Peter Grant’s blog often has excellent information on current economic and financial conditions. If you don't follow it, I would recommend you start.
His post on “The War on Cash” sparked a memory. While he focuses on macro issues, this memory is decidedly micro and narrow relating to
circa 1970. Routt County, CO
My parents were well positioned to ride the real estate boom of the 1970’s. Mom left her job with the US Forest Service and Dad left his job as a power plant control room operator. They got their real estate licenses and prospered for awhile.
One day my father and I were talking and I remarked about how everyone was getting rich. My Dad gave me a stern look and said, “All that is being exchanged are mortgages. There are no hard dollars changing hands”. He went on to say after every boom there is a bust. In the case of Steamboat, there were several busts.
What I take from Peter’s blog is the picture of a world wide exchange of paper with nothing of tangible value backing it. I've read elsewhere all the oil future contracts floating around amount to 250% or more of all known oil reserves. Similar examples abound in every financial sector and commodity exchanges.
What should the average person do? Read the information available from places like Peter’s blog. Get whatever retirement money you have into something tangible you control. While we all need checking accounts, etc., we can do so with Credit Unions. I left Wells Fargo twelve years ago and have not one dime in any commercial bank. When the firewall between the commercial and investment sides of banking went away so did I.
Lastly, I would caution you not to think I'm some sort of financial wizard because I’m not. Read and learn for yourself.