Most of the world celebrated New Year's Eve with parties and festive occasions. Lawmakers spent the night fighting, and although they came together long enough to resolve the most pressing parts of the fiscal cliff, they punted most of the tough issues until later in the year.
With all the drama in Washington, I'm wondering: Is my money really safe in America? With government bickering directly impacting the stock market and the economy, how can I make sure my money is safe? Read on for why you should be concerned, and three ways to secure your money.
Reason for concern: America's leadership is weak.
Unfortunately, this isn't the first time lawmakers have dropped the ball. The debt-ceiling crisis of 2011 was bad enough to help bring about an unprecedented downgrade of U.S. Treasury debt and set in motion a sequestration spending-cut system so heinous that lawmakers would have to work together to avoid it. Yet once again, we're on the cusp of another debt-ceiling crisis, and lawmakers still haven't agreed to a substitute to sequestration.
Reason for concern: America is fiscally irresponsible.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you keep spending money you don't have, you're going to accumulate debt. Someday, that bill will come due.
But the government just doesn't get this simple point. The fiscal cliff deal extended a helping hand to middle- and lower-class families, but it also included $67.9 billion -- for 2013 alone, mind you -- in tax breaks to companies like NASCAR, and rum producers. That's right: Special interests groups got a handout. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., stated, "It's hard to think of anything that could feed the cynicism of the American people more than larding up must-pass emergency legislation with giveaways to special interests and campaign contributors."
Yes, the idea of a Santa Claus government that just gives, gives, gives, is great -- for those on the receiving end. But it's not realistic, and it's certainly not sustainable. There seems to be a disconnect between balancing the budget and wanting to spend, spend, spend -- and the fact that the fiscal cliff resolution avoided any meaningful spending cuts leads me to think Congress and the president aren't looking at reality. Take off the red suit, guys. Christmas is over.
So what can I do?
February is not far off, and there's no telling what Congress and the president will do. But there are things we as investors can do to make our money more secure:
1. Invest in companies with a strong overseas presence.
Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) are two of my favorites. International growth is a key objective for Wal-Mart, which opened 612 new international stores and grew its net sales (including currency and acquisitions) by 15.2% in 2012.
Coke, along with having four of the five top nonalcoholic beverages, also has a strong, growing international presence. In its latest quarterly report, Coke reported that it increased unit case volume in all of its major markets compared to this same time last year. Plus, with 78% of its business coming from overseas case volume, Coke looks pretty stable.
2. Invest in companies located in fiscally responsible countries.
Toronto-Dominion, Bank of Nova Scotia (NYSE:BNS), and Royal Bank of Canada are three of the top banks in Canada. Along with having one of the safest economies according to the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canada has a banking system that for the past five years has been ranked as the most sound.In my eyes, that makes it a perfect place for long-term investing.
3. Invest in precious metals.
Barrick Gold, Goldcorp (NYSE: GG), and IAMGOLD (NYSE:IAG), along with being based in Canada, have some of the top after-tax profits in the industry. Even if the dollar takes a trip down the porcelain waterslide, gold may well hold its value in a currency crisis.
Lessons for the future
I have real concern about the safety of my money in America. As an investor, I can't help but compare the U.S. to a business, and what I see is a business in trouble. However, there are things we investors can do to make our money more secure. By having a diversified portfolio that includes international businesses, companies with a strong international presence, and precious metals companies, there's a greater chance you'll be able to survive our government's stupidity.