Personal Finance and the End of Days

Over the last month, I’ve received many emails from followers of Harold Camping, a Christian radio host who is claiming that Jesus will return to Earth and the end of the world will occur within the year. One such email:

If you were truly serving your readers in these times, you would provide advice for how to prepare your assets for such an event.

First of all, I don’t believe in Camping’s prediction. At all. If nothing else, the Bible itself – the document that Camping’s predictions should theoretically be based upon – clearly states that no one can accurately predict the end of the world (Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 are pretty clear in that regard).

However, the reader does bring up an interesting idea. How should you plan financially if you truly believe that a calamity is coming?

For starters, I would never, ever put myself in a position where my family would be destitute after such an event. I would never burn through my assets in the short term. Instead, I would just make absolutely sure that I had an estate plan that put my assets in a good place after I passed. In other words, I’d make sure that my assets were in a place so that those who survived whatever I believed was coming would have an improved chance at a quality life. This might mean leaving things to my family first, and then, in the event that they weren’t around, I’d give that money to organizations that might use it in a helpful fashion.

At the same time, I would focus on building useful skills. This serves two purposes. One, if such an event does happen, I would be prepared with basic skills to handle whatever may come. I would know how to cook meals. I would know how to grow vegetables. I would know basic first aid. In essence, I’d be of useful assistance no matter what the situation. On the other hand, if such an event doesn’t happen, I’m still at least somewhat more able to handle the world around me.

What skills would I focus on? I’d make sure I could provide for my basic needs as best as possible. Can I prepare food? Can I forage in my area? Can I communicate well? Can I hunt? Can I do basic first aid? For the most part, these aren’t just useful in a desperate situation, but they’re also useful in everyday life.

Similarly, I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea to have some bulk food and water in reserve, as long as you’re actively using it before it expires. Having such things in reserve can come in great handy if you’re ever caught in a severe crisis, like a natural disaster. Thinking that “it can’t happen to me” is usually a mistake. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, and other such events do happen. Mother Nature can be a harsh mistress.

Here’s the real key of it: basic supplies and skills are never a bad idea. They can come in handy during the best of times and certainly during the worst of times.

However, sacrificing your financial future is a mistake, no matter how certain you are of a cataclysmic event. All the faith in the world does not bring the power to predict what will happen in the future. We do not know what future anyone holds for us, God or nature or otherwise. All we can do is prepare for the breadth of possibilities, good and bad.

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