NO MORE BS: Come, Let Us Reason Together – Chapter 4

Bird of PreyPSA:  I am not a cynic; I understand the concepts being discussed, and it might appear that I am cynical about insurance companies by the tone of the writing.  Please note, I am generally in favor of the insurance industry.  However, when government mandates insurance coverage to spread the risks out for the benefit of the insurance industry, insurance has become a tax.  When a business offers insurance, but the co-pays and the costs are too high, insurance is no longer a benefit, and I want the option to opt-out of the employer “benefit.”

Insurance as a concept has been around for a long time, historically speaking.  Maritime insurance was a concept from the 1340s, and Benjamin Franklin dreamed up property insurance in 1752, becoming America’s first insurer.  Insurance separated investment as a method of managing risk, making investing more palatable and shoving the consequences of natural disasters, pirates, and other methods of losing onto another responsible party.  Some of the biggest names in insurance can trace their roots to the Great Fire in London in the 1660s.  We mention all of this, as a foundation for understanding the role and the meaning of insurance.

Interest vs. Investing

Ziggy - The GovernmentInterest, in this usage is referring to the advantage to a group or single person, as well as improving one’s welfare.  Maritime shipping would take on several loads, and people who owned those loads had a vested interest (having a personal stake in something) in seeing that ship arrive on time at its intended destination.  For example, sugar has been a huge commodity in history, and a sugar mill would ship the sugar to destinations for sale.  People interested in improving their welfare could invest in the sugar mill, or with a higher risk, expecting a higher return, invest in the shipping company, or the ship.  Thus, investing became one where opportunities to increase interest became popular.

The modern stock market traces its roots to the 1600s and the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, where for the first time, people interested in investing could be joined to companies needing investors, and money could exchange hands for certificates (stocks or bonds) showing interest.  A point of reference, the Dutch East India Trading Company was an original benefactor of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, and sugar, molasses, and spices were the commodities being shipped.  Not saying all the Dutch East India Trading was in non-human commodities, but sugar was a huge driving factor for separating risk through insurance that drove the stock exchange creation.

photo_slideshow_maxOne final point, government’s have interests, generally traced to those paying the highest taxes, or with the most political connections.  Government’s do not have allies, as much as they have groups of governments that share a common interest.  For example, countries belonging to NATO.  NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and was designed for those countries with interests in seeing trade safely through the North Atlantic.  Not all the countries in NATO are friendly with all the other countries, but the common interest in seeing trade and markets operate smoothly has generated NATO and kept it alive since 1949.  Government never has friends; they only have relationships based upon mutual interests.  These are cogent points that must be remembered!  Incredible as it seems, interests change, and when interests change, relationships between countries and governments force ideological changes, and today’s relationship might not be the same tomorrow, which is one of the reasons why the United Nations is such a pile of hypocrisy and uselessness!

Insurance and Investing

Insurance as described by Webster’s dictionary is a practice or arrangement by which a company or government agency provides a guarantee of compensation for specified loss, damage, illness, or death in return for payment of a premium.  The payments of premiums provide the insurance company with vast sums of cash.  Some of which are placed into long-term investments, medium -term investments, stocks, bonds, T-bills, and other methods of protecting the money paid in premiums.  The higher the risk, the higher the cost of the premium.  The one rule in insurance that has never changed from the 1300s is, if the insurance company can collect a premium, and not pay on a claim, the interest the premiums collect remains and the shareholders see larger returns on their investments.

Calvin & Hobbes - EnmityHence, lawyers and bankers have a vested interest in seeing insurance companies not have to pay claims, but still collect premiums.  Thus, contract law was established, and the insurance companies took full advantage of language to protect their premiums from paying a claim.  Another growth industry directly tied to the insurance industry, was special courts for hearing claims and awarding damages (Tort Law).  Cornell Law university provides some clarity on tort law, “A tort is an act or omission that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability.  In the context of torts, “injury” describes the invasion of any legal right, whereas “harm” describes a loss or detriment in fact that an individual suffers.”  Placing insurance companies squarely into the middle of tort law, and thus opening up new avenues for protecting against paying a claim from the premiums paid and invested.

Types of Insurance

ApathyImportant to understanding, Carl Marx and communism uses the ideas of mutual insurance companies to create a society where all share the risks, all benefit in the gains, at least in theory.  However, like insurance companies, someone in communism must enjoy all the benefits for taking the risk of establishing the community, and the reality of China, Cuba, and USSR become evident.  Where the leaders take everything for themselves, and the regular people live in squalor and depredation.

Janet Hunt wrote an great article on types of insurance companies and her article can be found here.  Currently there are nine different types of insurance companies available and are detailed below:

    • Mutual Companies – owned by policy holders who are also considered shareholders, sharing the risks, and benefiting from the lack of paid claims.  The mutual society of this type of insurance company shares dividends and when losses occur, generally the shareholders (policyholders) might not see an increase in premiums.
    • Stock Companies and Mono-Line Carriers – Stock companies are corporations and the distribution of dividends become payments to shareholders.  These insurance companies are very averse to paying claims.  Mono-line carriers only carry a single type of insurance.  For example, a company might only carry car insurance, specializing in just car insurance provides savings in overhead, and they might have agreements with other carriers to provide linked coverage for other insurance products.
    • Lloyds of London – When you want to insure the weird, Lloyds of London is the carrier of choice.  I cannot tell you how hard I have laughed at people willing to insure body parts, unusual, or high-risk items.  Share my laugh, look up what policies Lloyds has written insurance policies for and you too can have a good chuckle.  Lloyd’s does carry insurance for mundane and normal, but those policies do not make me laugh.  I feel sorry for the citizens of the United Kingdom, since Lloyd’s of London is backed by parliament, the taxpayers are on the hook for Lloyd’s losses eventually.
    • Alien Carriers – These are insurance carriers that are owned and operated in one country, doing business in another country, selling premiums, and paying claims.  Important to note about alien carriers, the lawyers charged with engineering methods to control risks to paying claims can create a nightmare using the laws of both countries.  Alien carriers can also be operating in one US State but be owned and governed in another US State.
    • Domestic Insurance – These are companies who are owned and operate in a single US State, or other geographical area.  For example, a domestic insurance company in Texas, might or might not have the ability to operate outside Texas, where it would be considered an alien provider.
    • Direct Sellers – Do not use insurance agents, selling directly to the public or insurance consumer.  To be considered a direct seller, the majority of the business occurs online or over the phone.  Direct sellers are pretty straight forward, and some of the biggest names in insurance providers are direct sellers.
    • Captives – A captive insurance company is a unique insurance provider, generally specializing in one type of insurance product for a specific industry or groups of individuals.  For example, if a business owns a fleet of vehicles, they will have insurance through a captive insurance company who specializes in handling the risks of fleet vehicles.  Another type of captive insurance company occurs when a parent corporation needs insurance but builds a branch of their company to handle the insurance instead of going through an insurance company.  In this model, the parent company keeps the premiums in-house and has a vested interest in protecting their investments.
    • Standard Lines – This is your normal insurance company with insurance agents, local offices, is regulated by the state board of insurance, pay fees into the general state guarantee fund, and are subject to the laws and ordinances of the state in which they operate.
    • Excess Lines – Think of these companies as insurance for high-risk individuals and companies, who cannot get insurance through a standard line company.

I know, that is a whole lot more than you think you want to know about insurance companies.  However, my only logic for making these distinctions in this article is to aid in understanding the classifications of insurance company, and some of the peculiarities in insurance products.  I feel the more you know, the better questions you can ask, leading to improvements in your bottom-line.

Emtional Investment CycleWith all the ties to investing, savings products, and the flow of money into and out of an insurance company, the discussion of insurance companies remains critical.  Especially when the government can create an insurance company, then mandate that company be used to provide coverage, creating a tax and fee that the taxpayer might not realize.  For example, around the time that states began demanding drivers have car insurance, GEICO began selling policies to non-government employees.  GEICO is an acronym for Government Employees Insurance Company, and by selling policies to non-government employees, the government is able to reduce the risk of insuring their employees.  Thus, an argument can be made that the government only created GEICO to reduce the risks of insuring government employees, as well as benefiting from a flush of cash from premiums paid.

Ziggy on GovernmentBoth Lloyds of London and GEICO leave me worrying for taxpayers.  However, since the US Government is the only provider for some types of insurance, specifically flood insurance, which is mandatory for homeowners living in a flood plain, one must ask more questions about where the money goes and why?  What steps have been taken to protect the public from large scale incidents where the insurance company will have to make massive payments?  What does the government invest in to protect the premiums paid against the time of claims?

When a person begins discussing savings instruments, investments, and the links between insurance companies and government, a lot of potential questions arise, and the answers become more sparse inversely to the specificity of the questions asked.  For example, if a savings account interest is so low, due to inflationary spending by the government, what interest does the government, as a holder of savings accounts, receive for their investment?  Where does the government invest their premiums from insurance payments?  How is the government protecting their customers from inflation as a result of poor fiscal policy?Plato 2

Never forget, an insurance company must pay dividends to their shareholders who have invested interests (money).  GEICO is a Berkshire Hathaway company, and stopped being publicly held in 1996.  The questions for why the Government Employee Insurance Company is wholly owned and operated by Berkshire Hathaway opens a lot of questions.  This would be akin to Lloyds of London being sold to a private company, where parliament stopped caring or backing Lloyds.  Why becomes a major question requiring detailed answers.  Look at the political situation in America at the time of the sell, and more questions rise, and less answers are provided.

Knowledge Check!America, when it comes to cash flow, money, and government fiscal policy, we need answers.  We need the elected representatives to understand basic economics, and we need to hold a tighter rein on those elected representatives.  The current fiscal health of America is poor, solely because of the elected representatives and their bureaucratic minions.  We must have a solution that protects America, and this solution needs every citizen involved and engaged.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Understanding Money – Shifting the Paradigm on Money

LookDo you understand money?  Honestly, is how money is created, used, and tracked understandable or a complete mystery?  I have advocated for economics to be taught in high school to understand the actions of government since I was in high school.  I was forced to take a class to write checks, balance a checkbook, and other simple economic topics in US Army Basic Training.  I thought I knew how money worked after this class, but only later realized I knew enough to get into trouble with money, but not enough to fix the problems I had gotten myself into.  I was mid-way through my MBA when I finally took a class on money, economics, and how money works.

I have asked other adults and high school students what they think about money and remain aghast that basic economics is not taught in K-12 education.  There is no reason for fiscal illiteracy in America; yet, fiscal illiteracy is evident in the politicians elected, the lobbyists pushing agendas, and how American politicians of all levels understand money.  The following is a brief attempt to clear some of the confusion regarding money.

Green money is cash.

Dane-GeldGreen money is the dollars and cents in a bank account or your pocket and is quickly spent.  Green money is often called liquid money or liquid assets, liquid because the holder is presumed the owner, owns it, and can spend it freely any way he wishes.  Possession is nine-tenths of the law where liquid assets are concerned.  One of the first lessons most of us learned growing up was if you wanted to buy something and your pocket was empty, you went without.  Liquid assets are cash, green money and are available to be spent in any way the holder chooses.

Non-liquid assets are considered green money due to their sale; this is why a house, a car, a boat, and other such items are considered assets, investments, and opens the door to depreciation or money loss where an asset is concerned.  The sale of the asset provides the opportunity to turn a non-liquid asset into a liquid asset.  However, since the asset is often employed as collateral for a loan, the sale of that asset means the loan holder is paid first from the sale.  If the resale value is insufficient to cover the full loan owed, the loan, which is red money, can still be collected; this process is why red money is so important to understand.

Red money is debt.

Government Largess 3Historically, if a debt could not be paid, the debtor’s blood was allowed to be spilled; hence debt is red money.  Red money always comes with a penalty called interest.  Interest is green money turned red to return the profit to those who lent the initial funds or principle.  That debt, be it a loan, a credit card, or another debt model, remains a burden to the borrower, continues to accumulate interest, and can be called due at any moment in time.  While some laws protect the borrower from excessive interest rates, it remains essential to know about and be cognizant of the interest rate trap.  The legalese on a contract to launch a debt is important to understand, especially where prepayment penalties, late payments, and the ability to call the note due are concerned.

The interest rate trap comes in several forms.  While in the US Navy, stationed in Norfolk, Virginia, a sailor buddy bought a beautiful car for $4000 with a 45% interest rate.  He put $1500 in green money down, so the full loan amount, principal, and interest, for 60-months were $7805.49, including the sales tax.  Later that month, when the car was stolen, the insurance company valued the vehicle at only $1000, leaving the sailor to pay $6805.49 immediately.  This is one type of interest rate trap; another comes from Payday Loans.  Borrow your next paycheck today, get the money today, and pay your paycheck back during the next 36-months at an interest rate between 30-60%.  By the time the payday loan is paid off, more than four separate paychecks will have been paid to cover a single paycheck loan, provided all the payments have been made on time and as quickly as possible.

Welfare State BeginsWhile paying off this loan, you lose your job.  You can lose your car because your car is sometimes used as collateral for your payday loan.  If the resale value is insufficient, you lose your car, you lost your job, and now you still owe a considerable sum that gains interest.  Red money is dangerous; like Damocles’ sword, the danger hangs by a tiny thread above the borrower; one wrong move and the sword falls.  Debt, red money can be helpful; but, careful planning and budgeting are required before entering into debt obligations.  Always it is better to save and budget green money or obtain investors before contemplating debt.

Black money is dead money.

Consider the person who takes green money and places those dollars and cents under a mattress or coffee can in their home.  The cash is out of circulation, is not valuable enough to collect, and no one is benefiting from the money through interest.  Black money can be created in other ways that will be explored later in this article.

Potential Money – Blue Money

blue-moneyThe next type of money is blue money, also referred to as potential money.  Consider a hammer. The hammer might cost $20.00 in green money to buy and bring home.  In the hands of a trained construction worker, a $20.00 hammer, over the course of the hammer’s useful working life, has the potential to earn thousands of dollars in green money for the construction worker.  In the hands of an inexperienced worker, the hammer has the potential to cost thousands of dollars in green money through waste, destruction, and learning.  Training a person to improve their performance might cost $300 in green money; but, if that employee can improve his performance on the job, potentially millions of dollars can come into the company because of the training provided.

Money is created when it is borrowed, and interest is paid on the loan.  For example, Jack has an extra $500 (green money).  He gives this money to his friend Joe in the form of a loan (red money).  Joe takes the loan, adds to his business potential (blue money), and through increased profits, can pay Jack his $500 loan plus the interest of $300.  Hence, $300 (green money) is created as profits for Jack.  While a simple analogy, do the types of money become more apparent?

Welfare State EndsJoe’s loan to Jack showed on Joe’s books as red money until the loan and interest were paid.  During this time, Joe was also making green money, or profits sufficient to pay his workforce, his other obligations, and still retain adequate to pay himself.  Small business owners are not paid until everyone else is paid.  It is not uncommon for small business owners to be scraping by on the smallest margins because all their non-liquid assets are locked up in loans to keep the business afloat.  When poor business practices begin risking inventory and equipment and shareholder investments are added into the equation, is it any wonder why small businesses struggle.

quote-mans-inhumanityMoney is also created when saved in the various saving tools offered by banks.  The diligent saver can save $40 a week until he or she is 65 years of age and potentially have millions in the bank for retirement.  Why, because the bank will pay interest to the saver from the interest collected on the loans the bank makes with the green money invested from the savings account.  Many different savings tools can be considered non-liquid assets because of the agreements made between the saver and the bank.  Generally, the longer the bank’s contract to hold the savings money, the higher the interest rate paid as the bank can schedule payments and loan the same dollars more efficiently when the saver’s funds are expected to be in the bank for a more extended period.

quote-mans-inhumanity-2Often Federal treasury departments of governments create money by printing more or larger bills.  The problem with printing more money is one of surplus, which begins to increase interest rates and decrease the value of the green money held by citizens participating in the economy.  Consider that if the only way to create money is to work money through lending, improving business, etc., and then printing only makes it harder to put money to work.  Too much money on the market creates negatives; negatives include lower dollar value, which makes items cost more and increases interest rates, making borrowing costs rise, and inflation begins to increase prices for goods in the economy.  More importantly, except for necessities, producers’ willingness to spend money stops; these are typical cause-and-effect actions.  A long enough period of decreased desire to spend money and an economic downturn is initiated.

Blue Money BurningState, City, County, Town, municipal governments are even more pernicious with their plots and plans.  On the local government level, money cannot be printed.  Hence, debt is entered into, and municipal bonds are sold to create money in the private sector, which is then paid to the government in increased taxes, but the money lent to the local government was already spent.  One truth discovered about government, when taxes are increased, money is asked of the voters to borrow.  The truth is, the government body asking for more has already spent the increase, spent the budget, and usually spent twice as much as they are asking the voters to allocate.  Consider special elections for increasing taxes; the money being asked for has been spent, the budget was spent, and now the voters are asked to pay for the special election cost to decide if the local government can spend some more money.  The increase being asked very often has been spent three to four times before the election is considered to ask for permission to enter larger amounts of debt in the public’s name.

Poor fiscal planning increases debt by decreasing the value of the original municipal bonds.  The government has to borrow more to get relatively close to the value of the first municipal bond sold.  Note, municipal bonds are considered a debt to the local government and as green money non-liquid assets to the purchaser; municipal bonds can be bought and sold on the private market.  Government focuses upon the holder of the most bonds; because elected leaders are focused upon the holders of the most bonds, citizens bear no weight in being heard.  Money talks!

Detective 4In several different locales, municipal bonds can be held as unseen debt or black money, also referred to as unfunded liabilities, kept on other books, not currently open to the public.  The monies owed are not considered red money because there is no plan by those in power to pay these debts; thus, the city’s debt could be significantly higher than reported.  Unfunded liabilities never have a plan for repayment by those in power.  Unfunded liabilities can be a mixture of many different debts (employee retirement, some municipal bond types, unpaid bills to local service providers, etc.).  The common denominator remains, there is no plan or money to repay this debt.  Thus, black money is created because there are no plans or money to meet these obligations.  The taxpayer remains on the hook for the principal and the interest of those unfunded liabilities.  Unfunded liabilities are hopes of current politicians on future prosperity, and sometimes, depending upon laws, unfunded liabilities are part of the government’s credit rating. Low credit ratings by the government increase taxes, the risk increases, making borrowing money more expensive, and the taxpayer generally has no idea how poor their municipal government’s credit rating.  Never forget, municipal government, many times includes the local school board.

ToolsWhile this explanation is elementary, the lessons contained are sufficient to protect the bottom-line, improve knowledge, and provide an opportunity for improving circumstances.  When bottom lines fail, before anything else, look to lost blue money as the cause.  When blue money is disregarded long enough, red money increases exponentially, and green money evaporates; this formula is set in stone.  Potential blue money is not elusive, but it takes keen observation to protect and grow.  Grow enough blue money, and green money multiplies exponentially.

Americans must start demanding fiscal literacy in the politicians running for office.  Americans must begin understanding the captivity they are in where the government spending is concerned.  Ask yourself, would your bank honor a post-dated check?  Why should the government be allowed to write a check the bank won’t allow you to write?  Can you spend 8-15 times your salary between paychecks and maintain your house, car, and other assets?  Of course not, so why should the government be allowed to do this on your tax dollars?

DutyFiscal literacy improves freedom and liberty.  Fiscal literacy is required to maintain the US Constitution and US Bill of Rights.  Budgets are not bad things for government to live on; in fact, the government should be the first exemplar of budgetary soundness and fiscally literate action.  A Liberty FIRST Culture will require fiscal sanity and fiscal restraints, a reduction in debt, and a payment plan for all unfunded liabilities.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.