The One Thing the Emperor of the United States Got Right

The first and only Emperor of the United States was Norton I.

For roughly 20 years, Joshua Abraham Norton – or Emperor Norton – ruled the country from San Francisco. At least, according to his own decree.

On September 17, 1859, Norton – a failed businessman and gold-rush speculator – issued a decree: "I declare and proclaim myself emperor of these United States." He later added "protector of Mexico" to his status.

A few weeks later, Emperor Norton's second decree officially abolished the U.S. Congress. When Congress continued to meet, Emperor Norton ordered the Army to clear the halls of Congress. The Army declined.

Norton walked the streets in a blue and gold uniform given to him by officers of the U.S. Army, and he paired it with peacock feathers and a beaver hat. People often bowed as he passed on the street.

He went on like this for years. He banned both the Democratic and Republican parties and ordered the dissolution of the very republic itself.

Some of his orders were quite frivolous. If you didn't know, residents of San Francisco have never cared for abbreviations like San Fran and Frisco. Norton threatened penalties for anyone who used them.

He also ordered the building of a bridge from San Francisco to Oakland. And from time to time, campaigns still arise to rename the Bay Bridge the Emperor Norton Bridge.

When Norton found himself short on cash, he did what any ruler with unlimited authority and limited finances does. He printed up his own money... in this case, notes in denominations from 50 cents to 10 dollars.

The money had a promise from the emperor to pay in gold with interest... and people accepted them.

Again, no one put much value into the "full faith and credit" of Norton's government. We don't know if any holders tried to redeem them for gold coins. Rather, the novelty of Norton's wild life and celebrity status made it worth a few quarters to tack a Norton note up on your wall.

Today, the surviving notes are highly collectible. A 50-cent note can fetch around $15,000, depending on the market.

Norton, of course, was a crank with no power... and probably some mental health problems. But there was something he had right... the importance of gold.

Our money today isn't backed by gold, but it's an important asset to keep in your portfolio. And right now, there's an added reason to buy gold.

As gold investing legend John Doody explained on Wednesday night:

Gold is now in a brand-new bull market. It's up over 20% from its $1,174 per ounce low in August 2018, just a year ago. But most financial commentators do not recognize this fact – and so neither does the general investing public.

I believe gold will continue soaring higher in the coming weeks and months. So now is the time to get in.

Right now, John believes gold is experiencing a "perfect storm" that could make you 20 times your money... if you know where to invest.

Click here to learn more.

Now let's get into this week's Q&A...

Q: Doc, what are your thoughts on the latest data breach? I don't see many people talking about it. – D.C.

A: I assume you're asking about the Capital One hack.

Last month, Capital One notified news outlets that a data breach leaked the personal information of about 100 million folks. Hackers stole account applications for Capital One, meaning they got names, addresses, and Social Security numbers for millions of people. They also got credit card information and credit scores. Capital One says it will notify those who were affected by the breach.

This is a good reminder to protect yourself before something like this happens. Monitor your credit regularly by requesting your credit report. (You get a free copy from each of the credit bureaus once a year.) Use two-factor authentication on all of your financial accounts and keep a close eye on your credit-card activity.

Additionally, since e-mail addresses were also accessed, don't click on any suspicious links or fall for any messages that ask you to log into your account. It could be a phishing e-mail trying to steal your data. Always call the company or log in through its website directly, not through an e-mail.

Q: You wrote today about needing enough savings to cover emergencies. But I don't want it to just sit in a checking account earning nothing. Where should I keep it? – L.N.

A: Savings accounts are one of the easiest and safest places to keep emergency money. Savings accounts are FDIC-insured, which means that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will make depositors whole – up to $250,000 – should the bank make bad loans or experience a financial disaster.

Most savings accounts require a small minimum deposit to open, anywhere from $1 to $100. Banks have various types of savings accounts, including accounts specifically created for kids. And some banks offer higher interest rates the more money you keep in the account. But you don't earn much... Right now, the national average interest rate is 0.09%.

A money market account (MMA), sometimes called a money market deposit account, will usually have higher minimum deposit requirements. This can be as low as $500 or as high as $1,000, and they often pay a higher interest rate. With a current national average of 0.18%, an MMA can potentially double the interest you'd make in a savings account.

But be aware... Both savings accounts and MMAs limit your monthly transfers to six.

Certificates of deposit, or CDs, have many of the benefits of savings and money market accounts... They pay interest and they're FDIC-insured. But when you put your cash in a CD, you agree to leave it there for a particular amount of time – usually between three months and five years – and you'll pay a penalty for early withdrawal.

Since the money is locked up, the bank will give you a higher interest rate. Right now, the national average is 2.10% on a one-year CD. That rises slightly to 2.22% on a two-year CD.

Although the interest rate is higher, CDs aren't a great emergency fund because of the withdrawal penalties.

If you want to find the best rate for any account, visit Nerdwallet or Bankrate.

Q: Hey Doc... I know you're not big on pain killers, but what about muscle relaxers? I've had back pain a few years and my doctor recently recommended them.

A: About 35% of patients with nonspecific low-back pain (meaning the cause is unknown) receive muscle relaxants to help with the pain. They often take these after first-line treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) isn't enough.

Here's the problem... adding a muscle relaxant doesn't do any more to alleviate back pain than simple NSAIDs. A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine conducted a randomized trial (our gold-standard study design). It found no difference in pain relief for folks who received either a muscle relaxant or a placebo in addition to ibuprofen.

If you want to handle low-back pain, we've written before about the benefits of meditation, high intensity interval training for exercise, and yoga.

What do you want us to write about next? Send your suggestions to [email protected].

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Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
August 23, 2019