Every week, I like to pass along some of the most interesting and entertaining stories happening in the unconventional investing world.

The sorts of stories that go great with a quiet morning, some form of drink — preferably warm and fragrant — and a little time and space to let thoughts unfold.

Relax, read, enjoy.

And I Thought Teslas Were Expensive

Want to hear something exceedingly depressing?

The average health care plan now costs $20,000 a year.

That’s enough to buy a new, low-end car. Every year.

On average, employees pay about $6,000 of that premium cost, while employers cover the rest. (But rest assured, employees are still paying that in the form of reduced wages.)

Oh — and that $20K number doesn’t include anything beyond premiums. Deductibles — which now average over $1,000 for a single person — are not part of the $20,000. Drug costs? Not included. Any and everything above and beyond the $20K? All out of pocket.

No wonder more and more people are getting worse and worse insurance… or, in many cases, dropping coverage altogether.

There’s got to be a solution somewhere — and maybe we’ll find it if our public servants can ever get past their political infighting.

Until then, my advice to you — don’t get sick.

We’re on the Road to Nowhere

China’s economy is slowing down much faster than expected.

Manufacturing is down to 4.4% growth — its lowest level in more than 17 years. And retail sales are down to 7.5% growth.

You might think those numbers sound pretty good. But you have to understand — because China has so many new workers entering the economy every year, the country’s numbers don’t look the same as those for mature economies.

Six percent GDP growth in China is more or less the equivalent of 0% growth in the U.S. Growth below 6% can’t keep up with all the new workers entering the workforce.

Some pundits think this could force China back to the negotiating table over the trade wars, which bear much of the responsibility for the slowdown.

Of course, it’s equally plausible that the U.S. makes for a handy boogeyman right now. With an economic slowdown inevitable anyway, it makes some sense for the Chinese leadership to keep the trade war going — if only to have a unifying outside enemy to hold the attention of the public.

Whatever predictions we try to make today will likely be made moot by future events. But the long and the short of it is China’s economy is in real trouble — and that’s very bad news for the rest of us.

What Does It Mean to “Own” Something Anyway?

If you listened to the futurists of yesteryear, paper was supposed to be a thing of the past by now.

Instead — physical book and magazine sales rose last year, while digital versions fell.

Perhaps even more surprising, there are more magazine titles out there today than there were in 2009. And 96% of all sales are of the physical form of media.

This follows the same pattern we see in music sales, which we highlighted in a previous edition of weekend reads.

What’s going on?

Maybe our inner cave dweller likes to actually hold something to feel ownership — finding digital ownership simply too ephemeral.

Perhaps we’re all waking up to the fact that we don’t actually “own” digital copies; we just license them. If, say, Apple and Taylor Swift have a falling out, your digital version of 1989 could disappear overnight.

Or maybe more people like to collect things than previously realized. There’s no real feeling of accomplishment in collecting a good you can’t see or touch.

Whatever the reason, it’s nice to know physical goods aren’t going away anytime soon. Even if they are more about collections than consumption at this point.

No One Likes Hoarders, but This Is Ridiculous

On the other side of the coin, owners of high-end luxury condos are having to ditch their antiques in order to sell their properties.

Blame the Marie Kondo-endorsed emphasis on a Zen-like clean space. Or the current fashion of having white walls, crisp lines and bright spaces. Or the modern fad of designing around glass and steel and little else.

Whatever you want to blame, there’s no doubt condos (and houses and apartments) without the homey touches of antiques are selling more easily than real estate with a lived-in feel.

Of course, outside of real estate sales, it’s nice to have the places we live in feel lived in.

Antique furniture isn’t going away — in fact, it’s having something of a renaissance at the moment.

But all these sellers on the market are providing good buys at auctions and antique markets.

There’s rarely been a better time to be an antique shopper than right now.

Unconventionally yours,

Ryan Cole

Ryan Cole
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth

P.S. The best place to shop for physical versions of books and music — and find antique furniture — is JustCollecting. Check out their forums on these subjects and others to explore the possibilities out there today.

Ryan Cole

Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.

Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...

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