I grew up in the1960s glued to the television, like most other suburban kids. One of the shows that I enjoyed watching was Wild Kingdom, sponsored by Mutual of Omaha. The wise old narrator, Marlin Perkins, went way out in the hinterboonies of South America and Africa to film his documentaries. But I noticed that he was almost always a detached observer. It was usually his young, muscular assistants that were put in harm’s way, but not Perkins himself, who was safe and sound. He often made comments such as: “‘I’ll watch from the safety of the Land Rover, while Jim wrestles the massive Anaconda. Ouch! Be careful, Jim!”
The Wild Kingdom documentary television show makes a nice analogy for the current banking crisis. (And, coincidentally, it was Mutual of Omaha that last week came to the rescue of two failed banks.) The recent news of numerous bank failures makes it clear that it is now coming down to survival of the fittest, in the banking world. Welcome to another episode of Wild Kingdom, folks. There are a lot of banks that are unfit creatures. The pools of credit have dried up, and these creatures are dying of thirst, and starting to stagger. The vultures are beginning to circle. Its a dangerous world out there, and if you are wise, you won’t be in the thick of it, exposed to risk. Instead, you will find yourself a safe vantage point and simply observe, nod, sip a Mint Julep, and make sagacious comments like: “I told you so”, and “Those poor, deluded souls.”
So where will you find your safe vantage point, from which you can observe the dramatic unraveling of the banking system? What will be your “Land Rover” equivalent? I’ve said it many times before: tangibles. You should shelter the majority of your assets in either productive rural farming or ranching land (that can double as a retreat), or in tangible, easily barterable assets that will hold their value. For the latter, I prefer practical tools, rather than baubles. You can’t eat Krugerrands! In the real world, Beans, Bullets, and Band-aids are much more practical.
In the next few weeks, as the nascent wave of bank failures accelerates, you will likely be hearing a lot about the”Texas Ratio” of any given bank. This is the ratio of a bank’s assets and reserves to its non-performing loans, based upon its financial data. Conduct due diligence on your bank, and cover your assets! It is best to have accounts with several institutions rather than just one.
Start your research by reading this article: Calculating Your Bank’s Health. Also, don’t miss this piece by Mish Shedlock. Based on Mish’s warning, it is clear that you should not depend on Bankrate.com, since their evaluations are glaringly inaccurate. Instead, I recommended Weiss Ratings (now part of TheStreet.com) as a more objective judge of the the safety of banks and insurers. I have recommended Marty Weiss to my consulting clients for many years. Marty and his staff do excellent research and, unlike many of their competitors, they are truly independent and objective.