Yesterday I quoted this message from one of you in Japan, and then went off into the stratosphere with musings about the global marketplace. I ended by promising to come back to Earth today.

On May 10, Kohichi wrote:

In JAPAN there are 1,000,000,000,000,000 yen personal savings. But as you know, Japanes Ministry Of Finance forced a low interest policy to all Japanese banks (even Citi bank Japan). NOW an ordinary deposit is just a 0.01% interest monthly. But a loan interest is 4%!!!

So WE ARE VERY ANGRY (especially retire people). Now Japanese banks are very unclear by their real estate mistake. So we are moving our money to postal savings. We are looking for a good oportunity on a fair competetive trade market. And Japanese stock market is very unclear and they require trading tax (different from NY and LDN)

Unfortunately most of Japanese not be good at ENGLISH. PLEASE MAKE JAPANESE PAGE.

I wrote back that his use of the word “unclear” left me baffled. He wrote back a slightly less baffling message that leads me to believe “unclear” must be the polite, indirect Japanese way of saying “bankrupt” or “on thin ice” or I guess just “unsound.” Clear as a bell? Unsound as a Japanese bank?

With that adjustment, I had an easier time making sense of his frustration. Imagine savings accounts that yield just .01% a month (barely a tenth of a percent a year). Not that I’d mind borrowing at 4%.

It’s enough to make you turn to stocks, as relatively low interest rates in the U.S. got so many of us baby-boomers turning to stocks and driving the market up and up, until recently, with barely a breather.

But, as I pointed out to Kohichi, that doesn’t make stocks cheap. I spent most of my message explaining my incompetence at giving him advice — I know nothing about Japanese regulations, taxes or investment opportunities — but warning him that the U.S. market was not a bargain (especially not in May, when we were messaging back and forth).

So if you’ve put some of your money on the sidelines, or its been there all along, waiting for the bear market that never comes, take heart. It could be worse. Your money could be in yen accounts earning just .01% a month (and losing value relative to the dollar as the yen falls). Your bank could be unclear.


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