Buffett Finally Admits the Dollar is Doomed!

Finally Warren Buffett said what I’ve been harping on about for two years. In his NYT op-ed piece titled “The Greenback Effect” he admited that the government is setting us up for massive inflation and destruction of the US Dollar.

This fiscal year, though, the deficit will rise to about 13 percent of G.D.P., more than twice the non-wartime record. In dollars, that equates to a staggering $1.8 trillion.

During this fiscal year, [our net debt] will increase more than one percentage point per month, climbing to about 56 percent of G.D.P. from 41 percent. Admittedly, other countries, like Japan and Italy, have far higher ratios and no one can know the precise level of net debt to G.D.P. at which the United States will lose its reputation for financial integrity. But a few more years like this one and we will find out.

The US debt is currently financed by foreigners. Foreigners who have excess Dollars because we used to import everything from them. Three years ago during the height of the housing boom, consumers refinanced their homes every year and bought stuff they couldn’t afford, most of it imported from these same foreign countries. Indeed, consumer spending was 75% of our GDP. But with the collapse in housing, what has happend to consumer spending at the retail level?

Monthly US Retail Sales Total YoY

Retail spending has dropped off a cliff. Click on the image to go to retailsails.com which is has a lot of indepth information about the dismal level of retail sales.

And with the decline in spending, imports decline and in turn the ability of foreigners to finance our deficit spending. As they decide they no longer want to buy US treasuries at 3.5% but instead would like to buy stock in undervalued companies, real estate or maybe gold, the Federal Reserve is going to have to work overtime to print all the money it needs to fund the government spending. Buffett projects that the Treasury will need to finance at least $900 billion this way!

With government expenditures now running 185 percent of receipts, truly major changes in both taxes and outlays will be required.

Legislators will correctly perceive that either raising taxes or cutting expenditures will threaten their re-election. To avoid this fate, they can opt for high rates of inflation, which never require a recorded vote and cannot be attributed to a specific action that any elected official takes. In fact, John Maynard Keynes long ago laid out a road map for political survival amid an economic disaster of just this sort: “By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens…. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

I forget who said it but inflation is essentially taxation without representation!

Rampant inflation will cause the Dollar to lose its purchasing power against foreign currencies and precious metals like gold and silver which have been stores of value for 5,000 years. Unlike paper money, gold and silver are not subject to the human greed of rulers and maintain their value since their supply cannot be increased exponentially.

Buffett knows that the reputation of the Almighty Dollar is at risk.

Congress must end the rise in the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio and keep our growth in obligations in line with our growth in resources.

Unchecked carbon emissions will likely cause icebergs to melt. Unchecked greenback emissions will certainly cause the purchasing power of currency to melt. The dollar’s destiny lies with Congress.

Will Congress do the right thing or just do what’s easy and keeps them in office? Buffett is betting on the later and has slowly been converting his hoard of of billions of dollars in to foreign currencies like the Brazilian real.

At least I’m sure I did the right now when I started buying gold at $495/ounce!

$2,811 In Passive Income For April 2008

I was so busy in May that I completely forgot to post April’s passive income summary. On the bright side, April was a been a record breaking month for me with total “passive” income amounting to $2,811.42. On the flip side, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been paying attention to my sites and May’s income will probably be lower.

If you recall, the income for March 2008 was $2, 667.18, so this is $144 jump is a 5.4% increase. However, one of my stocks is a Japanese REIT, and it paid out a quarterly dividend amounting to about $230, so the $140 increase isn’t a real increase – it’s going to disappear for May. Besides, the jump from February to March’s passive income was 11.9%, so this isn’t as good. (In case your wondering why I’ve invested in a Japanese REIT, here’s a good posts on why Japan’s real estate is a good investment.)

But so long as I can sustain it over $2,500 per month, I’ll be happy. Especially since I’m going to pursue my MBA full-time and I won’t be able to work.

Here’s the breakdown:

A new addition this month is the affiliate income I made from Ebay. In the past I’ve bought A LOT of gold coins on ebay. Since most of the gold coins are of a specific type, and I like to automate repetitive tasks, I used to have searches emailed to me on a regular basis. However, since I also like to try and monetize everything, I decided to set up a store to serve as both a place to aggregate my favorite searches and generate some affiliate income. Here’s my gold coin site, aptly called French Gold Coins. Check out the coins under the Recommended list – these are my favorite coins. The site is a .info site that I bought for $0.99 from GoDaddy and it was created using BANS. For a little more info, look at the 2nd half of this post. I also set up a site to aggregate news pertinent to Gold and Gold Coins, as another example of how to automate repetitive tasks.

Last month I mentioned that my Adsense revenue was dropping since I was being smart-priced. In an attempt to prevent that I modified the way Adsense shows up on the site – only search engine traffic sees Adsense now. Other traffic gets shown ADSAQ ads, which is helping compensate for Adsense’s lost revenue. February’s Adsense income was over $400 and has been dropping ever since. But I think I’ve figured out the issues and expect it to be pretty much constant at this level, or maybe slightly higher.

On the other hand, Linkworth has done really well on my sites. March’s income was almost double of February’s and as expected, April’s income was even higher. I’m very happy with their service and I strongly endorse it. It’s a good addition to Adsense, since it doesn’t conflict with their TOS (terms of service) and its always a good idea to have multiple streams of income. Incidentally, the only decent book EVER written by Robert G. Allen is Multiple Streams of Income: How to Generate a Lifetime of Unlimited Wealth!. All of his other books are crap, but surprisingly, this is one of my favorites!

Text-Link-Ads is also doing moderately okay although its taking more time than Linkworth. I think you may not allowed to use both of them on the same site, so see which one works better for you. Between the two, my favorite is currently Linkworth, for the obvious reason that it’s generating more revenue for me. 😀

Amazon affiliate income has started to pick up and hopefully it will continue as I learn more about affiliate marketing and try out different techniques to boost it.

In March, I made $60 from Domain Embarking, a site that helps you earn money from parked domains. Since they only pay out quarterly, I didn’t make squat from them, but I’ve added a couple more sites and have had a couple of people sign up using the affiliate link so I expect to make a little bit more in the next cycle. I expect to make more than enough money to pay for the registration fees and my hosting for all my sites through the income generated through Domain Embarking.

Prosper is still handing out $25 signup bonuses to new lenders and that program generated $175 in April. My total proper account value is now $2995 of which $800 is cash. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to invest that amount. I have my own criteria for investing in loans and it usually narrows my universe of investment-grade loans to under 20 at any given time. Of that half will ask loans for real estate projects which I don’t do and eventually they’re only 3 borrowers who I’ll think are worthy of lending money to. Here’s a good post on How Not To Bid On Prosper.

I also made around $1,151 from some oil investments and other dividends. Some of the stocks pay over 10% in annual dividends. Two of the oil investments are paying 15-18%. The third oil investment is currently barely producing, but that seems like it will improve over the next few months and boost that portion of my income too. Also, as the price of oil stays around $100 per barrel, the monthly payout (which is typically delayed by 3 months) will increase a little bit.

I also made about $128 in interest from savings and CDs. My gut feeling is that the Federal Reserve will probably keep the interest rates steady for the rest of the summer. However, even if they do drop the rates (I don’t think we’re going to see a rate hike for a year or two) it won’t make a very significant difference in my income. And I’ll probably be spending that money while I’m in college so I don’t have any expectations from it anyway.

I have some minimal expenses for domains and hosting. I pay about $119.40 for annual hosting on Dream Host. I had several periods of downtime last month and they did credit my account with an extra month. I like that they have one click installation for wordpress, php forum software, mysql databases and other stuff. I’ve used GoDaddy in the past and I didn’t like their interface at all, although I have heard it has improved. Dream Host is a lot easier to use in my opinion. If you use coupon code “PassiveIncome” you’ll get $19.40 off the annual fee or you can use “Dividends” to get free domain registration. I also pay around $60 for domain registrations which I usually register with 1 and 1. At $6.99, they’re pretty cheap. However I did go and register a bunch of domains for 99 cents so next year I’ll probably be paying close to $175. On a monthly basis, these costs will work out to roughly $25 (or they will once the domains go full price). GoDaddy currently has a promotion – .com domain transfers for only $6.99 and .info domains for only 99 cents.

As you can see, I have multiple streams of both online & offline income. My online income is generated from 10 different companies. The other income is produced from the dividends of about 10 different stocks and 3 oil investments. Having diversity is very important. Periodically, one of them will taper off (like adsense did), and not being too concentrated in it prevents your passive income totally disappearing.

Having any sort side income that sufficiently large to allow you to pay the rent and put food on the top is a great stress reliever. It also provides you F*** YOU money, in case you don’t see eye-to-eye with your boss or you feel that your job is sucking the life out of you! For stubborn and opinionated people, having F-U money is awesome!

I hope I’ve inspired all of you to try and boost your passive income or maybe add new sources to increase your current income streams.

Please let me know how you’re all doing.