Having replaced savings with debt on both the national and individual levels, I think it's well past time for Westerners to take a few lessons from our creditors in the East. Many Americans consider gold a "barbarous relic," but in Asia, the yellow metal remains the bedrock of individual savings plans. This means that either greater than half of the world's population are barbarians, or they've held onto an important tradition that our culture has forgotten.
A Culture of Gold
One of the most important elements of Eastern gold demand is that it is not limited to educated investors or the higher classes, as often seems to be the case in the West. Throughout Asia, no matter one's social status, precious metals are the first assets people choose to protect their wealth. There is not even a glimmer of doubt about the enduring value of hard money.
A recent Bloomberg article quotes a Chinese woman, "I don't know anything about the stock market and I don't have enough money to buy property, so I figured gold is the safest choice."
Some might write off this philosophy as naïve, but her logic is founded in centuries of tradition, borne of hard-won experience. The same goes in India and across South Asia, where gold is an essential part of local religious customs. From wedding dowries to temple offerings, gold carries a caché in Asia that most Westerners can't fathom.
Consider the US as a comparison. Here, newlyweds are more likely to receive a house full of fancy appliances than any assets that might form the foundation of long-term financial independence.
After a couple of generations of US-dollar dominance, Americans have become lazy with our wealth. While we exploit our economic power by going into debt for fancy cars, big-screen TVs, and expensive smart phones, our creditors are steadily stockpiling gold.
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