Letter Re: Returns on Investments


Being married to an accountant, former government financial inspector and a finance director for a company opened my eyes to the concept of getting a return for my investment. For large tangible items, that concept is important. Oh, I certainly could fill a wall with a 55 inch plasma television, but what do I get in return for that investment? A wannabe movie screen that has a limited lifespan and sucks a chunk of energy? Will it help my long term bottom line of being financially independent and ready? The idea of investing in tangibles in a serious downturn made sense to me, even as described in Mr. Rawles’ novel, Patriots. By no means is our family wealthy or “super preppers,” but we believe in the need to be prepared for any major disaster or incident, whether natural or man-made. We wanted to not be a drain or liability on what will be a fragile infrastructure and be able to independently stand. While not religious, we believe in the need to be there to help our neighbors when possible. It is our moral obligation.

In 1998, my wife and I invested in our second house after our first was declared to be in the way of a future realignment of a state highway (that explained why we could not get natural gas piped to the house). I was developing into a neophyte “prepper” due to my active duty and National Guard service as well as being a cop and living in earthquake and volcano zone. As a result, my focus was shifting into a more sustainable type of house. We found a great house about a mile away on just over an acre of land, with a year round salmon stream in the back part of the property. Of course there were some drawbacks: it was much older and needed work, sat on a reasonably busy road and with the salmon bearing stream buffer rules enacted by the federals, we were space limited. But the positives were that is was close to my work, the house was solid, had copper piping throughout (we preferred copper to PVC or similar), a septic system, detached shop, natural gas throughout, “legacy” type 60-100 year old cedar and fir trees backed by a greenbelt and a real, working fireplace with a first generation Heat-a-lator type system big enough to heat the 1,500 square feet of house if the power should go out or there was a gas disruption. We re-invested the money received from the state buying our other house into the current one and were already into the positive equity side. We knew we would invest some sweat equity in fixing things so that dropped the house price even more. In our eyes, the return on our investment in this house (our largest tangible asset) was big. In fact, during the Nisqually Earthquake of 2001 in the greater Seattle area, our house survived with nothing more than items knocked off some shelves in the garage while newer homes in the area suffered wall and chimney damage. Very good for a house that was initially built in 1938!

As time progressed and we added children to our family unit, we began to discuss moving to a better location, one that had more room and further away from concentrated urban and suburban cores as well as meeting our growing preparedness mindset. However, all of that came to an abrupt halt in 2007. It was at that time that my youngest daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease (as discussed several years ago on SurvivalBlog). I had to take a hard look at my dream of moving away and faced the reality that I would be looking at suburban preparedness. My wife and I discussed our options and realized that due to my daughter’s needs, our proximity to the local Children’s Hospital as well as various food vendors that catered to “Celiacs” weighed the greatest. We needed to stay where we were at and make the very best of the location. We began to look back at our largest investment and realized that it was time to invest some more in tangibles to improve the house now that we would be remaining.

My wife and I have been and continue to be blessed to be in what are essentially recession proof jobs. We also saved what we could, received a small inheritance and began to make our list. Over the last several years, we invested in big ticket house items that as little as six years ago, would have been nearly impossible to afford due to the “hot” economy and housing/remodeling market. I am not ashamed to state that we took advantage of hungry remodelers and contractors to get fair but reasonable prices on projects we weren’t able to tackle ourselves. We shopped dealer scratch and dent sales, Craigslist and other places to get new (but cosmetically damaged) appliances and fixtures. We upgraded the septic system to a gravity fed long life drain field and tank, allowing for our family to have a system that not only would meet our needs in the future but in a grid down situation, would function while the sewers failed (and could act as a privy with a portable outhouse that could sit on top of the tank). We replaced our decaying torch down roof with a sturdy metal roof while also improving the insulation in the ceiling while the surfaces were exposed. While the metal roof was nearly two-thirds more than a comparable torch down or commercial roll roof product, the return on that investment was a 40 year roof, fireproof to prevent possible roof fires and sturdy to prevent damage from the limbs of the trees surrounding our house. It met severe wind requirements due to the anchoring system.

Windows were replaced with new energy efficient designs that would work to better insulate and protect the house. We upgraded some of the electrical in our home, adding a connection point for a like new generator I received from a deceased family member. We learned through testing based upon ideas at SurvivalBlog and other sites that with the use of natural gas or propane in all of our major appliances as well as low energy lighting and energy efficient appliances, the 7,500 watt generator we had could easily power everything but the washer and dryer at the same time. All were immensely valuable tangibles that added to our return on the investment in our house.

My family and I continue to make some final investments in our house as well as our overall sustainability in nearly any situation save a nuclear strike directly over our house. But the idea of returns on our investments by investing and buying tangibles right now have made us more secure and in a much better preparedness position. With the mortgage payoff only a few years away, we will be in an even stronger position. When that biggest balloon pops, we will be all the better for it. – MP in Seattle