My goal in writing this article is to explain my thoughts and reasoning behind my choice to become a Prepper. I believe that being more prepared is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family. However, sometimes Preppers can be seen as strange, eccentric, or even crazy. My hope is that as you read my thoughts in this essay you will get ideas that can help you have good heartfelt conversations with your loved ones. Ultimately, I hope you will realize what I did; preparing for the uncertainties in this world is anything but crazy.
As I was reading and pondering reasons why I should be more prepared, I started to categorize everything into two different groups– multipliers and uncertainties. Multipliers are variables that make any type of disaster worse off, while uncertainties are bad situations that could possibly happen but might not. Let me share with you some of these multiplies and uncertainties that are the most concerning to me.
First, I want to talk about just-in-time delivery. Just-in-time deliver means, that when you go to the store and buy an item, it will register that the store is short of that item. The computer systems will automatically place an order, and when the next truck goes out to that store, it will now include that extra item on board. This is a practice that saves a lot of money for almost every type of business (e.g. grocery stores, pharmacies, manufacturers, and others), because now the in-store inventory is very low. However, because the in-store inventory is very low, if there is ever a reason that we can’t use our nation’s transportation system (mostly roads) the stores would run out of inventory even quicker.
A small localized example would be to look at what happened after hurricane Katrina when many of the roads were inoperable. Many grocery store shelves were completely stripped bare and people were hoarding gas to run their generators. From what I read and saw on the news, it was a tense situation, but this disaster was a localized event with a light at the end of the tunnel. Plus, our entire nation poured in supplies to help out. Now, imagine an equally devastating disaster on a larger scale without supplies being flown in. Just-in-time deliver would cause stores to run out of inventory even quicker than they would have before. Just-in-time inventory is not bad; it saves a lot of money and makes a lot of business sense, but it can easily make a fragile situation go from bad to worse.
Not Your Grandpa’s Generation Anymore
I don’t know how else to say it. We, as a people, are not the same as our grandparents’ generation. We don’t have the same skills and mindset as they used to. They worked in every aspect of their lives; they gardened, cooked from scratch, and mended what broke. They had relationships with their neighbors. They bartered, and they didn’t feel entitled to anything they didn’t work for.
I am not going to drag this topic out, but I think we can all agree that our country as a whole could not handle a disaster situation anywhere near as well as our grandparents could. How many people today would be willing to eat chicken feet soup and possum for dinner?
Made in China
It is not a secret that very few things are made completely in the USA anymore. If there is ever a disruption in the international/domestic shipping and transportation, for any reason, it would pretty much stop all production and disrupt most of what we could buy at the stores. This is just one more thing that could make a certain disaster scenario much worse.
About a year in a half ago I was at an event where Paul Ryan (Wisconsin, Republican, House of Representatives) was speaking. He talked about some point in the future when America wouldn’t even be able to afford the interest payments on our debt, if we didn’t start curbing our spending. After this event, I started to think about what he said, which led me to do more research on the national budget and debt. From what I read, Paul Ryan had one of the most conservative budget plans that had a chance of passing at that time, but even his plan didn’t stop us from going into debt further. His plan only slowed the pace at which we went into debt. This was an eye-opening experience for me. It made me realize that there could be a financial disaster in the future that no one was talking about (you can’t borrow money indefinitely). And if no one was talking about this then, what else was I missing? After much research, I came up with a list of some of the biggest concerns or uncertainties I have about our future.
My share of the national debt is $56,194.16 (as of 11/11/2014). That means an average family of four, like mine, has a share of debt well over $200,000.
The U.S. currently has close to 18 trillion dollars in debt. Our yearly budgets have recently run about 1/3 off of borrowed money, and we have added over $7 trillion to our national debt since 2008. As we continue to borrow money, the interest on our payments is going to get higher and higher, and at some point we won’t even be able to afford the interest on our payments without drastically altering the budget. In addition, we are not even trying to pay towards the principle of our debt. Very few politicians are even trying to make cuts to the budget, because doing so would take funding from areas that their constituents support. Like I mentioned above, one of the most conservative budgets that had a chance of passing (although a small chance) doesn’t even stop borrowing money, it just borrows a little bit slower than other budget plans.
In short, it is like our nation is driving straight towards a cliff, and all we are doing about it is arguing about how fast we should be driving towards the edge rather than trying to change directions. At some point when we can’t afford to pay interest on our debt payments, we won’t be able to borrow additional money, but we will still have the debt that we owe. At some point it is going to get ugly, because you can’t borrow money forever and not pay it back (well, at least not without consequences). I fear we will be left holding the debt, have our budget cut in third, plus continually have to pay more of our budget towards the principal.
There are people who predict that at this point there will be a collapse of our nation’s currency, and although that is a possibility, I hope it won’t get that bad. Whatever does happen, it will be a difficult and trying time for our country. To try to get out of this mess there will have to be high inflation, increased taxes, and deep budgets cuts. Think of what happened recently in Greece; their entire system was at the point of collapsing, but they were finally saved by a bailout from the EU. We have more debt than the next three countries combined, so if our system fails there will be no one to bail us out.
Let me finish this section quoting Margaret Thatcher, who said this about socialist countries (and if the U.S. isn’t one yet, we are pretty close): “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” You can’t say it better than that. In the end our debt in going to catch up to us, and it is not going to be pretty.
It has been reported recently that 20% of households in America are now on food stamps. That number has continued to grow every year. That means that one fifth of America is directly dependent on the government for at least part, if not all, of their food budget. (This excludes people who actually get a salary from working for the government.) What would happen if there was ever an interruption, inflation, or a cutback in how much the government is able to hand out?
We need to ask what it means for our country to have a low jobless rate but still have 20% of households of food stamps. What underlying problems are there that make it so many Americans can’t even afford their own food? Perhaps, most importantly, what does it mean for our country when so many people feel it is the responsibility of the government to feed them?
The overall point I want to make about food stamps is that there are a lot of people using them for food on a daily basis and that number keeps on growing. If for any reason there was ever a problem of any kind that caused a reduction in food stamps, you would have massive riots, looting, stealing, and possibly worse. It is best to be prepared.
Social Security (What’s So Secure?)
So let me explain Social Security the way I understand it. Each year the money is collected from people paying into the system (generally through payroll taxes). In years past, when more money was put into the system than was needed to pay out, the government created and added that money to a special fund– the Social Security Trust Fund. Any extra money was put in there. The government would then essentially write an IOU (technically government bonds, but these bonds are not tied to any real assets) to the Social Security Trust Fund and then use that money in other places. Now we are to the point where we are not saving up extra money each year; in fact, we need more money that we are bringing in. So, we pull money from the Social Security Trust Fund. With the current laws, we are not projected to have a surplus of money any time soon. At the current rate of withdrawal and with very positive estimates from government, the Social Security Trust Fund will run dry in 2033. At that point, the entire program would have to reduce benefits to all the Social Security participants so that money coming in and money going out match. It is currently estimated that the government would have to reduce the benefits to everyone by about 25%, to break even.
I am sure my explanation is simple and misses some of the nuances of Social Security, but it does highlight a major problem– Social Security is going to run into some major pain points within the next 20 years.
Before ending this section on Social Security, I want to make two more points that add to the uncertainties around social security:
- There is only 2.9 people paying in to every one person paying out, and that ratio is getting smaller every year. At what point does it fall apart? How much of your paycheck is the government willing to take from you?
- The process of temporarily fixing and patching Social Security could potentially cause a lot of pain. If for any reason Social Security checks stopped coming, even for a short period of time, there would be massive backlash from the people. (There are over 54 million people receiving Social Security benefits right now.)
There are going to have to be some tough decisions made around Social Security, over and over again. If each temporary fix doesn’t go perfectly smooth, it will cause massive unrest across this country. Ultimately, I am afraid the system is going to fall apart. I am in my 30s, and I don’t expect to ever see one penny paid back to me from Social Security. Be prepared, because there are too many uncertainties to count on Social Security being there for you.
Ebola in Dallas
So I live in the DFW area, and when I first heard that there was a case of Ebola in Dallas I was a little bit annoyed but not overly concerned. I then found out that a nurse from my church congregation works at the same hospital as the person with Ebola. This made me stop and think if I should be nervous. Lastly, I learned that the nurse has kids that were in the same class at church that my kids were in, and I got even a little bit more nervous. Then, additionally two more nurses caught Ebola; my nerves continued to climb.
Luckily, it wasn’t a huge issue, and Dallas eventually became Ebola free, but that disease highlighted just how quickly people are going to panic in situations like that. In this case, the presence of one patient caused the emergency room at that hospital to shut down and some nurses stopped showing up to work. Imagine what would have happened if there were 200 or 2,000 cases around Dallas all at once. Would the hospitals be able to handle it?
I believe that there could be a disease that is worse than Ebola, one day. Especially when there are doctors and scientists publishing exactly how to create one. We should be prepared, at least the best we can, to handle a situation like that. This is just one more of those uncertainties that makes me want to be a Prepper.
In the end, I feel that it is my responsibility to take care of my family. I hope and pray for continued peace and prosperity. My hope is that I never need the skills and supplies that go along with being a Prepper, but it would be naïve of me to ignore and do nothing to prepare for some of the uncertainties that I have listed in this article (and ones I did not list). Let me share some of my worst fears with you that really drove me all the way into being a Prepper. The first is that all or part of my family is killed (or worse) during a disaster scenario. The second thing that scares me is what I might be willing to do for my family.
Here is a hypothetical situation I thought of at the very beginning of my Prepper journey. Imagine I am the normal suburban guy who loves his family but is not very prepared for a disaster. Then, some sort of disaster strikes. Imagine my family and I start to go hungry. I am generally a good, Christian guy, and I tried to find food for my family in a fair way, but since food is scarce for everyone I do not have enough to get by for me and my family. Would I be willing to look my wife and kids in the eye and tell them that they have to starve because I did not prepare when I had the chance? Would I be willing to turn to robbery, or to murder, to stop my family from dying of starvation? What if this also meant ruining my own chance of salvation? Honestly, in this hypothetical situation, I am not sure what I would do. My gut tells me that I would do almost anything before I let my family die.
This scenario made me realize that if a good, Christian person would be willing to do extreme things to help his/her family, what would others with less moral convictions be willing to do? I decided that I should prepare now, while I have the chance, so that this hypothetical situation would never have the possibility of being acted out.
There are two reason I wrote this article. First, I wrote it to encourage the Preppers to continue on their journey. Prepping is not strange, eccentric, or crazy, and if there is ever a disaster scenario you will thank your lucky stars you prepared. Plus, knowing you are more prepared than most should allow you to rest a little easier at night. The second reason is so you can share this article with the non-prepper people in your life. Maybe this will shed a new light on why you do what you do and the non-prepper will realize that you prepare because you care about them.
In conclusion, no one thinks you’re strange if you get a life insurance policy, even though you have a small chance of actually dying. The same should be true about prepping. There is a small chance (I hope) that any of these scenarios will turn into a full blown disaster, but there is still a chance. It is normalcy bias that tells us that just because something like this hasn’t happened before means it won’t happen in the future. We should take advantage and take action now and prepare. We need to pay the dues to our disaster insurance so that we can be prepared to take care of ourselves and our family, if there is ever a disaster scenario.