Prepping While Unemployed, by Paul H.

I am writing this because I have talked to so many people who believe that there is little they can do to prepare because they have no job.  There is a difference between having a job and working and although I have not had a real job now for over three years, I continue to work six days a week.  I had already been unemployed for almost a year by the time I started reading your books.  Having moved to this small city for a job in finance, I paid cash for an old mobile home in a trailer park rather than rent an apartment.  When I found myself out of work a few years later, I owned the mobile home and my aging sports car free and clear.  I also had a little money in a retirement account and what I had saved from the difference between trailer lot rent and an apartment.

Disadvantages to Riding Out TEOTWAWKI in a Trailer Park:

  • No privacy – Several other mobile homes can see everything you bring into the trailer
  • More crime – One night I came home to find police officers looking for drugs someone had thrown in my yard while being chased.
  • Nowhere to hide – 2” thick walls and no basement or even a block crawlspace
  • Nowhere to run – Mobile homes lots are small and there are only more trailers in every direction.
  • Public water – Even if mobile homes had gutters, hundred of other people would see the rain barrels.
  • No storage  – I had a shed, but no such thing as a cool, dry, place.
  • Rented lots – Most leases state the mobile home is security for the rental payments.  It’s like having a mortgage that never pays off.

Within every problem lies the seed of opportunity.   Looking for work takes less time than working 60 hours a week.  I qualified for the unemployment which was more than my modest living expenses.  Leaving my employer meant I could move or withdrawal my retirement.  Knowing the withdrawal of my retirement would incur a 20% withholding for taxes and penalties, I opted instead to borrow out some and roll some of it over into a self-directed IRA capable of owning real estate.  This gave me the added benefit of asset protection as retirement plans are generally exempt from bankruptcy or attachment by creditors.  Most people decide where they want to live and then look for properties in that area.  I decided to look for good deals and then evaluate their appropriateness. 

Finding Good Deals in Any Market

  • Never deal with just one agent – Search the MLS web site every morning and contact listing agents directly.  I found this by visiting several local realtor pages until I found one of them had embedded it in their site.  Good deals go too fast to involve a whole other firm.
  • Watch the auction sites – More rural foreclosures are showing up as the economy worsens
  • Tax Sales – Most of these are unimproved, abandoned lots or land.  Make sure you are in a state where you actually get the deed and do not have to wait out the redemption period.
  • Ask around – Maybe another prepper will sell you some of their land.  It takes several people to defend a position.

(These tips come from the YouTube video)

It did not take long to hit pay dirt.  One morning the MLS spit out a few acres about an hour from my home.  It was about half the price I had seen for comparable properties so I followed the directions on the MLS page.  It was on a former logging road off a road that dead ends into a hollow near a national forest.  This forms a natural cul de sac where vehicle access to the community can be controlled at one bridge.  I immediately called the listing agent, met with her and the seller and made an offer on behalf of my IRA for full asking price.  The seller had been forced to sell the property as part of a divorce settlement so he listed it with his sister not caring what it brought.  She had listed it for the minimum price her broker allowed and I was the first person to whom she had shown it.  To her credit, she had a list of interested parties by the time she met with me.

I borrowed enough from my retirement account to buy a monster box of silver when it was $16.16 per ounce from what was left in my retirement account after transferring the funds for the real estate purchase.  During the same period that the stock market recovered about 10%, my investment in silver has about doubled.  I have to repay around $100 a month to my own retirement account, but the only consequences of defaulting on this loan would be that the balance would be taxable as income in the year of default.

While the seller was showing me the property lines, he made a comment about the disagreeable hermit that has the only other residence on this gated former logging road.  Instead of confronting him about a key to the gate, I left a letter in his mailbox introducing myself and inviting him to lunch.  After lamenting that he would have bought the property for privacy (I can’t even see his property line), we became great friends and he willingly handed me the key.  He has been a great resource and informed me that we do not post our properties with no trespassing signs.  Later this may change, but for now I can traverse hundreds of my neighbors acres without worrying about breaking the law.  This being different from the laws in my home state, I confirmed it with the largest land owner adjacent to my retreat.  He is an elderly cattle rancher who works and lives on the other side of the mountain.  One day as I was loading up my truck I heard someone yell ‘Hello’ which is really rare.  I peered through the trees to find an old man sitting on a stump.  I walked up the gravel road to meet my neighbor.  He had been riding his fence lines on a four-wheeler when it broke down.  I went and got my truck and ferried him back to his side of the mountain.  During the ride I made sure I can use his land. 

It took longer to sell my mobile home than I expected.  I finally got an offer the following winter contingent upon waiting for the buyers tax refund to arrive so he could pay me.  Since I needed the funds from the mobile home to finance building materials, I redeemed the time by meticulously searching Craigslist for things I need.  Here is a partial list of acquisitions:

  • 1980s diesel 4 x 4 pickup (I gave my friend a great deal on my sports car to pay for this.)
  • Wood/coal stove
  • Windows and doors for the cabin
  • A couple CB radios and a CB base station
  • Rabbit hutches (free for hauling away)
  • 2 one year supplies of Emergency Essentials survival food packed in 2008 from a guy who was moving to Mexico
  • Food grade water barrels (not the soda pop ones as sugar feeds bacteria)
  • Steel 55 gallon barrels with clamp on lids

Because I believed that food inflation would soon come, I also purchased a thousand pounds of various grains during this time which I packed with oxygen absorbers in Mylar lined buckets using dry ice as per the instructions in JWR’s book, How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It.  When others were hitting the Black Friday sales for flat screen televisions, I was picking up solar power kits nearly half off.

The pickup truck was one of my first purchases because without it I would not have been able to pick up many of the things I found.  The mountain retreat is so remote that even in the summer I have to shift into 4WD.  Winter snows require tire chains.  By the time I closed on the sale of my trailer, the rear of the retreat property looked like a junkyard with little piles of material covered with camouflage pattern tarps.  Since the cabin site cannot be seen from even the gated former logging road and I built no driveway, everything was perfectly safe.

The thought of moving out of my mobile home and into a tent in the middle of winter was not very attractive.  Just because I can build a debris shelter does not mean I want to spend the winter in one.  Fortunately, I knew a single mother whose maternity leave was running out.  She did not want to put her child in a daycare so we made a deal whereby I stay with the baby during the day in exchange for room and board.  I continue to collect parts and inventory which I store in a rented storage unit a few miles from my retreat property.  During this time someone I knew from high school was arrested on felony charges.  Since he would soon be unable to own firearms, I picked up his entire gun collection complete with ammunition at a very good price.  When winter turned to spring, I was ready to start building on weekends.  The basic structure of the cabin is complete and soon comforts like the solar electric system and hot shower will be finished and I will be able to move on to the outbuildings.  I already found a multi-unit rabbit hutch free for the hauling and I am waiting on a chicken coop to not sell before another party accepts my offer to do the same for them.  Everything I build is mobile so as not to be improvements to the property itself which would violate the terms of my IRA.  Once I move there and start using the retreat, the funds I spent on the land will be considered a distribution from my IRA.  As this will only happen if I do not find another job, the penalties and interest should be offset by my standard deduction and exemption as I will have no other income in the distribution year.  

I continue to look for work in my field, and despite having several interviews I still have no offers.  The last interviewer told me that about a hundred people had applied for the one position.  Hopefully my experiences will help those in similar situations realize that as long as we practice thrift no matter our circumstances, we can turn obstacles into opportunities.  Complaining about setbacks do nothing but waste time better spent progressing toward the goal.  Steady plodding brings success.