My Why: Fear

A large part of my “Why” for learning financial markets is to overcome fear:

Fear of financial insecurity. Fear of losing something I had (nest egg). Fear of not getting something I wanted (secure retirement).

How did I get this fear? I came by it naturally. As a military kid, my dad was stationed in Morocco and Spain in the mid-1960s. These were formative years where I saw how others lived in foreign countries. In Morocco crime was ultra high. We never left anything the car, as it would be broken into. Electric fences with “skull and cross bones” signs were everywhere. In Spain, fascist Franco was still in power so we navigated checkpoints with Guardia Seville machine guns pointed at us. These scary things made an impact on a young mind. Fear seeds were planted.

Fast forward. As a U.S. Marine explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer, I encountered fear fairly regularly. But we observed strict safety “rules” to minimize risk. None of us wanted to become “red mist.” In 1981, I was assigned to the US State Department as subject matter expert on all things “bombing.” I participated on the Diplomatic Security mobile training team dispatched to high threat countries to train our Ambassadors’ bodyguards. In April 1983, I was sent to Beirut to work the post blast investigation when our Embassy was bombed. The aftermath was grizzly. During the investigation, we learned a 2000 lb suicide truck bomb breached our embassy perimeter killing 63. Months later, the same tactic was used against our US Marine compound in Beirut killing 220. My EOD friends survived Beirut, but my fear became real.

As a US Foreign Service Officer, aka “diplomat,” for USAID, I served in many dangerous locations. We worked in developing “3rd world” countries helping them transition to democracy and economic viability. My travels took me to war zones, refugee camps and natural disaster sites. I saw people who had lost everything, their homes destroyed by earthquakes in Haiti. Communities ravaged by war in Southern Sudan, Sudan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Hyperinflation affected us in Nicaragua, Zimbabwe and many African nations. I saw refugees surviving by a thread in Darfur. I also saw elderly middle class people foraging for food in the dumpsters in the former Soviet Republics where scarcity was common. Contrast that with seeing the richest of the rich’s palatial digs, like in Turkmenistan, India, Pakistan, Egypt (this list goes on!). Corrupt governments, scarcity, hyperinflation, war, crime — these are the norms in politically unstable countries. My fears were real, but they were “over there,” not in the USA.

Could this happen in America? You bet.

9/11 showed me bad things can happen in America. Because of my EOD background, I was asked if the Trade Towers could be taken down by aircraft or fire. Coincidentally, in 1986 I participated in a security assessment of the Trade Towers for the Port Authority. We knew then that aircraft and fire could not bring the towers down. My fears magnified when we sustained an attack on American soil and questions about how and why were never adequately answered in my view.

My agency sent me for my masters degree at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF). (Renamed, The Eisenhower School.) I learned,

“The bigger we are, the harder we fall;”

18 of 21 major US industrial segments were losing ground; that the US displays similar patterns to fallen civilizations. The Romans fell due to overstretch. Likewise the former Soviet Union. It was the world’s #2 largest economy and fell relatively quickly due to its overstretch. Many attribute the never-ending-war in Afghanistan as key to draining Soviet coffers. Other factors contributing to Roman & Soviet demise include: fiscal insolvency, corruption, political instability, threats from within, threats from without, loss of public trust/confidence in government, to name a few. Here, the seeds of fear blossomed to full flower!

Is this happening in America now?

Sadly, it appears so. US overstretch and fiscal insolvency are growing. Govt spend on defense, healthcare, pensions and interest on the debt outpaces our ability to pay for it. The US debt to GDP ratio is bad at 104% and projected to get worse. In order to reduce debt, gov’t must cut defense and entitlements, (social security and medicare). My work mentor, CFO for GAO, told me my fed pension is not secure.

At USAID, I learned democracies are fragile and there are no guarantees ours will last. According to a key Think Tank, US political and social turmoil, natural disaster, and internal cohesion have worsened the most compared to any other country.

Having worked anti-corruption in “The Stans,” I learned how corruption hampers financial markets. I see a growing culture of corruption as evidenced by White House nepotism, violations of the emoluments clause, politicians lying, campaign funds violations, election fraud and gerrymandering, tax cuts for ultra rich while debt and deficit grow unchecked, etc. As of Transparency International’s 2017 report, the US hasn’t regressed, but what does the 2018 report hold?

The 2019 National Intelligence Strategy identifies “Threats from Within” as people with access to US Gov’t info who knowingly or unknowingly do harm to the US. Could this be Kushner, or our President? Our intel also community works to curb “Threats from Without:” cyber threats, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and foreign intelligence attacks. My biggest fears include cyber security breaches and electromagnetic pulse (EMP.)

Finally, my worst fear is a decline of confidence in our government and its institutions. Another key Think Tank shows a continued loss of public trust since 1958. Public trust is at historic lows. My own trust has waned since I returned from a long period overseas and saw worse 3rd world trends in America than the developing countries I’d left! This fear is amplifying as this administration fails to deliver essential public goods.

As you can see, my “Why” fears paint a bleak picture. Fortunately, my fear is countered by faith. My faith rests in Higher Powers, the greater good and the people who work to create it. I have faith in my Marines whose motto is Semper Fidelis (always faithful). Since Robert Kiyosaki was a Marine, I was open to learning from his book, Rich Dad Poor Dad. This led me to the Elite Legacy Education financial markets courses, which rocked my world. Here, I learned from superb teachers and fellow students — many are at Tackle Trading. Here too, I met Tim Justice who became my mentor and trusted friend. He fanned my belief in life long learning and that financial knowledge is power. Told me we could thrive in any market, up, down, or sideways. This gives me hope.

In sum, my “Why” is Fear of economic insecurity. My solution is Faith. Faith in life long learning and the financial education that the Tackle Trading community provides to help me survive and thrive.

Beth Salamanca,
Trader. Investor. Life Long Learner.

Beth Salamanca is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer and US Marine. She’s traveled to 77 countries and uses this experience to support her investing. She trades stocks, options, futures and commodities. Under Tim Justice’s mentorship, Beth was inducted to Elite Legacy Education’s prestigious Hall of Fame in 2018.

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