Last week, I had to chip ice off my car. We’d had some unexpected snowfall a couple days earlier, which alternated between rain and snow and sleet, before eventually hardening into a nearly impenetrable sheet.
I didn’t drive my car for a day — I thought that would give the sun enough time to do all the work for me. I was wrong. With the extra thaws-to-freezes, the car was coated but good.
Yet I’m going to risk the same again today. We’re supposed to get the classic wintry mix all afternoon. But I’m feeling cozy. So I’m staying in — at least until the sun has put in a little work.
And what better way to stay in than with some interesting reads? Let’s get started.
Banks Are Setting Us All up to Fail
Undoubtedly, the American economy has been on a nice run.
For over a decade — slowly but surely — we’ve added jobs, increased efficiency (barely), even seen wages start to tick up (finally).
Yet somehow, the average American is in more credit card debt than ever before.
After years of paying off our debts, we’ve started increasing them again. And many of those debts are getting more expensive…
Because while the Fed rate has been going down, the banks behind credit cards have been raising their interest rates. And increasing fees as well.
Which means any credit card debt outstanding is ballooning faster than before.
All of that is great for the short-term profits of banks. But it’s likely to blow up in their faces at the first downturn.
And throw millions of people into bankruptcy at the same time.
The moral of the story: Don’t trust banks. And don’t carry credit card debt. Or if you do, make sure you do it as a zero-interest balance transfer with a transfer fee of 3% or less.
Because paying 3% interest in debt is sustainable. Paying 20%-plus is not.
An Entire Nation on the Auction Block
You think it’s bad when a data breach exposes your username or email address?
How about when a breach exposes everything about you — from your date and place of birth, to your home address, to the amount of money you have in your bank accounts?
Now picture that happening to an entire country. Pretty scary, right?
Well, you don’t really have to imagine it — this exact thing has now happened to Ecuador.
Mourn for the people of Ecuador. They’re going to be the guinea pigs — the ones who will demonstrate for the rest of us just how bad these data breaches can get (though rest assured, this will seem like a tame breach in a few years).
It’s yet another example of why you should use a VPN. Because it’s just a matter of when — not if — this sort of breach affects a database that includes you.
The more information you hide from cookies and trackers by using a VPN, the more personal information you’ll be able to keep private.
Get a head start — the only way to save yourself from drowning — by getting signed up with a VPN today.
The Hottest Working Vehicle Today
Technology is a funny thing. The more it advances, the more it can do for us. The easier all our tasks become. The greater our efficiency.
But also, the harder it becomes to repair.
That might not be the biggest deal when you’re talking about a toaster… which is easy and cheap enough to replace if something goes wrong.
But when you’re talking about an expensive piece of machinery… that is essential to your livelihood… and you live in a rural area, far from any repair shops… that becomes a big deal.
Which is why the hottest items at farm auctions these days are low-mileage tractors built before 1980.
They come from a time long before computers were inserted into every vehicle — which means they’re almost entirely mechanical. And thus easy to repair.
They’re good quality. Almost by definition, if a machine is still going strong 40 years into its existence, it’s well made. But these old tractors are consistently able to keep going… farmhands refer to them as bulletproof (I’m sure literally in some cases).
And it’s so much cheaper to get an old tractor and retrofit it with any tech you’d find useful (like automated driving).
If the tech fails, you can just replace that part. The tractor itself — that won’t fail. Not in a way you can’t easily fix in the barn, at least.
Even with some low-use tractors getting bid up over $60k… and with the retrofits costing $15k or more… that’s still much better than the $150k a new tractor costs… and the tens of thousands each repair of newer tractors runs.
They may be old enough to be antiques. But antiques can still be useful.
They might not gain value in the same way when still in use… but these tractors are a testament to the build quality of yesteryear. And one of the reasons people will always be interested in the tried-and-true greats from the past.
The Turd in the Punchbowl
There’s one issue it seems the entire country can agree on — regardless of politics, religion or any of the other invisible lines we like to put up between ourselves.
Inequality. We’ve got a real inequality problem in America.
By many measures, income (and wealth) inequality is worse now than it was in the Gilded Age. We’re approaching — and perhaps passing — Marie Antoinette levels.
And when you get to that point — with rampant poverty and suffering outside of an extreme upper class — you get a lot of revolution, upheaval and usually some sort of dictatorial system that takes over for a time. (See: Napoleon, Oliver Cromwell, Mussolini, Hitler. You get the idea.)
We’re staring a similar situation in the face right now, with strongmen on the rise throughout the world and mass protests growing bigger with each crackdown against them.
Though everyone sees inequality as a problem, no one can agree on what to do about it. Particularly because we disagree on what’s most important — that everyone has an equal starting point (which requires helping some to get up to a base level of opportunity) or that everyone gets the same resources (which will equal lots of different starting points, depending on each individual’s lot in life).
The two ways of looking at equality are at odds with one another — you can’t do both at the same time. So we wind up with a lot of inaction and gridlock.
One article won’t break the stalemate. But this one does a deep dive into this meaningful question.
It’s worth a read. Because if we don’t figure this one out, the revolution will come for us all… sooner or later.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. With the world in the state it’s in today, protecting yourself should be a priority. And you simply can’t protect yourself without a VPN.
It’s the first — and best — line of defense to protect everything you have that lives on the internet. Which, these days, is everything, from personal blogs to bank accounts to biometric data.
Our favorite VPN comes from one of our favorite partners, TunnelBear. See how they can protect you — for a lot less than you’d expect for the sort of comprehensive, whole-world coverage a VPN provides — here.
(Editor’s Note: We do receive compensation when you buy from TunnelBear. But we only choose partners we believe in — so you can rest assured our recommendations are real.)
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...