Preppers get painted is crazy doomsday people, sitting around waiting for the world to end, disappointed when it doesn’t. I think National Geographic has done a disservice to prepping with their show. The people on the show explain “what” they are preparing for. To many, their reasons are crazy. To me, some of the reasons are crazy. I think it’s important to make it clear that it’s not about a specific event or cause. It’s about planning for the future and protecting yourself. Does it really matter if an EMP, financial collapse, or natural disaster disrupts your basic necessities? What it comes down to is that you need to provide for your own essentials and survival.
Being a prepper is planning for your future, just like investing. When you invest for your retirement, you know you need to diversify your portfolio. You buy stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and gold. You do this because you need to spread your risk. You buy some things that are risky, that you hope will rise in value (stocks), and you buy things with certain intrinsic value that will not decrease (gold). Prepping should be added to your retirement portfolio too.
If you look at the big picture of the economy and the world, you invest your money in the stock market and retirement funds hoping they gain value, and now, hoping they will still be there when you retire. I think it is safe to say there is no guarantee that these assets will be there in the future. With the state of our entitlement programs and Social Security, they will run out of money. What then? Could the government take private assets such as investments? I think there is a chance. It would be easy for the government to say, “We are confiscating everyone’s investments and savings to fund Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In doing this, everyone will now be eligible for these benefits.” The things that you have based your future security and comfort on, have just been taken. Now you are waiting in lines to get your rations because you didn’t prepare. Like any investment you need to evaluate it based on your situation and beliefs. Maybe you are an optimist and only want to store enough for a short term emergency and wait until the government is able to come in to help. This would be like a Hurricane Katrina situation. Just enough to survive the rough period, then get help from the government.
Now there is some risk that if it gets that bad, the government could say, “You are only allowed to have 1 month of food and 20 gallons of water saved. Give me your extra 3 months of food and 100 gallons of water.” But this is much more difficult than just confiscating your money. So look at prepping as part of your retirement portfolio, and start investing in it.
Just as you would set aside a certain percentage of your income for retirement, choose an amount to set aside for prepping. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just prioritize your spending. Food and water first, then purchase the items appropriate for you. But also think about what others might want; such as alcohol and tobacco. Maybe you have moral objections to either, but there are many who don’t, and many who will want those items. Think about the Great Depression and Prohibition. Those with alcohol did pretty well.
The physical items you buy to be prepared can also be handed down from generation to generation. Now, I know that not everything will last. But if that can of green beans has been in your basement for 25 years, are you going to throw it away? Probably not. You will keep it and eat it when the times comes. It may not taste the best, but it probably won’t kill you. Your guns, tools, certain foods, bags, tents, etc. can be handed down from too. There is the potential for them to greatly increase in value as well. What if the sale of certain guns becomes prohibited? What could your gun be worth then? It can be left to your kids, like your investments could, but it would be tax free and provide for their future better than money. It is also important to teach your kids the importance of prepping. If they don’t value it and invest their own time in it, what you leave to them could be wasted.
Just like your finances and investments, your preps need to be protected. Where do you keep your supplies? Are they where guests can see them? What would happen if your house was lost? The FDIC insures your assets at a bank up to $250,000, so you shouldn’t keep more money in one bank than that limit, or it could be lost. The same is true for your supplies. This is where your network could be a great advantage. Try to diversify your supplies and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
I’m a 30-something civil engineer. Like many, I’ve never needed to survive “on my own.” I’m not a survivalist. I don’t go out into the woods for weeks and live alone and practice. I have a family; I don’t have time for those things. So my prepping portfolio is different than someone in a different situation.
Once your start prepping, it becomes its own portfolio. You have:
- Physical assets/supplies. These are the things you buy at the store and save. Food, medicine, water, equipment, guns, ammunition.
- Skills. Skills are particular abilities you have. You can have skills without knowledge, and knowledge without skills. As an engineer, I can design a weld to meet a required shear stress. That doesn’t mean that I could actually complete the weld myself. People with a skill and no knowledge compensate by “over-designing.” Look at medieval buildings. They didn’t understand the math behind what they built, they just built the hell out of it, and things are still standing today.
- Knowledge. See above. You compensate for your lack of skills by doing things “the hard way.” You don’t know the “tricks of the trade.”
- Resources. These are the people, skills, and knowledge that you will have at your disposal. If things get really bad, we will have to work in small communities. There’s no way around it. You can not possess every skill and resource you need to survive. You may come close, but there will always be something you are lacking. You need to know people and have a network.
Take a look at your prepping portfolio and evaluate it. Could you buy more supplies to compensate for a lack of skills? Could you study and read more to invest more in your knowledge?
Think back to when you teachers or parents said “everyone has something they are good at.” Find that thing, and make it an asset. You may not think it’s important, but I guarantee someone will find it important. For an example, I’ve designed water treatment systems. I can determine alum dosing, settlement time, and contact time for disinfection. I’ve designed septic systems. I’ve designed dams. That knowledge may seem trivial when everything is fine, but when TSHTF, they could be pretty valuable. So I would rate the knowledge section of my portfolio pretty high. But I’m lacking in some of the skills. I’ve never had to build those things. I’ve never been in a survival situation. I don’t know how to farm. Objectively evaluate your portfolio.
I’ve read a lot of disparaging comments about “armchair preppers.” “They just go online, buy some dehydrated food, and say they are preppers.” So what? Maybe that’s all they can do. I think that should be encouraged. Those people, “armchair preppers,” have many more supplies in their portfolio. Someone who has skills, but limited money, should include this armchair prepper in their network of resources. There are factors which will affect your ability to prepare:
- Where you live. If you live in an apartment in the city, how many 55-gallon barrels of water will you be able to store? Are you allowed to own a handgun? An AR-15? If you live in a rural area, how many houses are near you? Five within a 50-mile radius? Where is the doctor? veterinarian? store? You might be limited to only getting supplies over the Internet if you live in a remote area.
- Physical abilities. You could be limited by your age, illness, or handicap.
- Finances. Maybe you are a great craftsman, but you don’t have much money to buy supplies.
Get creative. Look at canning food, for instance. You don’t have to have a garden to can food. One weekend, prepare a lot of frozen green beans. Then can them. It may seem a little pointless, but you’ve just learned how to can your own food. A hobby like home beer brewing is a great example. Many do it and the skills could be very useful.
The point is don’t underestimate yourself. Look at your talents and knowledge differently. Don’t get discouraged by an elitist prepper who rants on a web site about “armchair preppers.” They could be the MacGyver of prepping, but they won’t have all the skills, supplies, and knowledge needed to accomplish all that is necessary.
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared at the Georgia Preppers blog site.