So the World Has Ended; Are You Financially Prepared?
Be afraid, be very afraid — the apocalypse is nigh.
The Cold War is back, and Russia is winning. North Korea is even more unpredictable than Donald Trump’s Twitter account. Then there’s the extreme weather patterns destroying cities and countries in a matter of hours. And if all that isn’t enough, Americans hate each other more now than ever before.
If this all sounds like hyperbole, it’s time to wake up and smell the borscht. Then make sure you put on the right clothes before the levees breach and your neighbor speeds away on a boat that could’ve fit both your families.
This year has been a banner year for doomsday preppers. Turmoil abroad (North Korea, Russia, ISIS) and at home (political, social, financial), combined with some of the most devastating hurricanes in recorded history, prompted more than 68 million American adults to purchase survival gear for a worst-case-scenario situation that apparently many feel is closer than ever before. Those findings come via a survey of 2,000 American adults conducted by Finder.com and Pureprofile, and the results paint a bleak picture.
The End of the World as We Know It
The new numbers mean more than 160 million American adults now possess some level of survival gear, since apparently tens of millions were already prepared for doomsday. That leaves only about 34 percent of the adult population just hoping for the best.
Doomsday preparedness is hardly a new concept. The idea that the world is fragile and will just end one day without prior notice is a concept as old as independent thought. It even has an awkward acronym: TEOTWAWKI, or “the end of the world as we know it.” We just happen, as a country, to be at a point where this paranoia is extremely pronounced — so much so that people are spending thousands of dollars, sometimes millions, to be prepared.
And preparation extends beyond water, food, and shelter. Many people want themselves and their families to be financially secure during the apocalypse. This desire seems to span all income brackets, with some of the richest Americans going to great extremes to be ready for TEOTWAWKI. But not everyone can afford a $3 million bunker in the middle of nowhere, so how exactly does one financially prepare for doomsday?
Most Common Expenses
Not all preparation methods are exciting and bizarre. Most are just practical, and it’s likely you’ve at least thought of some of these things.
According to the Finder.com survey, the most worthy investments for doomsday preppers were in savings accounts, insurance, home improvements, charitable donations, survival kits, and healthcare.
Here's the breakdown:
39.4 percent: $2,000 on insurance
32.5 percent: $400 in donations
37.6 percent: $5,000 in medical expenses
36.3 percent: $400 on survival kits
25 percent: $2,000 on home renovations
50 percent: $5,000 in savings
Of these expenses, the one that might stand out the most is charitable donations. It seems like the local animal shelter would be an afterthought amid nuclear fallout, but that only scratches the surface. Donations could, in effect, be a way of staving off doomsday.
Max Levchin, who co-founded both PayPal and Affirm, told The New Yorker that he despises the notion of wealthy Silicon Valley types spending oodles of money on doomsday scenarios. “It’s one of the few things about Silicon Valley that I actively dislike — the sense that we are superior giants who move the needle and, even if it’s our own failure, must be spared,” Levchin said.
The mindset Levchin so despises stems from the idea that America’s wealth inequality and growing reliance on machines to do jobs actual people can, and would, still do will eventually lead to a feudal-serf-like revolt across the nation, with wealthy innovators the No. 1 target. Levchin scoffs at such an idea, asking his friends and associates how much money they give to their local homeless shelter instead of to feed their paranoia.
Living the High Life Underground
When you have lots of money, you’re always looking for things to buy. And if you have oodles of money, there’s almost nothing you can’t buy. Enter the Survival Condo Project.
Somewhere in Kansas north of Wichita there is an old nuclear missile silo that the military decommissioned in the 1960s. In 2008, a guy named Larry Hall purchased it for $300,000, then plunked down $20 million to create a yuppie utopia for doomsday (or, really, anytime you want to get off the grid; the world does not have to be ending for you to enjoy your luxury bunker). A half-floor unit cost $1.5 million, and a full floor went for $3 million. They quickly sold out, but rest assured more are being made. The next round of units will include a penthouse option for a cool $4 million.
Hall, according to The New Yorker, was a data center and networks specialist for Northrop Grumman, Harris Corp., and other defense contractors — a career that likely served as the impetus for his bunker odyssey.
If you’re at all interested in a luxury doomsday bunker, just know there are some serious caveats attached. For starters, you have to pay cash for these suckers, so liquid assets are key. But the good news is, once you purchase one and it’s built, you don’t have to wait for the apocalypse to live there or visit. It can be your new vacation home until it’s your last resort.
While there, you can relax knowing that military-grade security are patrolling the grounds 24/7. And to feel a connection with the outside world, there are special windows in the units that play scenes from aboveground, like Central Park through the seasons or an exotic island paradise somewhere in the Pacific. Fido is welcome too, as long as he’s not a pain in the ass and weighs less than 70 pounds.
What about food and water? Per Survival Condo: “We have all of the necessities to survive in a luxury ‘resort setting’ for as long as 5 years without having any concern for being able to sustain our community with all of the necessities that will be needed for an extended off-grid living situation.” That sounds downright lovely.
A lot of info about the project is exclusive to those involved, but what we do know is they’ve set up a communication system for pre- and post-disaster scenarios. And the bunkers are equipped with fiber-optic intranet and data-streaming capabilities for education and entertainment. Hall and his team keep the location under wraps for security reasons, and they have a three-pronged approach to getting residents there if (or when) the apocalypse starts.
In this scenario, you’re not really converting any of your existing money into a safer bet for TEOTWAWKI. You’re just investing a crap ton of money to ride out the storm, as it were. It’s a great idea, but it’s clearly not for everyone (supply being the most obvious barrier). So for the vast majority of the population, what are the other options?
Perhaps by evening out the wealth gaps a bit we could avoid total anarchy one day. Sounds as reasonable as any approach — except when that approach involves a $3 million bunker.
Metals, Cryptos, and Gunpowder
It’s generally agreed upon that the apocalypse will render traditional governments and financial institutions useless, which means paper money and your investment portfolio will likely be the first casualties. But survivors will still need things, and those things will cost something.
The prepper community — which, by the way, is as ornery as you might expect — believes one of the most valuable things come doomsday will be ammunition. Not just for protection, but also to barter for other necessities. Ammo is relatively easy to obtain and it’s very cheap. Most states have restrictions on how much someone can buy at once, so stocking up on ammo is the slow approach to prepping. And anyone who’s seen “The Walking Dead” knows the value of a good weapons cache.
Gold and Silver, Silver and Gold
Other than ammo, precious metals like gold and silver are popular doomsday investments. Their value is neither tied to any government nor depreciates over time. These metals are terrific investments in peacetime, so come armageddon gold and silver will be a top currency choice.
Cryptocurrency, or cryptos for short, has become a go-to prepper purchase, although it certainly comes with more question marks than ammo and precious metals. For one thing, it exists entirely online and if you lose your crypto wallet digits then you lose all your cryptos. And if the electrical grid is compromised or dies entirely — a near-guarantee in the event of the apocalypse — then it will be entirely useless. There’s also the volatility factor, as this type of decentralized currency is so new that no one really knows if it will continue to be valuable or just fade to zero as the fad wanes.
However, if cryptos can somehow be used in the aftermath of doomsday, they present some interesting scenarios (read about one preppers opinion on the matter here). For one thing, new societies could be built from the ashes using cryptos as their main source of money — even if that kinda sorta skirts the whole idea of decentralized currency. TEOTWAWKI is going to change a lot of things.
Buy a Motorcycle, Or Two
Imagine living in a metropolitan area when the apocalypse hits. It will be like any evacuation effort, in which everyone tries to leave at the same time using the same few roadways out of town. Talk about the biggest traffic jam ever. So how do you get around that? On a motorcycle, naturally.
Motorcycles are the preferred prepper mode of transport because they are fast, extremely fuel efficient, and can go many places where other vehicles cannot (namely, in between two lanes of idle traffic). Some of them even work where there are no roads.
Depending on the size of your family, you might need a few motorcycles. Luckily, most models can travel more than 100 miles per gallon of gas and are a vastly cheaper option than most automobiles. And you can get bags and such to strap on and carry all your gold and ammo to the wilderness. A good investment indeed.
Learn How to Survive
Admit it, you’ve wondered from time to time how you might fair in the wilderness. It’s a natural question, although one we rarely (or never) have to answer since we are basically on the outskirts of the animal kingdom. If you’re serious about investing in doomsday preparedness, take the guessing game out of this question and take classes to learn how to survive in wilderness. It might be the best investment you can make.
Plus, while you’re waiting TEOTWAWKI, you can go on some serious backpacking adventures and live off the land. Practice makes perfect.
Or, Take This Guy’s Advice
A few years ago, David John Marotta had been receiving so many emails about TEOTWAWKI scenarios that he decided to make it part of his wealth management strategy for clients. His Virginia firm dedicated a series of articles to the topic starting in late 2013 and extending into early 2014. And Marotta’s opinions on the matter are definitely his own, eschewing the popular thought patterns when it comes to financial preparedness for doomsday.
One article addresses home mortgages and whether one should own their home outright before doomsday. Marotta says no, because TEOTWAWKI will render the U.S. dollar less valuable and thus it will be easier to pay off your 30-year mortgage. At the time, interest rates on mortgages were historically low.
Another of Marotta's articles tackles the pros and cons of paper investments, arguing that, unlike most of the advice from preppers, having money in stocks, property deeds, auto titles, and others is in fact a good idea. Those pieces of paper show that you actually own something, and it would be nearly impossible for that to change no matter the severity of doomsday. (For the record, Marotta agrees with preppers when it comes to paper cash: useless in the apocalypse.)
Bug Out Bag
David John Marotta also talks about the virtues of simple preparedness, like having a “bug out bag.” It’s pretty much what you think it is: a kit containing everything one needs to survive with nothing for 72 hours. They’re built for the initial evacuation phase more than for long-term survival, and the contents vary depending on the scenario from which you are trying to flee — food tablets, water purification items, clothing, vitamins, first aid supplies, simple tools for starting a fire, batteries, the list goes on.
The key is that it fits into one bag and has a long shelf life or never expires. Having a bug out bag could be useful for a lesser disaster than doomsday, like something weather-related or an earthquake.
Be Smart, Be Ready
It’s becoming less and less crazy to be a doomsday prepper. Remember when internet dating was so creepy? Now people even break up over text messages.
So no matter how serious you become over TEOTWAWKI scenarios, in the end it’s probably better to be prepared.
Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn...