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The Burrito Index: Consumer Prices Have Soared 160% Since 2001

Calculating the real inflation rate
Friday, July 29, 2016, 3:31 PM

In our household, we measure inflation with the "Burrito Index": How much has the cost of a regular burrito at our favorite taco truck gone up?

Since we keep detailed records of expenses (a necessity if you’re a self-employed free-lance writer), I can track the real-world inflation of the Burrito Index with great accuracy: the cost of a regular burrito from our local taco truck has gone up from $2.50 in 2001 to $5 in 2010 to $6.50 in 2016.

That’s a $160% increase since 2001; 15 years in which the official inflation rate reports that what $1 bought in 2001 can supposedly be bought with $1.35 today. » Read more

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Making The Wrong Choices For The Wrong Reasons

Why we're on a collision-course with crisis
Friday, July 22, 2016, 8:54 PM

Life is full of examples where folks make bad choices for noble reasons. Not every decision is a winner: sometimes you make the right call, sometimes you don't.

  • In 1962, Decca Records passed on signing a young new band because it thought that guitar-based groups were falling out of favor. That band was The Beatles.
  • Napolean Bonaparte calculated he could conquer Russia by assembling one of the largest invading forces the world has ever seen. He marched towards Moscow in the summer of 1812 with over 650,000 troops. Less than six months later, he retreated in failure, his forces decimated down to a mere 27,000 effective soldiers.
  • 1985 217 separate investors turned down an entrepreneur trying to raise the relatively modest sum of $1.6 million for his vision of transforming a daily routine shared by millions around the world. That company? Starbucks.  

In these cases, those making the decision made what they felt was the best choice given the information available to them at the time. That's completely understandable and defensible. Fate is fickle, and no one is 100% right 100% of the time.

But what's much harder to condone -- and this is the focus of this article -- is when people embrace the wrong decision even when they have ample evidence and comprehension that doing so runs counter to their welfare. » Read more

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On Our Way To Freedom Fest

"The world's largest gathering of free minds"
Tuesday, July 12, 2016, 8:18 PM

For years now, a number of Peak Prosperity readers have been encouraging Chris and me to attend Freedom Fest, a conference billed as "The world's largest gathering of free minds". 

Every Spring, the calls and emails begin: Are you guys going to Freedom Fest this year?

They tell us this is consistently the most stimulating week of their entire year. And that, like at our annual seminars, the people you meet and relationships you make there are well worth the price of admission alone.

Well, this year we decided to take up the invitation. » Read more

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The Great Market Tide Has Now Shifted To Risk-Off Assets

A global sea-change in risk appetite & sentiment
Friday, July 8, 2016, 3:03 PM

In the conventional investment perspective, risk-on assets (i.e. investments with higher risks and higher potential returns) such as stocks are on a see-saw with risk-off assets (investments with lower returns and lower risk, such as Treasury bonds). When risk appetites are high, institutional managers and speculators move money into stocks and high-yield junk bonds, and move money out of safe-haven assets such as gold and U.S. Treasuries.

But recently, markets are no longer following this convention. Safe haven assets such as precious metals and Treasuries are soaring at the same time that stock markets bounced strongly off the post-Brexit lows.

Risk-on assets (stocks) rising at the same time as safe-haven assets is akin to dogs marrying cats and living happily ever after. 

What the heck is going on? » Read more

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Our Future Is (Literally) Crumbling Before Our Eyes

Our reinforced concrete infrastructure sends a dire warning
Wednesday, July 6, 2016, 1:10 AM

The sorts of predicaments the world faces -- ranging from over $200 trillion in debt, to our unsustainable addiction to fossil fuels, to our over-stressed ecosystems -- all require that we get deadly serious about confronting them ASAP, and make difficult decisions and trade-offs.

However, our global leaders always seem to opt to kick the can down the road if at all possible. Short-term thinking and near-term priorities dependably get precedence over doing the right thing for the future. Tomorrow’s generations are thrown under the bus by selfishly motivated actors today.

As I’ve put forth over and over again: we’re simply not going to make it unless we get much more serious about our efforts than we have been to date. » Read more

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Fortunes Will Be Made & Lost When Capital Flees To Safety

As safe havens are tiny markets
Friday, June 24, 2016, 4:46 PM

Little did I realize when creating the short video below how prescient it would quickly become in the wake of last night's Brexit vote...

It's message is simple: there's a preponderance of data that shows the world's major asset markets are dangerously overvalued. And when these asset bubbles start to burst, the 'save haven' markets that investment capital will try to flee to are ridiculously small. Investors who do not start moving their capital in advance of crisis will be forced to pay much higher prices for safety -- or may find they can't get into these markets at any price. » Read more

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Tensions Between US/NATO & Russia Are Flaring Dangerously

A cornered bear will ultimately use its claws
Friday, June 17, 2016, 5:16 PM

As if there weren’t enough crises to worry about in the world already, from shooting rampages to accelerating species loss, the US and NATO continue to ‘poke the bear’ and risk an outbreak of war with Russia.

I wish this were idle speculation. But if you haven’t been paying close attention, you'll probably be shocked at just how much direct military and diplomatic provocation has been going on between NATO/US and Russia over the past several years -- and in recent weeks, in particular. » Read more

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An Everyman's Guide To Understanding Cryptocurrencies

What are they exactly? Why consider owning them?
Friday, June 10, 2016, 5:51 PM

When an asset rises by almost 30% in a few weeks, it tends to attract attention.  Recently, that asset was bitcoin (BTC). The price of BTC in dollars rose from $454 on May 23 to $590 on June 6th.

When an asset doubles in a matter of months, it tends to attract attention.  The cryptocurrency Ether (part of the Ethereum platform) doubled from around $7 in April to roughly $14 in early June.

Are these cryptocurrencies mere fads? Or are they potentially game-changing alternatives to the conventional currencies such as the U.S. dollar, Chinese RMB, Japanese yen or European Union euro? » Read more

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Grasshopper Nation: Planning For Those Who Aren't Prepared

Whom will you help? And how much will you be able to?
Friday, June 3, 2016, 9:40 PM

Our resources are finite. Most of us don't feel we have all that we require to meet our own needs and goals. And the best-laid preparations of the most planful of us can suddenly become woefully insufficient if too many unexpected family, friends and neighbors show up demanding our charity. » Read more

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Observations From The Heart Of Silicon Valley

The calm before the storm?
Thursday, May 19, 2016, 8:11 PM

Yesterday I made the 2-hour drive back to Silicon Valley, where I lived for 15 years before moving out to the country.

I rarely go back, as I miss very little about the hyper-elite scene there. When I do, though, I feel I have a useful 'insider-now-outsider' perspective that allows me to see things there more accurately than those who live in that fishbowl 24/7.

What hit me most strongly upon arriving back in the Menlo Park/Palo Alto area, is how little of the craziness has changed since I left 4 years ago. I don't mean 'unchanged' though; rather that the same craziness is there, just more extreme than ever. » Read more