What if I shared an easy way to lose money with you? Think about it: so many experts overcaffeinate and get back pain typing tomes of money-making ideas, but no one advises otherwise.
It’s as though the moon never shows its dark side: you only see the bright face. The Internet is like this, too: only positive advice gets the spotlight—the negative, not so much.
But aren’t you curious? We’ve all heard “war stories” and read biographies about people from all walks of life becoming fabulously rich, but stories of life-altering losses are rarely written. They are, however, no less valuable.
Let me tell you one: the protagonist is you, and it all begins with a trip to the bank.
Not to be too glib, but it pretty much ends there. If you deposit your money in a commercial bank in the United States, you will most likely be worse off when you start drawing down those funds. And the reason couldn’t be more mundane: low interest rates do not keep up with inflation, eating into your returns first and then the principal.
But you won’t notice it, really. Your statements will still show that, on an annual basis, you earned some 1%, and your year-end balance will puff up in terms of non-inflation-adjusted dollars.
And your friends won’t notice, either. In all likelihood, the most you’ll ever hear on this topic will be a short angry outburst that slowly subsides so as to not spoil your poker party’s weekend mood.
So let me, on your friends’ behalf, enrage you.
By putting your money in the bank, you are not saving—the word that comes to mind, actually, is “sacrificing.” Why? Because you are losing two battles. First, inflation eats into your savings. Then you get the basement-level rates. Put those two together and chances are you will never have the lifestyle you want from the savings you so carefully carved out and trusted with your bank.
And we aren’t talking a derbies/yachting/Hamptons summerhouse lifestyle, although bless you if you do fall into that category. We are talking about savers who were trained to delay gratification. Last I checked, the big banks are in no mood to gratify anyone.
But savers, stuck in their well-intentioned ways, keep bringing their money to the bank. In fact, US banks have never been as flush with savings as they are now:
Debt-watchers like to talk about the mountain of debt—I present you with a mountain of pointless savings. By the way, I dare you to find the crisis of 2008-2009 on this plot.
Distrust of stocks and recent talk of the equity market approaching a bubble state didn’t help: good old savings are growing at an amazing pace countrywide.
But sheer volume rarely means much. Per-person rates make the abstract personal and relatable. And when we consider how much money US savers make on interest and dividends, this picture emerges:
Several observations here:
- Interest is a more important source of income than dividends for the average US person. No wonder: banks are more familiar to many than the stock market.
- Since the pre-crisis peak of 2007, per-person interest income has declined by 16%. Dividends, despite the deeper plunge they took in 2008-2009, grew by 3.4% in the same time period.
- During the past 10 years, interest income grew by a “whopping” 12.1%. Dividends? By 55.7%.
Add this to the mix: between February 2005 and February 2015, cumulative inflation was 22.4%, according to InflationData.com. My point?
If you put $1,000 in the bank in February 2005, even though you grew your money by an attractive 12.1% over the past 10 years, your real wealth decreased by 8.4% to $915.85. If you invested the same amount of money in stocks, your dividends (not talking about price appreciation here at all) would have made you 27.2% richer—after inflation.
This is why, if you want to lose money, just bring it to the bank. If you have enemies, pass them this note.
P.S. But if you have friends, let them know they can fire their bank. Learn how in the April edition of Money Forever Portfolio. If you’re already a subscriber, sign in to My Casey and start reading, or sign up 100% risk-free now by clicking here.