Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Financial Survival — Let's Talk Money

Yes, this is a survival site that deals primarily with Wilderness, Urban, and Disaster survival. But some might argue that the most universal and critical form of survival right now is financial. So, let's talk money.

We spend our lives, literally, in pursuit of this stuff, as if money actually has intrinsic value that is worth the exchange of our time, talent, energy, and everything else we give in trade for it. The question is why. What good is it?

In pure survival terms, there is almost nothing as worthless as money (unless you're using it to buy your way out of a tight situation). You can't eat it. You can't drink it. You can't wear it. It won't keep you warm and dry unless you burn it.

Money's only function is to serve as a convenient medium of exchange for something else that you want more than the money itself. During normal market situations, you can use money to trade for food or clothing or fuel or whatever else you want. But in a survival situation, when the market is not in normal operation mode, or is entirely unavailable (like in the wilderness), the value of this green paper can approach zero.

Lately, there's been a lot of talk about the "fiscal cliff" facing the U.S. economy. It's tempting for me to launch into a rant about who caused the country's financial mess and why the politicians and bureaucrats now expect you and me to pay for their criminal financial incompetence, but I'll try to put lid on it and deal with a more personal approach to finances.

Let's pretend that the national economy goes into total meltdown, and examine how that might affect us on a personal level. There are a couple ways this can happen. The Fed can keep printing money until runaway inflation makes the currency worthless. That's the old "It'll take a wheelbarrow full of cash to buy a loaf of bread" story. Might sound crazy, but it has happened in other countries, and it could happen here.

Or, the uncertainty of taxes and regulations coming out of D.C. punishes wage-earners, kills business, and unemployment skyrockets. With no jobs, there's no money in your pocket. I know, sounds crazy, but it has happened before and it can happen again. Just look back at our own history to the "hobo" days when unemployment was so bad that able-bodied men rode the rails all over the country trying to find work. Families were torn apart, children were given away or sold to those who could afford to raise them.

Honestly, it doesn't matter what causes the collapse, the outcome is always the same. People go hungry and homeless because they can't afford to buy what they need. Either the money is so worthless that it takes a ton of it to buy stuff, or the stuff to buy is so scarce that it just can't be found.

But let's step back and take a look at what role money actually plays in your survival. I'll say it right up front — money is worthless. You can't eat it, you can't drink it, you can't wear it, blah-blah-blah. I already went through all that. So my question is, why are we so intent on gathering up what's worthless, instead of preparing ourselves with the commodities that we will need when the fertilizer hits the fan?

I don't care if the wealth is green and foldable, or gold and silver, or diamonds and rubies — doesn't matter. If you can't eat it, or wear it, or use in in some functional fashion that will help keep you alive, it's worthless.

What do you normally do with money? The answer — you trade it for something you want or need. That's its only function. Having a pile of it stashed away won't do you a bit of good when the hurricane hits and there's not a sheet of plywood to be found anywhere. Or when the ice storm tears down all the power lines and leaves you freezing in a dark apartment. Or when an earthquake shatters the roads and food delivery trucks can't get through, and grocery stores are stripped to the bone by those who get there first.

What good is your money then?

In an emergency, you don't need money. You need food. You need warm, dry clothing that is appropriate for the conditions. You need drinking water. You need shelter. You might need a supply of prescription medications or first aid equipment. You need a way to protect yourself against human predators. You sure don't need money.

That's when you go over the real fiscal cliff — when you realize that you don't have what you need, no matter how much money you have in your wallet, bank, safe, or stuffed under the mattress.

So, let's get real and get prepared. Stop hoarding money, and start laying away a supply of whatever you need to keep yourself alive. The basic list includes easy-to-prepare foods, drinking water (and filters so you can create more), good walking shoes, adequate outdoor clothing, alternative methods of transportation (fat-tire bicycle), fire-starting equipment, illumination that doesn't need batteries, alternative cooking methods, hygiene supplies, etc.

Develop a plan of action that includes sheltering in place, as well as evacuation if that becomes necessary. Identify like-minded people you could team up with for mutual benefit, and start talking with them about "what if" scenarios.

As a society, we've lived in la-la land way too long. We've become accustomed to being able to run out and buy whatever we want, whenever we want it. We've believed that money was the answer to all our problems — with enough cash, you can buy your way to happiness.

But I predict that the time will come when those with hoards of money will be willing to trade it all for a warm coat and a loaf of bread. And those with the bread and the coat will turn away the wealthy man and tell him to go eat his money.

The wise will prepare themselves. The foolish will go without.

1 comment:

  1. But I predict that the time will come when those with hoards of money will be willing to trade it all for a warm coat and a loaf of bread. And those with the bread and the coat will turn away the wealthy man and tell him to go eat his money.

    I've never much cared much about money and I agree with your post. Us types will just take up arms to cover each others backs.