11 October 2008

Falling Markets - Rich get richer, the rest get poorer

There's an excellent money-for-dummies article out today, written by an Associated Press writer, which explains a basic economic fundamental in plain terms. Once you understand that basic principle, you soon realize the broader implications for "ordinary Canadians" of Harper's "great buying opportunities."

Titled "All that money you've lost - where did it go?," the article explains the difference between the value of stocks vs. the value of cold hard cash.

If you've ever been confused about the distinction between the two - or never supposed there was one - then you should read this article.

Trillions in stock market value - gone. Trillions in retirement savings - gone. A huge chunk of the money you paid for your house, the money you're saving for college, the money your boss needs to make payroll - gone, gone, gone.

Whether you're a stock broker or Joe Six-pack, if you have a 401(k), a mutual fund or a college savings plan, tumbling stock markets and sagging home prices mean you've lost a whole lot of the money that was right there on your account statements just a few months ago.

But if you no longer have that money, who does? The fat cats on Wall Street? Some oil baron in Saudi Arabia? The government of China?

Or is it just - gone?

If you're looking to track down your missing money - figure out who has it now, maybe ask to have it back - you might be disappointed to learn that is was never really money in the first place.

The bottom line in terms of those "great buying opportunities" mentioned by Harper?

The people most hurt by the stock market slides are those who need to cash in their stocks. In other words, people who haven't already enough in their chequing accounts - or under a mattress, buried in the yard, or tucked away in a drawer - to support them over the coming year or so.

Which means, in turn, that the rich are about to get richer, again, on the misfortunes of the middle-class and those who have worked so hard to create for themselves a small investment nest-egg.

And it means that numbers of the middle-class are likely soon to be joining the burgeoning number of us who live below Canada's poverty line.

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