Rachel’s note: Regular readers know our founder, Doug Casey, believes a Greater Depression is looming.
And in a depression, the winner is the one who loses the least.
So today, we’re sharing a classic Conversations With Casey. Doug shares steps to take with your money pre-collapse. And why young people benefit more from memorable experiences than spending money on formal education…
Rachel Bodden, managing editor, Casey Research: We’ve spoken before about some of the investment implications of a collapse… but you hinted there are even bigger problems than just those related to the market. What are some specific steps that you suggest people take pre-collapse?
Doug Casey, founder, Casey Research: If you’re retired or approaching retirement, you should mainly try to conserve capital – not gamble in hopes of getting lucky. As Richard Russell liked to say, in a depression, the winner is the one who loses the least. From an action point of view, that means owning physical gold, silver, and Bitcoin. Although I understand that last will outrage some people. Also, buy mining stocks and oil stocks – they’re bargains, with huge upside from here.
Many people are using the stock market as a substitute for a casino, however, using trading services like the tout sheets at a race track. It’s a very bad idea at this stage in the business cycle. Younger people are in a different position, of course. But I think they too can find much wiser uses for their time and money than playing the market.
When you’re younger, you shouldn’t worry about money so much as getting experience that will serve you well throughout life. I’ve long advocated that people take off a year, or two, or three, to do things best done while you’re young, instead of going to college. Use just a small portion of the money that you’d spend going to college to do memorable things. Go to different and strange countries, broaden your horizons, and see how the world works. I promise it will be vastly more valuable than sitting at a desk, listening to Marxist professors try to indoctrinate you.
In addition to the kind of experience that’s only available through travel, you should be reading constantly and gaining knowledge. Travel and reading tend to be things most people put off and save for the future. That’s a mistake. These aren’t things to put on a “bucket list” for when you’re older, thinking you’ll have the time, and be looking to fend off boredom. Youth is for gaining knowledge and experience. Those things will allow you to see opportunities that you would not see unless you have a huge bank of knowledge and experience.
It’s a gigantic mistake to sit in a classroom with other young people who know as little or less than you do, while dissipating $200,000 or $300,000 and four or more years of time.
Another thing. Use the years most kids misallocate in college to gain skills and abilities, which is a little bit different than knowledge from reading and travel. By that I mean, learn to play sports and activities that will allow you to move with people of a higher socioeconomic background in the future. For instance, this is one of the advantages of learning to play polo. It’s expensive, yes. But when I go to almost any major city in the world, if I go to the local polo club, I’m automatically a member and have an entrée into the most successful and richest people in that society.
To a much lesser degree, that’s true of golf and tennis. But there are all kinds of activities that can give you entrées into different groups of people. For instance, learn to shoot skeet, learn to skydive, learn to race cars, practice martial arts, learn to scuba dive, and become expert in them.
Rachel: I love scuba diving.
Doug: Super. I’ve scuba dived all over the world, and have been active at it for most of my life, actually.
When you’re young, concentrate on knowledge, experience, travel, skills, and making connections. Because there are some things that you really had better do, or maybe can only do, when you’re young. Because at some point an accident, an illness, or simply age and entropy will preclude them.
Sitting in a classroom to get a credential – a piece of paper – is low on the list. Apart from the fact most students cut classes, fall asleep in them, are bored by poor lecturers, and take bad notes.
Rachel: That’s excellent advice for younger people. And there’s so much pressure for them to just go to college, as if that’s the only pathway they are acceptably allowed to have. Your version is so much more enriching and allows you to do so much more and be around so many more people.
Doug: I promise it’s not only vastly more fun, but should be much more financially remunerative as well. College has become an extremely expensive and stultifying way to transform kids into becoming no more than drones, cogs in the wheel. It actually makes kids feel they’re not responsible for improving themselves.
Rachel: Speaking of college, I can’t imagine that the biggest scam in America can survive a collapse like the Greater Depression. I know that I myself got a degree from a university where a single semester at the time cost about $28,000.
So do you think that industry will survive the collapse?
Doug: The answer is no. There are way, way too many so-called institutions of higher learning today. I suggest everybody that’s reading this, watch the video of the hour I spent on The Phil Donahue Show the day before the national elections in 1980. The audience generally liked me, but there were two things that I said that actually made them boo me.
One of them was that I said, even then: Don’t waste four years of your life and a whole bunch of capital going to college, unless there’s something very specific you need to learn. Of course, many fewer people went to college 40 years ago than today; it was considered more of a privilege for the elite. And the quality of the professors and classes was not only much higher, but it was much cheaper in real terms. For what it’s worth, I was a trustee of the tenth-oldest college in the U.S. for five years. I can tell you that not only is the system corrupt, but it’s probably incapable of change.
I’ve said college was a mistake for many years, and it’s even truer now than it’s ever been, for lots of reasons. Most people go off to college thinking that a diploma guarantees them something in life. In fact, it only guarantees an infusion of phony ideas and a lot of debt.
People have forgotten that the object of education is to improve yourself, not get a piece of paper. Leonardo da Vinci didn’t go to school. He was entirely self-educated. Everybody should follow his model – and that of Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and hundreds of other polymaths and Renaissance men. They proved that all you really need is basic literacy and numeracy – none of them had more than a year or two of formal schooling. You aren’t educated; you educate yourself.
College is mainly valuable for STEM courses – science, technology, engineering, and math. Why? For those things, it’s helpful to have the formal discipline of a class, hopefully a mentor, and laboratories to work in.
But other than STEM subjects, I’d say going to college today is actually a negative value. Four years of living in an academic womb, its amniotic fluid chock-full of poisonous memes, isn’t a good idea.
Rachel: Well, I myself wish that I had spent four years and a fraction of the capital that I spent on a degree that I don’t even use traveling the world. I’m lucky that I traveled a lot growing up, but I still should have done more.
Doug: You’ve figured it out. But most people of your generation don’t have a clue. You’re way ahead of the game.
Rachel: Thank you, Doug. High praise from you. Young or old… do you have a few books you consider required reading if you want to be a clear thinker?
Doug: Good question. Figure that – even if you’re very diligent – reading a book a week from age 10 to age 60, adds up to 2,000 books, maximum. And keep Pareto’s Law in mind – one variation of it holds, correctly, that 80% of everything is crap. So it’s important to choose wisely.
It’s hard for me to recommend just a few offhandedly. However, over the years I’ve done hundreds of interviews with a good number of book recommendations. But two books come to mind and stand out in this context. One is Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, the other Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness. Both are quite short in length, well-written, and absolutely brilliant.
Rachel: Thank you for your time today, Doug. And I just want to remind our readers of Assassin, the third book in your High Ground Novel series. I think it should be required reading, too.
Doug: Thanks, Rachel.
Rachel’s note: What do you think? Is college turning younger generations into nothing more than drones, as Doug says? Do you have other ideas of the most fulfilling ways to spend your time and money pre-collapse? Let us know at [email protected].