Families should be alert to a seismic tremor under their financial assets. It’s called rampant speculation — buying at any price in the hope of cashing out at a better price.

The extreme price swings of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are one example. They are described by Nobel economics laureates as a speculative bubble and by one Federal Reserve president as a Ponzi scheme. Despite these sober judgments, they remain popular with traders for their fluctuating prices.

This round of speculation brings to mind historic popular delusions: the 1636 Tulip Mania, the 1720 South Sea Bubble, and the 1929 Investment Trust boom. They went bust.

Investors remember made-in-Canada tragedies: the Bre-X Minerals fraud that peaked at $290 in 1997 then went out of business, Nortel Networks whose shares fell from $124.50 in 2000 to $0.39 before bankrupting, and the dot-com frenzy that evaporated in 2002.

The outlook for today’s…

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