckoning can be.  To mindlessly run up credit card debt is exceedingly reckless, but unfortunately that is precisely what we have been doing as a nation as a whole.  We are a “buy now, pay later” society, and our national day of reckoning is approaching very, very quickly.

Often we like to focus on our exploding national debt, but household debt is out of control too.  In fact, the total amount of household debt in the United States is now up to a whopping 12.3 trillion dolllars

In the second quarter, total household debt increased by $35 billion to $12.3 trillion, according to the New York Fed’s latest quarterly report on household debt. That increase was driven by two categories: auto loans and credit cards.

We throw around words like “trillion” so often these days that they often start to lose their meaning.  But the truth is that 12.3 trillion dollars is an astounding amount of money.  It breaks down to about $38,557 for every man, woman and child in the entire country.  So if you have a family of four, your share comes to a grand total of $154,231, and that doesn’t even include corporate debt, local government debt, state government debt or the gigantic debt of the federal government.  That number is only for household debt, and there aren’t too many Americans that could cough up their share right at this moment.

Do you remember when I wrote about how credit card companies are specifically targeting less educated and less sophisticated consumers?  Well, that is where much of the credit card debt growth has come lately.  Just check out these numbers

Now, credit cards are returning among individuals with low credit or subprime credit scores below 660. Among people with credit scores between 620 and 660, the share that had a credit card rose to 58.8% in 2015 from a low of 54.3% in 2013. Among those with scores below 620, the number of people with a credit card increased to 50% from a low of 45.6% two years ago. Both figures for 2015 are the highest since 2008.

In America today, we are enjoying a standard of living that we do not deserve.

We consume far more wealth than we produce.  The only way we are able to do that is by going into debt.

Debt takes future consumption and brings it into the present.  In other words, we are damaging the future in order to make the present a little bit better.  On an individual level, we may enjoy the big screen television we buy with a credit card today, but we are taking away our ability to spend money later.  And on a national level, what our unprecedented debt binge is doing to future generations of Americans is beyond criminal.

Earlier this month I explained these things to a live studio audience down at Morningside, and you can view a video of that right here

In this article I haven’t even talked about corporate debt yet.  Instead of learning their lessons from the last financial crisis, big corporations have gone on the biggest debt spree of all time.  If you can believe it, corporate debt has approximately doubled since the last financial crisis.  In other words, since the last recession we have essentially matched the total amount of corporate debt that we accumulated from the beginning of the country up to 2009.

Unfortunately, a lot of that debt is now going bad.

In previous articles I have documented that corporate debt delinquencies are now the highest that they have been since the last financial crisis, and corporate debt defaults are also the highest that they have been since the last financial crisis.

At this point, even the mainstream media is acknowledging that we have a corporate debt “crisis”.  The following comes from an article that was just put out by the Denver Post

The number of companies that have defaulted so far this year has already passed the total for all of last year, which itself had the most since the financial crisis. Even among companies considered high-quality, or investment grade, credit-rating agencies say a record number are so stretched financially that they’re one bad quarter or so from being downgraded to “junk” status.

Companies whose debt is already deemed “junk” are in the worst shape in years. To pay back all they owe, they would have to set aside every dollar of their operating earnings over the next eight and a half years, more than twice as long as it would have taken during the 2008 crisis, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Are you starting to get the picture?

And I haven’t even started talking about our national debt yet.  When Barack Obama entered the White House, we were 10.6 trillion dollars in debt.  Today, we are 19.4 trillion dollars in debt.  That means that we have added 8.8 trillion dollars to the national debt under Obama, which breaks down to an average of 1.1 trillion dollars of additional debt a year.

We have been taking more than 100 million dollars of future consumption and bringing it into the present every single hour of every single day during the Obama administration.  That is why I am constantly referring to our “debt-fueled standard of living”.  We do not deserve to live the way that we do, but since we are able to steal from our children and our grandchildren we are able to enjoy a standard of living that most people in the world can only dream about.

Of course we are literally destroying the future of America in the process, but very few people seem to care about that these days.

Without all of this debt, we would be in a very deep economic depression right now.

But even with all of this “stimulus”, we are still mired in the worst economic “recovery” since 1949.  In fact, Barack Obama is actually on track to be the very first president in all of American history to not have one single year when U.S. GDP grew by 3 percent or better, and he has had two terms in which to try to get that accomplished.  The percentage of working age Americans that actually have a job is way down from where it was just prior to the last recession, and in this video I explain why the employment numbers put out by the government are not nearly as good as the administration would have us believe…

If the American people would have been willing to sacrifice and make some very hard choices a long time ago, maybe we could have gotten a handle on all of this debt.

But instead we continue to rack up debt as if there is no tomorrow, and in the process we are literally destroying tomorrow.

Every dollar of debt that we accumulate now makes life worse for our children and our grandchildren.

Unfortunately, we are a bunch of debt pigs, and we just can’t help ourselves.  We have come to believe that it is “normal” to go into so much debt, and as a society we continue to race toward economic oblivion.

Credit Card Companies Specifically Target Less Educated And Less Sophisticated Americans

Credit Cards - Public DomainThe big credit card companies don’t make much money off of those that pay their bills on time, and so they often specifically target less educated and less sophisticated consumers that don’t really understand the dangers of credit card debt.  The goal is to find people that will carry credit card balances from month to month, because that is where the real money can be made.  The average U.S. household that carries balances from month to month has approximately $15,310 in credit card debt right now.  At an average interest rate of about 15 percent, the profits pile up very quickly for the big credit card companies.  After all these years, so many of us still have not learned the truth about credit cards, and so credit card debt is absolutely crippling tens of millions of American families.

In 2015, the total amount of credit card debt in this country increased by a staggering 71 billion dollars.  In a previous article, I explained to my readers that American consumers accumulated more new credit card debt during the fourth quarter of 2015 than they did during the entire years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.

Many analysts are forecasting that the total amount of credit card debt will surpass a trillion dollars by the end of 2016.  This is why there is such a crying need for financial education in this nation.  Millions upon millions of us are being taken for a ride, and as I mentioned above, the big credit card companies often target those of us that are the least sophisticated about financial matters.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Credit-card companies need people to spend more than they can afford, but not so much that they default on their payments. So they could benefit from targeting individuals who are more likely to have cognitive failings. This is the dark side of behavioral finance.

Some new research by economists Antoinette Schoar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Hong Ru of Nanyang Technological University claims to find exactly such a result. The authors use data from a private company that tracks credit-card offers. They find that less educated consumers — who are likely to be less financially sophisticated — are more frequently given offers that include back-loaded costs. Those are plans that start with low rates, but increase later, with extra-high over-limit and late-payment fees. In other words, those are likely to be the borrowers who make bad financial decisions — racking up debt and eventually paying much more in interest. Meanwhile, more educated households tend not to be offered these plans.

Do you understand what that is saying?

The large credit card companies want to find those of us that are the most vulnerable, because that is where their biggest profits can be made.

And of course most of us have gotten into trouble with credit card debt at some point.  They don’t teach us how to manage our finances in high school or in college, and so most of us are very financially naive when we first get out into the real world.  Card offers are being showered on our young people, and cash-strapped young adults can find it very easy to “buy now and pay later”

Psychologically, it can be easier for people to pay using a credit card because no paper money is involved, Danford said. A Dun & Bradstreet study found that people spend an average of 12 to 18 percent more when using a credit card instead of cash.

I think that’s one of the traps. It’s almost too easy to use a credit card,” Danford said. “You don’t have to think of the consequences.”

According to 2015 data from Experian, the average American had 2.24 credit cards, up from 2.18 in 2014.

Of all credit card users, what percentage do you think carries a balance from month to month?

30 percent?

40 percent?

Well, according to Time Magazine only 35 percent of those that use credit cards completely pay them off every single month.  That means that 65 percent of those that use credit cards do carry a balance…

Only 35% of credit card users don’t carry a balance–they pay off their bill every month, like you’re supposed to. They use credit cards for convenience, and perhaps to generate bonus points and rewards, not because they need to borrow. If you’re a member of this group, you’re known as a “convenience user.” (Go ahead and pat yourself on the back for not being on the hook for high interest rates, but don’t gloat.) The other, more typical credit card users are known as “revolvers” because they don’t pay off their bills in full so the debt revolves. To them, credit limit increases are essentially invitations to spend more. It’s unsettling: “for revolvers, a 10% increase in credit is followed by a 1.3 percent increase in debt within one quarter and a 9.99% increase in debt over the long term,” the study found.

Unfortunately for the big credit card companies and the overall U.S. economy, it appears that U.S. consumers are starting to get tapped out.

Retail sales fell 2.9 percent in April, and then they dropped by 3.9 percent in May.  As a result of these declining sales, corporate profits are suffering, and it is being projected that the final numbers for the second quarter of 2016 will show that corporate profits in the U.S. have now fallen for five quarters in a row.

That is not an “economic recovery”.  Rather, that is what normally happens at the beginning of a major recession.

And don’t expect this to turn around any time soon, because Americans just don’t have the kind of discretionary income that they once did.  The following comes from a New York Post article entitled “A staggering percentage of Americans are too poor to shop“…

Retailers have blamed the weather, slow job growth and millennials for their poor results this past year, but a new study claims that more than 20 percent of Americans are simply too poor to shop.

These 26 million Americans are juggling two to three jobs, earning just around $27,000 a year and supporting two to four children — and exist largely under the radar, according to America’s Research Group, which has been tracking consumer shopping trends since 1979.

So much of what is happening right now is very reminiscent of 2008.  There was an explosion of credit card debt just before that crash as well.

We should have learned some very hard lessons the last time around, but we didn’t, and so now the pain for American families will be even greater this time.

If you are in credit card debt at this moment, it would be wise to try to eliminate it as soon as you can, because you definitely don’t want to be drowning in debt when times get really, really hard.

George Soros Is Preparing For Economic Collapse – Does He Know Something That You Don’t?

George Soros - Photo by Niccolo CarantiWhy is George Soros selling stocks, buying gold and making “a series of big, bearish investments”?  If things stay relatively stable like they are right now, these moves will likely cost George Soros a tremendous amount of money.  But if a major financial crisis is imminent, he stands to make obscene returns.  So does George Soros know something that the rest of us do not?  Could it be possible that he has spent too much time reading websites such as The Economic Collapse Blog?  What are we to make of all of this?

The recent trading moves that Soros has made are so big and so bearish that they have even gotten the attention of the Wall Street Journal

Worried about the outlook for the global economy and concerned that large market shifts may be at hand, the billionaire hedge-fund founder and philanthropist recently directed a series of big, bearish investments, according to people close to the matter.

Soros Fund Management LLC, which manages $30 billion for Mr. Soros and his family, sold stocks and bought gold and shares of gold miners, anticipating weakness in various markets. Investors often view gold as a haven during times of turmoil.

Hmmm – it sounds suspiciously like George Soros and Michael Snyder are on the exact same page as far as what is about to happen to the global economy.

You know that it is very late in the game when that starts happening…

One thing that George Soros is particularly concerned about that I haven’t been talking a lot about yet is the upcoming Brexit vote.  If the United Kingdom leaves the EU (and hopefully they will), the short-term consequences for the European economy could potentially be absolutely catastrophic

Mr. Soros also argues that there remains a good chance the European Union will collapse under the weight of the migration crisis, continuing challenges in Greece and a potential exit by the United Kingdom from the EU.

If Britain leaves, it could unleash a general exodus, and the disintegration of the European Union will become practically unavoidable,” he said.

The Brexit vote will be held two weeks from today on June 23rd, and we shall be watching to see what happens.

But Soros is not just concerned about a potential Brexit.  The economic slowdown in China also has him very worried, and so he has directed his firm to make extremely bearish wagers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the last time Soros made these kinds of bearish moves was back in 2007, and it resulted in more than a billion dollars of gains for his company.

Of course Soros is not alone in his bearish outlook.  In fact, Goldman Sachs has just warned that “there may be significant risk to the downside for the market”

Goldman Sachs is getting nervous about stocks.

In a note to clients, equity strategist Christian Mueller-Glissmann outlined the firm’s fears that there may be significant risk to the downside for the market.

Ultimately, George Soros and Goldman Sachs are looking at the same economic data that I share with my readers on a daily basis.

As I have been documenting for months, almost every single economic indicator that you can possibly think of says that we are heading into a recession.

For instance, just today I was sent a piece by Mike Shedlock that showed that federal and state tax receipts are really slowing down just like they did just prior to the last two recessions…

US federal personal tax receipts receipts are falling fast. So is the Evercore ISI State Tax Survey.

The last two times the survey plunged this much, the US was already in recession.

Is it different this time?

Tax Receipts - Mish Shedlock

And online job postings on LinkedIn have now been falling precipitously since February after 73 months in a row of growth

After 73 consecutive months of year-over-year growth, online jobs postings have been in decline since February. May was by far the worst month since January 2009, down 285k from April and down 552k from a year ago.

Last week, the government issued the worst jobs report in nearly six years, and the energy industry continues to bleed good paying middle class jobs at a staggering rate.  The following comes from oilprice.com

That may seem counterintuitive in an industry that has been rapidly shedding workers, with more than 350,000 people laid off in the oil and gas industry worldwide.

Texas is one place feeling the pain. Around 99,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Lone Star state have been eliminated since prices collapsed two years ago, or about one third of the entire industry. In April alone there were about 6,300 people in oil and gas and supporting services that were handed pink slips. Employment in Texas’ oil sector is close to levels not seen since the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2009. “We’re still losing big chunks of jobs with each passing month,” Karr Ingham, an Amarillo-based economist, told The Houston Chronicle.

At this point it is so obvious that we have entered a new economic downturn that I don’t know how anyone can possibly deny it any longer.

Unfortunately, the reality of what is happening has not sunk in with the general population yet.

Just like 2008, people are feverishly racking up huge credit card balances even though we stand on the precipice of a major financial crisis…

American taxpayers are quick to criticize the federal government for its ever-increasing national debt, but a new study released Wednesday found taxpayers are also saddled with debt, and are likely to end 2016 with a record high $1 trillion in outstanding balances.

Wallethub, a site that recommends credit cards based on consumers’ needs, said that will be the highest amount of credit card debt on record, surpassing even the years during and before the Great Recession. The site said the record high was in 2008, when people owed $984.2 billion on their credit cards.

Will we ever learn?

This has got to be one of the worst possible times to be going into credit card debt.

Sadly, the “dumb money” will continue to act dumb and the “smart money” (such as George Soros) will continue to quietly position themselves to take advantage of the crisis that is already starting to unfold.

We can’t change what is happening to the economy, but we do have control over the choices that we make.

So I urge you to please make your choices wisely.

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

Credit Card Debt In The United States Is Approaching A Trillion Dollars

Credit Card Debt - Public DomainFor the first time ever, total credit card debt in the United States is approaching a trillion dollars.  Instead of learning painful lessons from the last recession, Americans continue to make the same horrendous financial mistakes over and over again.  In fact, U.S. consumers accumulated more new credit card debt during the 4th quarter of 2015 than they did during the years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.  That is absolutely insanity, because other than payday loans, credit card debt is just about the worst kind of debt that consumers could possibly go into.  Extremely high rates of interest, combined with severe penalties and fees, can choke the financial life out of almost any family in no time at all.

These days, most Americans use credit cards for various purposes, and they can be very convenient.

And if you pay them off every single month, they don’t become a problem.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are not doing this.  According to CNBC, total U.S. credit card debt rose by an astounding 71 billion dollars last year alone…

Last year, credit card debt in the U.S. surged by approximately $71 billion to $917.7 billion, according to a new study from CardHub.com. The research also found that most of the debt accrued in 2015 came in the fourth quarter, when Americans tacked on more than $52 billion.

“With 7 of the past 10 quarters reflecting year-over-year regression in consumer performance, evidence is mounting to support the notion that credit card users are reverting to pre-downturn bad habits,” CardHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou said in a statement.

And as noted above, things were particularly gruesome during the 4th quarter of last year.

According to Alternet, Americans added more credit card debt during those three months than during the entire years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined…

Not since we headed into the Great Recession of 2008 have we been quite so loosey-goosey with our credit cards, racking up debt with stunning speed. Of our 4Q totals, CardHub notes, “during this one quarter, we added more debt than in 2009, 2010 and 2011 put together.” That brings dollars owed to credit card companies by each debt-saddled American family up to $7,879, the highest since the Great Recession.

I can’t even begin to describe how unwise this is.  When I was in my twenties, I made the same mistakes that so many other Americans are making right now.  I very foolishly racked up large balances on my credit cards, and it took years of extremely painful payments to fix those mistakes.

In America today, 37 percent of all households maintain credit card balances from month to month, and the average level of credit card debt for those households is $15,700.  The following comes from CBS Minnesota

According to NerdWallet, 37 percent of American households have credit card debt, which is defined as not paying off the full balance every month. Using data from the Federal Reserve of New York, U.S. Census and its own poll, NerdWallet found the average balance for those in credit debt is $15,700.

What most people don’t realize is that by letting balances run from month to month, you can end up paying just about as much in interest as you did for the original purchases.

Here is one credit card repayment scenario that comes from NerdWallet

For the sake of simplicity in calculating the cost of the average credit card debt, let’s assume an APR of 16% and a fixed payment. We’ll also assume a minimum payment of 2% of the principal balance of $15,762, the average as of the end of 2015, or $315.

Based on those terms — and assuming you don’t add any more to your credit card balance — it would take 84 months, or seven years, to pay off the balance in full. During that time, you’ll pay $10,402 in interest — about two-thirds of the original balance — for a total of $26,164. This averages out to about $124 in interest per month.

The scenario above assumes that all payments are made on time.  But a single late payment can trigger higher interest rates, penalties and fees that can be absolutely suffocating.

In fact, some people end up paying back three, four or five times as much as they originally borrowed to the credit card companies.

If you use credit cards for convenience or to buy things online or to automatically pay bills, that is fine.  Just don’t let balances accumulate.  As you can see, that can be financial suicide.

And as we head into a new global recession, you definitely don’t want to be saddled with high levels of debt.  All of us have little luxuries that we can cut back on, and now is not the time to be living on the financial edge.

Just look at some of the troubling signs that we have seen in the news in recent days…

-The U.S. oil and rig count just dropped to the lowest level ever recorded

-One Houston CEO told employees that he was laying off that we have entered a “depression

-It is being reported that 35 percent of all oil and gas companies around the world are at risk of falling into bankruptcy

-Unemployment in Canada just hit a three year high

-The number of job cuts in the United States skyrocketed 218 percent during the month of January according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas

-U.S. manufacturing activity has been in contraction for four months in a row

-U.S. factory orders have now fallen for 15 months in a row

-Subprime auto loan delinquencies have hit their highest level since the last recession

-Orders for Class 8 trucks in the United States dropped by 48 percent on a year over year basis in January

-The Restaurant Performance Index in the United States has dropped to the lowest level that we have seen since 2008

-Major retailers all over America are shutting down hundreds of stores

And this list does not even include all of the signs of severe economic trouble from around the rest of the planet that I have been writing about lately.

Credit card debt truly is financial poison, and it is not something that you want to have during the hard times that are coming.

Unfortunately, most Americans never learn, and they continue to rack up credit card debt as if there is no tomorrow even as the global economy starts to spiral downhill all around them.

The Triumph Of Materialism: The Average American Will Spend 830 Dollars On Christmas In 2015

Christmas Gift - Public DomainHas there ever been a major holiday more focused on materialism than the modern American Christmas?  This year, Americans are planning to spend an average of 830 dollars on Christmas gifts, which represents a jump of 110 dollars over the average of 720 dollars last year.  But have our incomes gone up accordingly?  Of course not.  In fact, real median household income in the United States has been experiencing a steady long-term decline.  So in order to fund all of our Christmas spending, we have got to go into even more debt.  We love to pull out our credit cards and spend money that we do not have on lots of cheap, useless stuff made on the other side of the world by workers making slave labor wages.  We do the same thing year after year, and most of us have grown accustomed to the endless cycle of growing debt.  In fact, one Pew survey found that approximately 70 percent of all Americans believe that “debt is a necessity in their lives”.  But then we have to work our fingers to the bone to try to make the payments on all of that debt, not realizing that debt systematically impoverishes us.  It may be hard to believe, but if you have a single dollar in your pocket and no debt, you have a greater net worth than 25 percent of all Americans.  I know that sounds crazy, but it is true.

Overall, when you add up all forms of debt (consumer, business, local government, state government and federal government), Americans are more than 60 trillion dollars in debt.

Let that sink in for a bit.

40 years ago, that number was sitting at about 3 trillion dollars.

We have been on the greatest debt binge in the history of the world.  Even though we were “the wealthiest, most prosperous nation on the entire planet”, we always had to have more.  We just kept on borrowing and borrowing and borrowing from the future until we completely destroyed it.

And we still haven’t learned anything.  Instead, this Christmas season we will be partying like it’s 2007

Americans are planning on celebrating Christmas like it’s 2007.

A November survey by Gallup found that US adults are planning on spending about $830 on average on Christmas gifts this year.

That’s a huge jump from last year’s $720 average.

Notably, American consumers haven’t suggested a number that high since November 2007, when they were planning on spending $866 on average.

Sadly, our incomes simply do not justify this kind of extravagance.  As Zero Hedge has pointed out, household incomes “actually peaked at least 15 years ago in 81% of U.S. counties.”

So why can’t we adjust our lifestyles to match?

Why must we always have more?

Here are more details on our declining incomes from the Visual Capitalist

  • Income peaked one year ago for many of the counties that are a part of the shale boom. This includes much of North and South Dakota, as well as parts of Texas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Income in Washington, D.C. and neighboring Arlington County also peaked then.
  • In 1999, a total of 1,623 counties had their households reach peak income. The majority of these counties are in the Midwest and Southeast.
  • The most southern part of California and parts of New England both peaked around 25 years ago.
  • Many states along the Rocky Mountains such as Wyoming and Montana had counties that peaked roughly 35 years ago.
  • Household income peaked in upstate New York, the northern tip of California, and southern Nevada at the same time that humans were first landing on the moon in 1969.

But you won’t hear this reported on the mainstream news, will you?

They want us to think that happy days are here again.

The following chart comes from the Federal Reserve, and it shows that real median household income in the United States has been trending down since 1999…

Real Median Household Income - Federal Reserve

Americans should be having smaller Christmases instead of bigger ones, but that doesn’t fit the image of who we still think that we are.

Recently, I published an article entitled “Goodbye Middle Class: 51 Percent Of All American Workers Make Less Than 30,000 Dollars A Year” that was shared more than 44,000 times on Facebook.  In that article, I included brand new figures that were just released by the Social Security Administration.  As you can see, the quality of our jobs is not great…

-38 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

-51 percent of all American workers made less than $30,000 last year.

-62 percent of all American workers made less than $40,000 last year.

-71 percent of all American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

Without a doubt, most American families should not be spending hundreds of dollars a year on Christmas gifts.

At these income levels, most American families are just barely surviving.

But once again this year, millions upon millions of Americans will flock to the malls and big box stores in a desperate attempt to make themselves happy.

Sadly, those efforts will be in vain.  In fact, in a previous article I highlighted the fact that Christmas is the unhappiest season of the year.  The suicide rate spikes to the highest level of the year during “the holidays”, and 45 percent of all Americans report that they dread the Christmas season.  The following is an excerpt from a Psychology Today article

We are told that Christmas, for Christians, should be the happiest time of year, an opportunity to be joyful and grateful with family, friends and colleagues. Yet, according to the National Institute of Health, Christmas is the time of year that people experience the highest incidence of depression. Hospitals and police forces report the highest incidences of suicide and attempted suicide. Psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals report a significant increase in patients complaining about depression. One North American survey reported that 45% of respondents dreaded the festive season.

In recent years, an increasing number of Americans have given up the tradition of Christmas gifts entirely, and many of them that I know seem quite happy to have done so.

Of course most people are still quite satisfied with the status quo, and there are many that will get very angry with you if you dare to suggest that the way that Americans celebrate Christmas has gotten way out of hand.

But shouldn’t it alarm us that for most Americans the biggest holiday of the year is all about the “stuff” they are going to buy, the “stuff” they are going to give and the “stuff” they are going to get?

As a society, we are obsessed with things, but those things are never going to make us happy.

Perhaps we should all take some time to reflect on the traditions that we choose to participate in and what they really mean to us during this “holiday season”…

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