By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited”
Investors have lost confidence in the political leadership of the Eurozone: in their commitment to the project, their solidarity, their willingness and ability to adopt unpopular measures, and their managerial competence.
So, are the days of the euro numbered? is it on its way to the garbage heap of history?
No. The euro is here to stay. Current Eurozone members like Greece and Portugal may be forced to leave the club – but the inner core: Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland and even some new members such as Slovakia and Estonia – will remain. The composition of the Eurozone membership is immaterial. The euro can actually benefit from such developments.
But, if the membership changes, if countries abandon the project, would it still be the same currency?
Yes, it will. The US dollar was legal tender in the 19th century when the US was comprised of only 20 states (and had no central bank, by the way) as it is today with 50 states. The ruble served the USSR and now is Russia’s currency. The Yugoslav dinar survived economic crises and wars as did the German mark.
Still, what if the euro is cancelled? What will happen to my money?
The answer depends on the form in which you hold your money: cash, deposits, or savings. Cash, deposits, and savings will all be exchanged for reinstated local currencies, probably at the original rates at which these currencies were converted to euros a decade ago. So, if you have euros in Germany and the euro goes belly up, you will receive newly-minted Deutschmarks at a rate of 1.95 times the amount of euros you possess.
New interest rates will apply, of course. Quotas will be imposed on cash conversions in the first 6-12 months of transition and savings and deposits are likely to be involuntarily “extended” (read: frozen). Withdrawals from savings accounts and deposits will possibly be limited to a certain percentage of the principal per month.
What if I live in a non-euro country but have a deposit or savings account denominated in euros?
In all probability, the same rules will apply: your euros will be converted to the local currency at the last known rate published by the domestic central bank or by the European Central Bank. You will be able to convert only a certain percentage of your money per month and access to your deposits and savings will be limited and rationed, at least initially.
What happens if my bank goes bankrupt?
If you have a deposit or savings account with a prime (major) European bank, the governments of the Eurozone will likely nationalize it at the first sign of trouble. Deposits up to 100,000 euros are anyhow guaranteed by the state throughout the European Union. Only small, regional and obscure banks in non-Eurozone members represent a real risk.
So, should I stick to euros or should I sell the euros and buy US dollars, or, better still, Swiss francs?
Swiss francs are likely to be a bad investment this coming year. The currency is heavily overvalued and the Swiss National Bank (SNB) often intervenes in the currency markets to bring it back to equilibrium with other major currencies. The US dollar is a “refuge currency” (safe haven): it appreciates only in times of severe crises. Otherwise, it has been drifting downwards ever since the 1980s. Still, its prospects are good this year. My advice is: if you are not a professional currency speculator, stick with the euro. As a currency the euro represents true vale and is reasonably priced. You may wish to divide your money to 3 or 5 parts and invest it in several currencies to hedge your bets via diversification.
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