Dear friends,

A heady question: To what do you aspire in this once in a lifetime life you’re living? Is it self-actualization? Fame? Fortune? How do you define success? Will you know it when you feel it way down deep? Or do you require validation on the outside? 

As pendulums go, the current swing to the ostensibly wealthy far edges is one for the ages, the Gilded Ages. Gorgeous old mansions are being razed en masse to make way for zero-lot-line mortgaged monstrosities. Driving a Porsche is no longer a sufficient statement. And vacations to destinations with no butler service all but invite pity. 

Do these extreme environments ever end well? Or do they burn the paper wealth of those who’ve gotten so close to the flame they’ve forgotten the dangers of mixing accelerants with combustibles, as in unsecured loans with margin debt? 

To state the obvious, save the unemployment rate, the economic data have turned for this cycle. (Labor market data are the caboose on any cycle so no off-script behavior here). If you’ve been Spring Breaking and you haven’t had the time to catch up on all of the recent reports, a quick glance at the relentlessly flattening yield curve will tell you all you need to know.

And yet, I couldn’t manage to extricate myself politely from a conversation with a sweet middle-aged man on a plane recently. A conversation with a colleague revealed we knew a thing or two about economics and the markets. With that, our window-seated companion poked and prodded us for the better part of three hours for stock tips, any ticker symbol we could offer. Surely there was one?! 

Are we really here…again? How does the world look through those rose-colored glasses you’re wearing, if you don’t mind me asking? (For more on Beer Goggles, have a look at a fresh Fed Up excerpt. Their choice of material from the book reveals a refreshing sense of humor on the part of Time’s editors.)

If you too have become discomfited by the splashy show of wealth wherever you go these days, you’ll enjoy this latest week’s installment, America’s Gilded Age 2: On the Rocks. The only question is, do they know what’s coming their way? 

As ever, wishing you well,