So Mr. Trump, our mentally ill President, just crashed the economy with one of his acts of lunacy. The Dow is down over 600 points, and that was after showing some signs of instability in the past couple of weeks.
Like it or not, China is a major trading partner for the US. Shut it off, and we cut off our own nose to spite our proverbial face. Trump’s act of spite will harm every business in this country, large or small. Mine, for example, the smallest of the small: Trump just closed my business. China has always been pretty woozy about sending money beyond its borders, so when you’re selling a service to clients on the mainland, getting paid can be a challenge. When I decided to quit using PayPal and found that Bank of America couldn’t figure out how to accept a wire transfer to a business that has an apostrophe in its name(!!), that left only Western Union as a way to transfer payments owed. This was questionable enough as it stood, but now that the Moron in Chief has cut off trade with China, it presumably will be impossible.
Presumably, indeed, I will never be paid for the two difficult academic articles I just finished editing and preparing for publication. And presumably after this The Copyeditor’s Desk will get no (zero, zip) further business from its bread-and-butter clients in China.
That is about as micro- a micro-example of this fiasco as you can get.
On a far more macro level, there’s a reason the market lost over 600 points before it closed. This country does a lot of business with China. Cut it off, and you close a lot of businesses, end a lot of commerce, lose a lot of jobs.
And lose a whole lot of income for the American middle class.
Mark my words: The Trump recession will make the Bush recession look like a walk in the park. If you have any illusions that you can survive it, now is the time to prepare yourself and your affairs. How?
- First, pay off debt. Pay all your outstanding credit cards right now. If you owe a lot on a mortgage, it may be wise to sell your house while it’s still worth something and rent someplace until such time as this recession comes and goes. If you have a car loan, pay it off if you can, or get rid of the car if you can.
- Do not take on any new debt. Do not buy a car. Do not buy a new house or apartment. Do not go off on some expensive vacation or indulge yourself with anything that requires you to charge up more than you can pay off at the end of a billing cycle.
- To the extent possible, place investment funds in money market, CD, or other relatively “safe” instruments. These will not make money for you, but they won’t lose much, either. Get out of securities.
- Charge nothing on a credit card that you cannot pay at the end of the billing cycle out of your bank account. Pay off credit cards at the end of each month or, if that is a challenge for you, simply stop charging on credit cards. If you can’t pay for something with cash, don’t buy it.
If you’re a retiree with most of your life savings in an IRA, 401(k) or 403(c), the timing of this latest moment of lunacy could hardly be worse. Along about now, retirees with deferred investment instruments have to make their annual “required minimum withdrawal”: a forced withdrawal of a percentage of savings, so that you will have to pay taxes on it. With the market extremely depressed, two things happen:
A drawdown generated by the required percentage will be substantially less than normal (think of it this way: 10% of $100 is $10. But if one day your $100 loses $60 (say 1 stock market point = $1), then you get 10% of $40. That would be $4. Which ain’t a-gunna be enough to live on. And of course the remaining $40 will not rebound to $100 or even to $96 very soon, because it will be short 10% of the funds you would, over time, reinvest to recover the value of your losses.
There aren’t a lot of ways to prepare for a little catastrophe like that. One way or the other, you’re not going to have enough to get by. But you’ll be a lot less likely to have your house foreclosed out from under you and your car towed off to the impound yard if you don’t owe anything on them.
I have to say, for the first time in my adult life, I’ve begun to think seriously about decamping to some other country. Permanently.
Apparently one of the best places you can go to live as an expat is Panama. A little town called Boquette, to be precise. Check out the real estate in this place! How about the view from this hovel, 3520 square feet in a gated community, for about $100,000 less than I could get for my house today…
Crime levels are low in Boquette. The local expats say there’s lots to do and the weather is great. Medical care, we’re told, is more than adequate and is reasonably priced.
Two of my friends have already moved to Mexico. They’re both ecstatically happy. One is a native speaker of Iberian Spanish…but Spanish is easy to pick up if you don’t already have it. Especially if, as happens to be my case, you speak two other Romance languages and have a spattering of Latin.
Lookit this thing: it’s easily a hundred grand less than I could get for my house here, and it’s freaking gorgeous. Much, much nicer than my house, and 1478 square feet larger.
The time may be a-comin…