Some Thoughts on Ultra-Preparedness

Three recent emails from readers have made me focus lately on how much preparation for disasters we should be doing. First, from “Adam”:

Do you think it’s reasonable to take some of the money I use to invest each month and buy gold bullion coins to keep in my safe? I’m worried about the dollar collapsing.

And from “Eve”:

My husband and I have always used a spare room in our basement for storage of extra bulk supplies we’ve purchased, like toilet paper and the like. Recently, my husband has started talking about using that room for dehydrated meals and water storage in case of a major disaster. Do you think this is a good idea?

And from “Noah”:

Do you think non-hybrid seeds are a good investment?

These three readers all have something in common. They all are at least somewhat under the belief that a major calamity of some sort is on the verge of occurring – either a natural disaster, the fall of the government, the extreme devaluation of the dollar, or some other event that will radically alter our day-to-day way of life.

My general answer to all three of these people is the same. None of the ways of utilizing their extra money is an inherently bad way of using extra money. These items won’t necessarily earn a great return on the investment, but they aren’t worthless, either. Instead, I would encourage them to find ways to make these choices compatible with the way they live their lives today.

To Adam, who wants to buy gold coins: by all means, add gold coins as a small part of your overall investment strategy. I would not invest in nothing but gold. If I were you, I’d simply buy them at a slow rate – perhaps saving $100-200 a month (or more, if you’re able) and buying a coin whenever I could afford one. Then, I’d just sit on those coins, using them only as a last resort. This is particularly true if you have heirs to which you can pass those coins onto.

To Eve, who wants to begin storing food and water: instead of storing a bunch of dehydrated food packets that you may or may not ever utilize, I’d start a garden and teach myself how to can vegetables. Then, over time, eat some of the vegetables you can to maintain a steady supply in storage. For example, you might can a summer’s worth of vegetables the first summer, leave them alone that winter, can a second summer’s worth of vegetables, then eat the first summer’s worth the following winter. My parents used exactly this strategy growing up and it worked just fine.

To Noah, who wants to start buying seeds: I’d invest in a greenhouse setup (grow lights in your basement, if nothing else) so that the seeds don’t go to waste. After all, in most home storage situations, seeds will eventually go bad. Within that greenhouse, I’d replenish the seeds each year and also grow myself plenty of food. A greenhouse makes it much easier to actually protect non-hybridized seeds and plants from diseases and predators, since the advantage of hybridization is that the final plant is much more sturdy than many non-hybridized plants. One good way to get involved in this is to get in touch with the Seed Savers Exchange, a group dedicated to preserving and passing on heirloom plant varieties.

While investing like this will likely not produce a great financial return, it does offer another kind of return. For many people, such preparedness offers peace of mind – a sense of protection against the unknown. That has real value, particularly if you find the state of the world to be a stressor in your life. If having some gold in your safe or food supplies in your basement causes you to feel more at peace, then it’s providing a non-financial return that has significant value in your life.

What sort of preparation do we do along these lines? At home, we have about a month’s worth of food on hand along with about twenty gallons of potable water. A good portion of the potable water is actually in gallon jugs in the freezer, helping to fill the freezer and thus reduce the maintenance energy needed to keep the contents of the freezer cold. We do not own any gold bullion, though I’ve considered buying a coin or two at a very slow rate.

Investing is more than just pure dollars and cents. Investment provides psychological security and peace of mind as well, which can be tremendously important for some people. If you’re in a position where you’re worried about the state of the world, I see no reason not to invest some of your time and energy into securing your position as best you can. After all, that’s what investment really is, at its core.

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