Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
If you spent the weekend in Athens or anywhere else in Greece, chances are your attempts to withdraw cash were met with the message that “This ATM is out of money”.
And if today’s news is any indication, everyone in Greece will be feeling the pinch for a long time to come.
More than one-third of ATMs throughout Greece’s network literally ran out of money as people camped outside of their local bank branch as much as three hours in advance for their chance to be among the first to get their own money into their own hands.
Simply put, that means some 2,000 ATMs were without cash. It’s downright frightening if your entire financial fate is in the hands of a bunch of greedy politicians.
For months now, Greece has been in damage control mode. They’ve been toying with their creditors, saying they want to make a deal but making no efforts to pay anyone back.
In short, Greek politicians have been doing what politicians do best: posture.
Now, it’s finally crunch time as the rest of Europe and the rest of the world has had enough. And it should remind you of a few very important lessons of why internationalizing your money is so important.
Before we discuss those reasons, imagine this: your small country’s banking system has just seen nearly $700 million siphoned out of it in a single day.
Like many people where you live, much of your life savings is nothing more than numbers on a page. When you think about it, you own nothing more than a promise to pay you little scraps of paper if you ever decide to ask for them.
As your country prepares to be ousted from its economic union and sent to third world status, you realize that the politicians and bankers in your country control your entire fate.
Literally everything you own on paper could be taken from you, with nothing due you in return. We saw this scenario play out two years ago in Cyprus when the government struck a deal to confiscate the assets of anyone with any type of financial security.
Back then, I told you two things…
First, that bank deposits are not safe. They are controlled by central banks that will print money with wanton abandon to flood the market and compete in a race to the bottom with other countries, but not protect your money when times get tough.
Second, I predicted that a flood of propaganda about “the next Cyprus” would cause governments to point at a bunch of non-problems to deflect attention from the real problems.
The media spent a lot of time back then blathering about how Malta had a high amount of bank deposits for its small size, and how Luxembourg was just too small to be a significant banking haven.
Nobody wasted any ink talking about the disaster that is and was Greece, or the pending disaster in Spain, or any of the other bankrupt western countries that somehow the media loves to gloss over as perfectly solvent merely because they have the ability to borrow more.
If only the media would have told you that Greece – not Malta or Luxembourg or the Cayman Islands or Singapore – was the next bubble to pop, you might have been one of the few to believe them.
That’s because we have a tendency to believe that “it can’t happen here”.
It’s not a secret that Greece is a country of overly taxed, amply rewarded, largely lazy people who want to spend their early 50s nibbling on foie gras and sipping Malagousia on a government pension check.
But when it comes to a country so well known, most people – especially those who live there – figure the government will come to the rescue.
For some reason, every person lined up twenty-deep to withdraw their cash before capital controls are imposed didn’t see the writing on the wall when Greece raised property taxes as much as 700%.
Even when the government was JAILING people for not being able to afford property tax, people figured the system would just keep working.
I guess because, they figure, “those are just the rules”.
We are once again seeing that there are no rules in a world where epically unsustainable financial systems are falling apart at the seams right before our very eyes.
Here is the real lesson to learn: your politicians won’t save you. In fact, they’ll throw you under the bus to save themselves in two seconds.
In this case, that could easily happen as the European Central Bank and other parties are already throwing Greece under the bus. Politicians fiddled, and now the peoples’ money will burn.
In fact, capital controls are an obvious possibility for a situation where billions of dollars are being sucked out in record time.
Can anyone really say they didn’t see this coming?
When you live in a country that spends with wanton abandon and has the gall to ask for $5 donations to pay off their debt, this is what you should expect.
This scenario can easily play out in any other insolvent western country where defiant politicians refuse to accept reality for fear of damaging their delicate little egos.
At a certain point, nobody – not even a politician – can defy gravity. The Greeks thought they could fight their way out of being broke, yet no referendum or political tactic can fend off bankruptcy.
It’s only a matter of time.
This is the same scenario playing out in countries all over the world. And the only real solution is to be diversified.
While no fiat currency is worth more than the paper it is printed on, being diversified in various currencies and in various jurisdictions is a far superior solution to simply waiting and hoping for the best.
We frequently discuss the idea that you ought to “go where you’re treated best” rather than take a hopeful approach of “stay and fight”.
Your money is no different. Keeping your money in a Greek bank is not taking a stand or being patriotic. It’s just dumb.
Before you smirk that your country is the exception to the rule because your pizza is better or your politicians are smarter, realize that none of the millions of people bankrupted by government stupidity and fiscal management in the last decade alone ever WANTED to be bankrupt.
They merely didn’t see the writing on the wall, and they didn’t act in time.
You can’t say you haven’t been warned.