Dear Reader,

Vedran Vuk here, filling in for David. First, today, Dennis will talk about magic retirement numbers. Can we really hit a certain figure and never have to worry about money again? Then, continuing from last week, we’ll have additional reader questions for Terry based on last week’s interview on inflation and monetary matters.

Also, before we get started, make sure to check out Dennis’ interview on the Chad Slagle Show. If you want to jump right to his interview, he starts at the 6:45 mark.

I’ll keep it fairly short here myself, as I’m on a working vacation visiting my grandparents in Croatia. From my trip, I wanted to share with you a very noticeable difference between our US culture and the locals here.

My dad in the US is thinking of building a gate to his driveway… however, he already lives in a gated community. On top of that, he has a security system and is armed as well. While this may sound a little zany, he wouldn’t be the first person in his neighborhood to build a second gate. Note that there have never been any break-ins in the area. In fact, while visiting there, I’ve never even seen a slightly suspicious-looking person.

Since staying in Croatia with my grandparents, every night we’ve been sleeping with the windows and the front door wide open. Furthermore, my grandparents are in their 80s, unable to defend themselves, and have no firearms in the house. Is Croatia a safe place? Yes, very much so; but there’s still crime here. Consider that the economy is a wreck: 18.1% unemployment, and worse yet, youth unemployment stands at an absolutely stunning 51%.

I’ve always heard my US friends warn of such unemployment rates. If the economy gets worse, there will be riots in the streets—it will supposedly be pure chaos. Yet, here are my grandparents, sleeping with their front door open.

During my trip, someone broke into a corner store a block away. I thought to myself, “Let’s see what my grandparents do tonight… will they lock up their doors in fear?” Nope. They left them wide open as usual and weren’t even one bit scared about the break-in.

What’s increasingly apparent to me is that in the US, we’ve developed a culture of fear. We’re scared to death of just about anything and everything. Sure, some precautions are warranted, but when people are building gates in gated communities, then there’s truly a sickness in our society.

What’s my explanation? I can’t say for sure, but I’d point at our media as the main culprit. Turn on any news channel and it’s nonstop fear-mongering about terrorists, Obamacare, murder trials, crime, etc. Turn on the local Croatian news here and its maybe ten minutes of politics, news about a new museum opening, a report on the year’s tourism, and scenes from a local festival. It’s a much more relaxed approach, despite an abysmal economy.

I’m already not looking forward to my arrival at a US airport, where I’ll be welcomed back into our culture of fear. Upon my arrival, I will be greeted by a very suspicious and unfriendly customs person. I’ll have my shoes removed in New York and will be forced to go through a porno-scanner. All of these procedures are the result of a populace living in constant fear.

Consider the pointlessness of this policy. I’ll be flying from Europe, where I will not have to remove my shoes and will go through just a regular metal detector. Yes, fellow Americans, every single day hundreds of international flights which have not adhered to our security protocol land in our major cities.

I can’t point to anything that I’ve learned in economics and finance about the level of fear in a society. There’s no “fear index” that correlates with economic growth or decline. But the index in my gut tells me that this culture of fear can’t be good for us. Don’t build a second gate, turn off the news, and regain your sanity.

Now, let’s get to Dennis’ article on magic retirement numbers…