And it's no longer just Europe that we have to be worried about. On Friday, Standard and Poor's warned that there was a 50-50 chance that the United States would lose its AAA debt rating in the next 90 days - even if the debt ceiling didn't result in a U.S. default.
When you get right down to it, we're all asking the same urgent question: Just where the hell can I go for a really safe investment?
Fortunately, I have an answer for you.
The Sovereign-Debt-Default Survival GuideS&P put us on notice back in April, when the ratings agency affirmed the country's AAA/A-1+ sovereign credit ratings - but also cut its outlook on the United States' long-term debt rating from "stable" to "negative." The last time that happened to the United States was 70 years ago - right after the attack on Pearl Harbor. What S&P is talking about now, though, is a reduction of the country's actual credit rating. For years, investors throughout the world have viewed U.S. government debt as the "safe haven" of last resort.
With a cut in the country's credit rating, those days would be over.
If you're searching for alternatives to U.S. debt, the good news is that Standard & Poor's has granted 18 other countries that top AAA credit rating. The bad news is that the selection isn't as luxuriant as it first appears.
It's important to separate the prospects from the suspects.