Finding a New Career in the Great Recession

In prior posts, we have covered the massive restructuring occurring in our economy.  We have recognized that millions of traditional jobs are gone, and not likely to return.  We have predicted that the new jobs of tomorrow are likely to fall within a range of self-employment options.  Today, we’ll start exploring these options in more detail, beginning with the entry level opportunities that exist in self-employment today.

Making the Employment-Model Change

Switching from one career to another is a pretty well understood process.  You start with one set of skills, take a step down, and begin developing a new set of skills valuable in your new career.  Then, over time, you climb the new career ladder, with the goal of superseding your prior level of success.

The same is true when you change employment models — even if you continue to do exactly the same type of work you did within the construct of a traditional job.  In this case, however, even though you may know everything there is to know about your skill set, you will have a whole set of other skills that are now necessary.  How do you position your skills, market your services, handle billing and collections, etc., etc.?

Since most people have only worked for others, this can be an intimidating and overwhelming hurdle to overcome.  But it needn’t be.  What follows is a very simple approach to finding an entry level job in this economy.  It’s actually quite easy, and if you follow the outline below, you could have a job in less than a week.

Finding Your First Job in the New Economy

When we look at the range of self-employment options, the entry level position is the one where people work on their own, without employees.  Luckily, there are many websites dedicated to helping the soloist find a job.  They also help you with things like keeping track of your time, billings and collections.  Two of my favorite sites are Odesk (which is slightly more technology focused), and Elance (which is slightly more professional services oriented).

To find a job using these web sites, follow these steps:

  • Visits the sites and, and learn about the services they offer.  Compare the way they bill you for their services, and how they process payments from your potential employer.
  • Check out the types of jobs available, and determine which ones you might be interested in pursuing.
  • Compare the available jobs, with your experience and background.  You can be very creative here.  Unlike traditional jobs, you do not have to have a perfect background, education, or experience base.  Many employers are willing to try new talent, especially if you offer lower rates, faster turn-around, or some other unique benefits.
  • Check out your competition.  How much are they charging for their services?  How do they describe themselves and the services they offer?  Where are they located? How can you compete against them?
  • Sign up for a free account, and start bidding on jobs.  Since your main goal here is to get your first job, don’t worry so much about your fee.  Since most jobs are of short duration anyway, you can afford to do your first job for a low fee.

By following this approach, you’ll be well on your way to a new career in the Great Recession, a career that’s often a better than the one you left behind.  In fact, Elance recently held a contest asking their freelancers to describe the benefits of “The New Way to Work.”  Here’s one that I thought was reflective of the changes now underway:

In the next post, we’ll explore moving up the self-employment career ladder.  As always, comments welcome.  Until next time … is a blog by Jay Fenello, principal and founder of, an Atlanta-based
Business Brokerage and Placement firm that helps people buy and sell small businesses and franchises.

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Building Your Network = Jobs in the Great Recession

So far, we’ve covered what’s going in our economy, and what’s going with jobs.  In 2005, 3 out of 4 employees had a traditional job with benefits.  Since that time, many of these jobs have gone away, and are not likely to come back.  In today’s post, we’re going to begin a series of posts outlining all of the options available to people who have lost their traditional jobs, and/or wish to tranzition to the new economy.

Traditional Employment

As bleak as traditional employment may seem, it is still the source for a majority of the jobs today, and is likely to remain so in the near future.  However, the trends are clear.  Traditional jobs are in decline, and being replaced by new types of worker relationships.

If you have a traditional job, be greatful.  You have stable employment and benefits at a time when many do not.

If you have a traditional job, also be prepared.  In today’s environment, you never know when your department, division, or company is about to have lay-offs, or to shut down entirely.  In addition, you may find that the job you have becomes less attractive, as those around you get laid off, and your work load increases.  You may also find your salary under pressure, and your benefits reduced.

All in all, it’s in your best interest to start preparing yourself for the day that your current job disappears, and/or the day that you choose to go out on your own.

Build Your Networks

One of the first steps for anyone who wants a job of tomorrow, whether you currently have a job or not, is to start building your networks.  Personally, I’ve adopted LinkedIn for my business network, and Facebook for my personal network.  Here’s why I suggest this:

  • It’s free. It doesn’t cost you anything but a little time to learn the platforms, and to connect to your friends and business associates.
  • It takes time. To build your networks, you will need to invite people to connect with you, and they in turn must approve the connection.  This does not happen overnight.  The sooner you get started building your network, the bigger it will be when you need it.
  • There’s a lot to learn. These platforms have many features, and offer different ways of interacting with the networks you’ve built.  In addition, these platforms are adding features rapidly.  Together, learning how to use these platforms is a constant work in progress, one that’s never done.  The sooner you get started, the more tools you’ll have in your toolbox when you need it.
  • It will lead to Jobs!!!

In our next post, we’ll begin exploring the new career paths of the Great Recession, by starting with the jobs that are available now.  Until next time. is a blog by Jay Fenello, principal and founder of, an Atlanta-based
Business Brokerage and Placement firm that helps people buy and sell small businesses and franchises.

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New Job Opportunities in the Great Recession

In the last post, we discussed how traditional jobs were going away, or moving towards a flexible work force.  Today we’ll discuss the one segment of the employment spectrum that’s destined to benefit from these trends — the ranks of the self-employed.

Changing Self-Employment Options

Too often, when people think of the self-employed, they think of the latest media-glorified entrepreneur who took sensational risks, to become wildly wealthy and successful.  And while people like Steve Jobs do exist, they are by far the exception among the self-employed.

According to the article The Two Faces of Entrepreneurship, there are two types of entrepreneurs:  the Innovative Entrepreneur, and the Replicative Entrepreneur.  The former is the one most people associate with people like Steve Jobs.  They innovate in ways not seen before, and create huge new markets that never existed before.

The latter is the far more common type of entrepreneur.  While they still set off on their own, and take the risks associated with building an employee-based business, they do so in established markets, with established concepts.

Unfortunately, both of these types of entrepreneurs have been negatively affected by the Great Recession.

For the Innovative Entrepreneur, a lack of venture funding has drastically impacted their ability to get the funds required to commercialize new products, establish new markets, or innovate on a large scale.  For the Replicative Entrepreneur, the traditional brick and mortar businesses have seen their sales decline, forcing many of these firms out of business.

The good news is, the fastest growing segment of the self-employed are not traditional entrepreneurs at all.  They are the ones who work for themselves without employees, and go by terms like freelancers, independent contractors, solopreneurs, homepreneurs, and non-employer businesses.  These are the jobs that are available now, and growing very rapidly.

Three Types of Self-Employment

Self Employment Type Estimated Market Size Trends
Innovative Startup < 1 % Down
Owner/Operator Firms
with Employees
9% Down
Self Employed with
no Employees
90% Up

Clearly, the opportunities of today are for the Self Employed with no Employees.  And these jobs can pay very well.  According to research by Network Solutions, “About 35% have revenues of more than $125,000, and 8% more than $500,000.  What’s more, median household income is substantially higher than it is for the population as a whole: roughly $75,000 for homepreneurs vs. $50,233 for households in general.”

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at this and the various options for self-employment in much greater detail.  As always, comments welcome.  Until next time … is a blog by Jay Fenello, principal and founder of, an Atlanta-based
Business Brokerage and Placement firm that helps people buy and sell small businesses and franchises.

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Employment Trends in the Great Recession

In the last post, we described the massive restructuring occurring in our employment base, driven by automation and technology.  In this post, we’ll explore this in more detail, with a focus on the trends driving these changes, leading us to the opportunities of tomorrow.

Trends Driving Employment Changes

The profound changes occurring in the 1930’s were driven not only by farm automation, but by a perfect storm comprised of many other trends that culminated in that decade.

Same is true about this Great Recession. Here’s a short list of the changes we are currently experiencing:

  • Direct Replacement by Technology and Automation
    Automation has directly replaced many jobs like the factory worker (who manually moves widgets around the factory, and creates more widgets), the clerical worker (who manually moves paper around the office, and creates more paper), as well as all of those who used to manage these workers.
  • Saturation Driven by Technology and Automation
    Just like farm automation drastically drove down food prices in the 30’s, improved efficiencies in the production of today’s products has driven down these prices, leading to a saturation of markets and an excess of manufacturing capacity.  (how many computers, cell phones, tv’s, and dvd, cd and mp3 players do you own?)
  • Diminished Importance of Geographic Location
    Improved supply chain automation, reduced costs of long-distance communication, coupled with reduced barriers to international trade, has allowed work to move to the lowest cost producer (the so-called race to the bottom).
  • Increasing Costs of Benefits and Regulation
    With US-based health care and benefits primary provided through large employers, as well as the expensive reporting required to meet Federal, State and local laws (including Sarbanes Oxley), employers have an incentive to reduce traditional US-based employment.
  • Elimination of the Middle Man
    Historic roles such as stock brokers and travel agents have been greatly reduced by self-service websites, with many more intermediary roles under pressure.
  • New Business Models Driven by Technology and Automation
    Digital delivery of audio and video content is one example, as is the low cost and high convenience of online suppliers who compete with traditional brick and mortar retailers (i.e.

So where is all of this leading?  While no-one knows for sure, we can make some educated guesses.  (be sure to check out the comments to the previous posting — many good ideas are included there)

Spectrum of Employment Options

While there are many ways to slice and dice what’s going on in employment, I believe the most insightful way is to consider the employee/employer relationship, and how it is changing as a result of the Great Recession.

Coincidentally, Business Week recently published an article titled The Disposable Worker that describes in detail what I believe is happening.  In 2005, about 75% of all jobs were consider a traditional, full-time, employer/employee relationship with benefits.  In this decade, I believe we will see this number decline greatly, especially if health insurance is made available to all without regard to pre-existing conditions.  (There are way too many people underemployed at Walmart and Home Depot just so they can get health insurance for their families).

To get an idea of where the new jobs will be coming from, consider this spectrum of employment options:

Employment Type Type of Employers
(working exclusively
for the employer)
Large Corporations, Small Corporations, Non-Profits, Owner/Operator Firms
(working for a firm that offers
your services to another firm)
Professional Service Firms,
Consulting Firms, Staffing Firms,
Temporary Firms
Self Employed
(working for yourself)
Owner/Operator Firms, Venture Funded Startups, Independent Contracting, Freelancing,
Self Funded Startups

As a general rule, I believe that the jobs of tomorrow will be moving from the Traditional employee/employer relationship, to more of the Hybrid/Self Employed models of employment.  In the next post, we’ll explore this in more detail.  As always, your comments are requested and encouraged.  Until next time … is a blog by Jay Fenello, principal and founder of, an Atlanta-based
Business Brokerage and Placement firm that helps people buy and sell small businesses and franchises.

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The Changing Nature of Employment in the Great Recession

I recently saw the Great Depression film “The Grapes of Wrath,” and while I had seen it before, this time I was reminded of what’s going on in employment today.  The movie starts off with Henry Fonda returning to his family farm after having been away for a few years, only to find his home abandoned.  He soon learns that his family, as well as all of his Oklahoma neighbors, have been evicted and are leaving for the promise of jobs in California.

We then learn that the families in Oklahoma have been hit with a perfect storm.  Drought, low farm prices, and the displacement caused by farm automation had resulted in bankruptcy and foreclosure for millions of farmers.  It was reported that one man with a tractor could replace 10-15 family farms, and over 100 farm workers.

Similarities to the Great Recession

Consider the tractor for a moment.  The gasoline powered tractor first appeared way back in 1892.  However, it didn’t really catch on until the tractor was mass produced in the 1910’s.  Then, as tractor prices came down, its use on the farm started to take off.   The result was an increase in farm productivity, falling prices for farm products, and a loss of jobs for millions of farmers.  This displacement peaked 20 years later, during the Great Depression.

Today, we can see a similar process at work with computer technology and the Internet.  The first personal computer came on the scene way back in the late 1970’s.  Its adoption didn’t really take off until the 1980’s, eventually resulting in the computer being pervasive enough to enable the explosion of the Internet in the 1990’s.

Along the way, we’ve seen computers and the Internet displace people in selective industries.  Some of the first to feel the pain were the music industry, followed by the travel industry, newspapers and now the television networks.   We have also seen many roles within companies evaporate as well.  Factory workers were the first to go, followed by clerical, administrative, and now management level positions.

Today, after years of automating and streamlining processes, we’re seeing virtually every career in every industry under pressure.  Consider the following report by CBS News:

Jobs Created by Decade,
as reported by CBS News
Decade Jobs Created
1970’s 19 Million
1980’s 18 Million
1990’s 21 Million
2000’s Less Than
1 Million

Bottom line, we are in the middle of a massive restructuring of our employment base, and the jobs of yesterday are about as likely to return as that of the farm labor positions of the 1930’s.  This is not only consistent with what happened during the Great Depression, but also what we would expect to happen during the “Winter” stage of the long economic cycle as reported in Deflation in History:

the “Winter” stage, that of severe depression, includes the integration of previous social shifts and changes into the social fabric of society, supported by the shifts in innovation and technology.

Jobs of Tomorrow

In the next couple of postings, we’ll explore the changing nature of the job market in more detail, with a special focus on new opportunities that can replace our old models of employment.  Since this is a work in progress, you questions and comments are encouraged.  Until next time … is a blog by Jay Fenello, principal and founder of, an Atlanta-based
Business Brokerage and Placement firm that helps people buy and sell small businesses and franchises.

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Investing in Deflating Income Producing Assets

Until now, we’ve been exploring what’s been happening in our economy since the financial crisis began. To summarize, we are currently in a deflationary cascade brought about by a financial panic that started when credit markets around the world realized that much of the debt outstanding was not likely to ever be paid back.  This is now showing up in deflating prices in any asset class that depends on debt financing, including residential and commercial real estate, and small businesses.  In today’s posting, we’ll explore some strategies for benefiting from this chaos.

Rule #1:  Buy Low, After a Reactionary Price Reset

One unique feature of the switch from inflation to deflation (optimism to pessimism, greed to fear, etc.) is this change in people’s sentiment occurs very quickly, often in a matter of days or weeks.  And once it does, the reaction is usually excessive, moving prices from an overvalued position, past the point of equilibrium to an undervalued position.  Then, once things settle down, the undervalued position will often migrate once again toward equilibrium. For an example of this pattern, check out this graph of the Dow Jones Industrial stock prices since October 2008.

In a perfect world, investors could profit from this pattern by selling just before a panic, then buying just after the reaction to the panic.  Unfortunately, it is very hard to predict when these changes in sentiment will occur.  Even the market prognosticators who correctly predicted the housing collapse, had difficulty predicted *when* it would occur.

While this may not be possible for highly liquid markets, it actually becomes easier for illiquid markets. For an example of this, check out this graph of the decline in Residential and Commercial real estate prices. You can see how these two versions of deflation play out in the following graphs:

Deflationary Reset - Liquid Market
Deflationary Reset - Illiquid Market

It’s important to remember that the aggregate price in an illiquid market, is made up of many individual asset prices that reset at irregular intervals over the course of a correction.  This can be seen in the following graph:

Deflationary Reset - Illiquid Market w/ Components

Armed with this knowledge, it becomes much easier to define a strategy to profit from the turbulence.  Today, we know that commercial real estate and small businesses are deflating in value.  We also know that, because of long term obligations, these prices are illiquid, and not able to reset on a fluid basis.  When they do finally reset, they will often be sold for less than their equilibrium value, presenting an opportunity for profit.

So, to sum up rule #1, find an asset you are interested in, and buy it as soon as the seller capitulates to the new realities, as outlined in “Personal Experience of Deflation”:

  • Seller lowers the price beneath their debt, and takes a loss on the sale.
  • Seller offers the asset for less than they owe, and gets the bank to take a “short sale” on the property.
  • Seller gives the asset back to the bank as a “deed in lieu of foreclosure,” then the bank sells it at the market price and takes the loss.
  • The seller defaults on their payment, then the bank takes it back through a foreclosure and sells it at a discount.

In future postings, we’ll explore other rules for buying deflating assets at a profit.  But next, we’ll start to explore the changing nature of employment in the Great Recession.  As always, comments welcome.  Until next time … is a blog by Jay Fenello, principal and founder of, an Atlanta-based
Business Brokerage and Placement firm that helps people buy and sell small businesses and franchises.

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Small Business in Deflation

While homes were one of the first classes of property to enter deflation, Small Businesses and Commercial Real Estate are now deflating as well. And for many of the same reasons: people’s expectations of future value have gone down, there’s a lack of financing available, the declining net worth of buyers, rising unemployment, etc.

But there is also one major difference: small business and commercial real estate prices are directly related to the profits that they are expected to generate. If a small business is expected to earn $100,000 a year for its owner, its value is drastically different than the same business if it is only earning $50,000 a year. If a commercial strip center is expected to generate $100,000 a year in profits from lease income, its value is drastically different than the same property if is only generating $50,000 a year in profits.

For a concrete example, two years ago it was common for someone wishing to “buy a job” that generated $100,000 per year in profits to offer $250,000 for the business, paying $50,000 down in cash, and financing $200,000 with an SBA loan. (Note that this value is based on a multiple of 2.5 times cash flow.)

Then the Great Recession began, and small businesses started to suffer. It’s been very common to see gross incomes decline by 20% or more across the board. Because of the high level of fixed costs in a small business (things like rent and utilities), a 20% decline in sales could translate into an 80% decline in profits. The result is that this same business is now only generating $20,000 per year in profits, and would only be worth $50,000 using the same multiple.

But that’s not the worst part. Two years ago, businesses and commercial real estate were selling for premiums. Money was easy, and people were using pro-forma estimates of future earnings to justify higher prices. This was easy to do, because most businesses were showing a three year trend of improving results. So a buyer looking to buy a business that was reporting $60,000 in profits in 2005, $80,000 in 2006, and $100,000 in 2007, was happy to pay a high multiple on 2007 numbers, because they expected profits in 2008 to be $120,000 !!!

Today, the situation is reversed. Buyers are looking at sales trends that are going down, and they are expecting the down trend to continue again next year. Consequently, they are offering lower multiples, on these lower cash flow estimates.

Going back to our example, instead of offering $5o,000 for the business, today’s buyer may only offer $30,000 instead. Here’s a summary of how this has played out, using our sample company:

Small Business Valuations in the Great Recession

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Profits 60k 80k 100k 60k 20k
Multiplier 2.0 2.25 2.5 2 1.5
120k 180k 250k 120k 30k

So, the small business buyer who bought a business for $250,000 at the top in 2007, today may only be able to sell that business for $30,000. And if that buyer borrowed money to do this deal, it’s very likely that they owe more than they can sell it for today.

In the next posting, we’ll explore how to buy these assets at a profit, given all that we have covered so far. Then, we’ll look at the changing nature of employment, and explore work options for the unemployed and the underemployed. As always comments welcome.

Until next time … is a blog by Jay Fenello, principal and founder of, an Atlanta-based
Business Brokerage and Placement firm that helps people buy and sell small businesses and franchises.

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Personal Experience of Deflation

As mentioned previously, the transition from inflation to deflation often occurs in an instance. It’s the moment of panic when people, acting in herd-like concert, realize that their prior beliefs about a market are no longer valid. This is what happened during the first weeks of October, 2008, when debt markets around the world shut down and stopped trading.

These discontinuous events are only the beginning. Once a panic begins, other markets start the reset process, and attempt to stabilize given the new reality. So while this initial panic was in the debt markets, the implications for the markets that relied on that debt were soon to follow. This lead to collapses in the housing market, the automobile market, and most recently, the commercial real estate market.

Just like these major markets change in an instant, personal recognition of deflation also occurs in discontinuous spurts. One reason this happens, is that there are long term obligations on assets that prevent a fluid reduction in the market price of these assets.

For example, almost 1 out of 4 home owners are currently upside down on their mortgage. That means that they owe more to the bank, than they can likely get from selling their home in the open market. When people like this decide that they wish or need to sell, their first attempt is to sell it for just enough to cover their note. Since they are out of market, their home often just sits on the market with little buyer interest. It’s only after one of the following events occur that the home will sell:

  • Seller lowers the price beneath their debt, and takes a loss on the sale.
  • Seller offers the asset for less than they owe, and gets the bank to take a “short sale” on the property.
  • Seller gives the asset back to the bank as a “deed in lieu of foreclosure,” then the bank sells it at the market price and takes the loss.
  • The seller defaults on their payment, then the bank takes it back through a foreclosure and sells it at a discount.

These barriers to fluid price reductions in a deflating market are the reason that deflation occurs in spurts, even on a personal level. And it’s just not homes, either. Any asset that has long term obligations will have these barriers to fluid price reductions.

In the next posting, we’ll look at how this works for the commercial real estate and the small business market. That will lead us into ways you can personally benefit from the changes ahead. As always, comments welcome.

Until next time.

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Tipping Points and Panics

So far, we’ve covered deflation and how, unlike inflation, it occurs in spurts. We went on to see that deflation recurs in cycles throughout history, and explored some of the characteristics these cycles share. Finally, we recognized that the transition from inflation to deflation occurs rapidly, usually through a panic.

It is interesting to note that, before a panic, everything is it always was. After a panic, nothing is as it used to be. This is a clear sign of a tipping point, as made popular by Malcolm Gladwell. It can also be described as an inflection point, a change of trend, etc. In Chaos Theory, it is the point where a complex system changes from one state to another.

While it may take years for the changes that begin in a panic to permeate, they are typically profound. To get an idea of the scope and scale of changes we can expect, we need only look back to the Great Depression. To experience the challenges faced by the average American in the 1930s, check out President Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. In those, you’ll find that they too had to deal with a credit implosion, and the resulting bank and business failures. They also had to deal with an intractable unemployment problem, and extremely low farm prices.

To address these problems, the U.S. Government implemented many radical ideas, including many which are a normal part of our lives today:

  • Directly hired people to work, not only in construction projects, but even as writers and artists.
  • Put in place agricultural controls to support farm prices.
  • Eliminated the work done by minors in the workplace.
  • Shortened the work day and the work week.
  • Established minimum wages.

The point here, is we will likely see similar “radical” ideas put forward to deal with our problems. To survive and thrive in these pending conditions, it is important to recognize these facts, and to position yourself to benefit from these changes as the occur.

To date, we’ve been looking at the Great Recession from the macro, big-picture perspective. In the next posting, we’ll go micro, and begin looking at these changes from the individual’s perspective. This will lead us into a discussion about what you can do today to help yourself tomorrow. Until next time …

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Anatomy of a Panic

What exactly is a panic anyway?

To understand one, let’s examine the Panic of October, 2008. In broad strokes, here’s what I believe happened:

  • Mortgages that had been packaged and sold start to default in large numbers in 2007, leading to the imminent failure and sale of Bear Stearns in March of 2008.
  • Continuing defaults on mortgages lead to a run on the banks with large exposures to these products, including Lehman Brothers. When Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail on September 15th, 2008, investors lose confidence in any packaged mortgage products, including Mortgage Backed Securities (MBSs).
  • As investors try and determine the value of their portfolios, they start to make claims against Credit Default Swaps (CDSs) which were supposed to act as insurance policies in the event of such a default. Since these CDSs were not regulated, companies had been selling them naked, without any loan-loss reserves. With a large portfolio of unfunded claims, AIG becomes insolvent practically overnight.
  • Had AIG been allowed to fail, banks, companies, and investors around the world would have also become insolvent. Instead, the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury bailed out AIG on September 17th, and honored their CDSs at 100 cents on the dollar.
  • By now, the game was up. People finally understood that MBSs were not worth what they thought they were, and neither were their CDSs . From this point on, the markets for all Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs – bundled residential real estate loans, commercial real estate loans, credit card loans, auto loans, student loans, etc.) started shutting down as well.
  • Since many banks and other companies had these investment products in their portfolios, and since no-one knew for sure what their total exposure was, all debt markets world-wide started to shut down in early October, getting so bad that banks refused to loan money to each other.
  • In response to a total shutdown of global debt markets, central banks around the world announce extreme, coordinated measures to restore confidence in the first weeks of October, 2008. They’ve been attempting to restore confidence ever since.

The end result, what were once highly valuable portfolios of debt and equities, are now worth less (in some cases worthless) to the tune of an estimated 16 TRILLION Dollars world-wide. Not only have borrowers defaulted, lenders have incurred losses. In turn, many of those lenders are now in jeopardy of defaulting on obligations of their own. And so it continues, until the “great reset” completes.

In the next post, the fun begins – that’s when we’ll start exploring things that are likely to occur, and how we can benefit from the changes ahead. Until next time …

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