The Health of Your Wealth Is at Risk

One of my favourite coffee shops on the Gold Coast is located near a gym.

I watch in wonder at some of the unnatural specimens that file in and out of the gym’s front door.

With thighs the size of tree trunks, walking without chafing is nigh on impossible. Their arms are bigger than the average person’s leg. Pectoral muscles strain against the barely-there singlets. The torso is so large that their arms are permanently suspended in mid-air.

I could be wrong, but I think these people are quite literally ‘gym junkies’.

It’s inconceivable that their Hulk-like appearance is a product of steak and eggs washed down with a few protein shakes.

My educated guess is steroid use and abuse has been the major contributor in producing these ‘two tonnes of dynamite with a half-inch wick’.

In their eyes, these bodies, bordering on the grotesque, are obviously a thing of beauty and pride.

However, that steroid-induced bulk doesn’t come without cost.

From The Sydney Morning Herald:

‘Male body image pressure: Steroid health crisis looms, expert warns’

According to the article:

Alarming scientific evidence is beginning to link long-term anabolic steroid use to major health harms including heart attack, says visiting United States expert Professor Harrison Pope at Harvard Medical School.

“For more than 10 years now we have been worrying that we will soon start seeing the impact of long-term anabolic steroid use, and now it is beginning to happen,” Professor Pope said.

[a] study has shown that many men experience protracted severe hypogonadism, where testosterone levels plummet and the testes shrink. This can result in a drop in libido and erectile dysfunction.

Professor Pope said there is also new evidence linking high levels of testosterone and other anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) to premature death of brain cells.

For the record, I’m hoping it’s the death of brain cells that saves me from meeting my maker anytime soon.

It seems like the bigger the body, the smaller the ‘jewels’. Gotta love the symmetry of that equation.

If this wasn’t bad enough, the sustained use of steroids increases the risk of heart attack and takes the ‘peck’ out of their ‘pecker’. 

However, this is a wealth — not health — newsletter. So, what does long-term anabolic steroid abuse have to do with your money?

The Sydney Morning Herald article reminded me of The Gowdie Letter published on 26 November 2015, in which I wrote:

…while fully aware of the wealth hazards of a system accumulating too much debt, we have policymakers doing everything in their power to keep us liquored up.

The so-called adults in the room are really pushers wanting to keep us all hooked on their drug of choice — debt.

When debt is injected into the system, the economy puffs up and looks strong — like a steroidal, singlet wearing gym junkie (with of course the obligatory tattoos and cap worn backwards).

But the economy is not really that big and strong. In spite of the external appearance, internally the excessive use of debt actually weakens the system — much like too many steroids can shrink the pecker, create violent mood swings and damage vital organs.

When you are aware of this fact do you blithely ignore it and keep plying the kids with booze and drugs OR based on previous experiences, do you act responsibly and warn about the perils of this activity?

Debt will eventually kill the system. How much debt does it take for that to happen?

It’s been two years since that article was written and we’re still none the wiser on how much debt the economic body can absorb before it, too, suffers a heart attack. Courtesy of central bank laboratories, every major economy in the world is ‘on the juice’.

Some more than others.

Yet economic commentators fail to connect the outward appearance of an economy with what’s being injected into it.

Reuters, 14 November 2017:

The euro zone’s annual economic growth rate outstripped that of the United States in the third quarter setting up 2017 as the best year for the currency area since financial markets crashed a decade ago.

How did Europe manage to out-flex the US?

With natural growth?

Heck no.

The European Central Bank kept pumping the economic steroids — negative interest rates and money printing — for longer than the US. It’s that simple.

Fed Balance Sheet 16-11-2017

Source: Bloomberg
[Click to enlarge]

Europe may well puff out its chest, but all it’s done is fabricate a Lance Armstrong-type victory.

The financial repression in the EU has gotten so bad that the AFR reported recently:

it’s a worry when investors in the junk bond market start to think it’s safer to lend money to a bunch of European companies, that don’t have a decent credit rating, than it is to lend to the US government.

What was that about sustained use of steroids killing off brain cells?

What person in their right mind would lend money to a European company (of dubious credit quality) for the same interest rate offered by the US government?

This is lunacy.

On the local front…

The RBA is getting worried that the average Aussie household is losing its consumption ‘libido’.

RBA Governor Philip Lowe flagged this concern last week when announcing interest rates would remain on hold: ‘One continuing source of uncertainty is the outlook for household consumption… Household incomes are growing slowly and debt levels are high.

Australian households have been ‘on the juice’ for more than 25 years. To overseas admirers, our economic body is something to behold…the longest recession-free run in history.

But, internally, we’ve done a lot of damage.

Levels of mortgage stress are on the rise. Our state and federal governments cannot control their spending. The balance sheets of banks are overloaded with residential property loans…making the banks highly vulnerable to any property market downturn.

Meanwhile, retail spending continues to soften.

Australia’s economic body is showing the classic signs of debt addiction. Chronic fatigue is setting in. The potential for organ failure is increasing.

The global economy’s absolute dependency on central bank stimulants for growth has created the illusion of strength. But, in reality, it’s weakened the system to the point where our financial wellbeing is highly vulnerable to even the slightest of economic ills.

The difference between the medical and economic professions could not be more different. The medical doctors warn us of the perils of drug abuse. Yet the economic doctors tell us that you can’t have too much of a good thing…the more the better.

One of them is wrong.

Provided you haven’t prematurely killed off too many brain cells, you’ll be able to figure out which one is telling the truth.


Vern Gowdie,
Editor, The Gowdie Letter

Vern Gowdie has been involved in financial planning since 1986. In 1999, Personal Investor magazine ranked Vern as one of Australia’s Top 50 financial planners. His previous firm, Gowdie Financial Planning was recognized in 2004, 2005, 2006 & 2007, by Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) magazine as one of the top five financial planning firms in Australia. He has been writing his 'Big Picture' column for regional newspapers since 2005 and has been a commentator on financial matters for Prime Radio talkback. His contrarian views often place him at odds with the financial planning profession. Vern is is Founder and Chairman of the Gowdie Family Wealth advisory service, a monthly newsletter with a clear aim: to help you build and protect wealth for future generations of your family. He is also editor of The Gowdie Letter, which aims to help you protect and grow your wealth during the great credit contraction. To have Vern’s enlightening market critique and commentary delivered straight to your inbox, take out a free subscription to Markets and Money here. Official websites and financial eletters Vern writes for:

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