NOTE: In no way does this article constitute or attempt to make financial advice.
Severe economic downturn or even a full on "economic collapse" is one of the scenarios I find to be most plausible, if not probable. All of the economic indicators are there, including a deficit (which is recently being brought under control for the first time in a long time by the Trump administration), although the debt is more concerning -- nearing 20 trillion dollars, the interest payment alone will be 1 trillion dollars annually, while the total income and payroll tax collected is just over 4 trillion annually.
Couple that with the fact that so much of the "money" supply is simply willed into existence with the stroke of a key (here's a good video explaining that), only 1 out of every 9 dollars out there was actually earned and deposited into a bank, while the other 8 were just created out of thin air -- this lessens the value of an actual dollar. Did you know that the U.S. dollar has lost 98% of its value since 1913? It's true.
Prices for everything are rising, including food. Venezuela and Argentina used to be shining stars of South America. Look at them now. Venezuelans are eating animals from their zoos and starving. (Read our article on Venezuela here.)
Financial crisis is one of the hardest things to prepare for because most of the steps necessary to protect yourself are not quick ones, not things you can just go out and buy, and can involve significant lifestyle changes.
We'll start with some of the basics.
In a severe economic downturn, inflation and shortages could push food prices into the stratosphere. A gallon of milk or gas could easily go for $10-15 while a loaf of bread could cost $5-10. Although there may be food on the shelves, many of us could not afford it. The stories of history are true. People did in fact roll wheelbarrows full of increasingly valueless paper currency around in order to purchase groceries. Large rubber banded stacks of cash are currently being used in Venezuela -- there's nothing to stop that from happening in the U.S. if the rest of the world starts realizing our currency has little actual value.
The only thing keeping the U.S. dollar alive right now is the PetroDollar status -- people MUST use the dollar to purchase oil world-wide. The moment a country decides to trade in some other currency, metal, or commodity with Iran, Russia, or any other fuel producing nation, the jig is up. The dollar is done. It may take a while, but that will be the bell weather for the beginning of the end.
Will the U.S. allow that to happen? I don't know. Remember when Saddam Hussein was about to accept Euros or gold for his oil? Yep, he's dead. That's what keeps the PetroDollar around, not much else.
I've watched Number 10 cans of meat go up in value over 25% in just 5 years. There's no question in my mind that a can of meat (that's good for 25+ years) will be worth far more 10 years from now than it is today. Purchasing food, long-term storage food, is better than putting money in the stock market. Afterall, stock markets crash, dollars become worthless, but food is food. You can't eat gold.
Buying a 3 month supply of food today, freeze dried and good for 25 years, could be better than putting $500 into a money market as that same food supply could triple in cost, or not even be available, if a collapse takes hold. Ask the people in Venezuela if they'd rather have put their money in the bank or into food.
Like with any other investment strategy, anyone will tell you...diversification is key -- one doesn't put all the eggs in one basket. Preparedness is insurance and we all hope to retire normally some day, laughing about how silly we were to think anything bad could happen.
In no way am I suggesting a good water filter is not needed. Anything can happen and food and water should be your number one concern. Bottled water prices would likely soar with the rest of them, so being able to filter your own water from any source is a back up plan that always makes sense.
We are in the Midwest here, and luckily there are numerous fresh water sources which could readily be filtered. We would save money making our own clean water, plus have the added benefit of being able to get any water should shortages occur due to lack of production or supply chain disruption.
Depending on your current financial status, and future prospects, buying storage foods and water filters now can both save you money in the future by freezing the price of food in today's dollars, as well as hedge against possible shortages or delivery issues. If you are well off financially, procuring food and water in an economic downturn may not be a problem, but then again...
Crime statistics coincide -- hard economic times are hard on everyone.
There's a pretty popular Youtuber I follow who lived in Argentina during the collapse of 2000. He subsequently moved to Ireland, but he relays his experience during the time he stayed in his home country: crime sky rocketed.
Kidnappings for ransom, muggings, break-ins. You had to watch yourself coming and going from your home. Make sure you were not followed. Many hired armed guards to stay watch at their houses. It hit the population really, really hard.
Desperate people do desperate things. How many ex-theives would lose their jobs during a downturn and have to go back to what they know -- stealing.
It's my experience that Americans don't think too much about it, but all one has to do is travel outside the U.S. to see how many people in the world live and operate in dangerous conditions on a daily basis. In many other countries, homes have bars on the windows, walls with glass shards glued to them, and armed guards at their doors -- and these are the middle class folks.
Hardening your home would be a great idea for any scenario and it's no different for this one. Figure out how you would transport yourself and your family safely along in your daily life and how you will defend your home. Driveway alarms, security cameras, motion sensors, starting a neighborhood watch. All things you can do now.
If we wait to long to enact such measures, it becomes a huge burden to play catch up in the face of everything that may be happening. Perhaps it would just be too late. Plants with thorns outside your first floor windows take time to grow. It takes time to save money for things like security cameras and other alarms. Maybe you need to move all together because your neighborhood is already too dangerous -- these things take time.
Money / Work
Most of the preparations you must make to weather an economic issue take more planning than quickly and easily buying some pieces of gear. It takes serious thought from the financial planning and lifestyle angles. Diversify your assets. Do not have all of your savings or retirement money in the stock market. Do not have all your stocks in U.S. companies. Keep cash on hand. Look into storing physical metals -- IN HAND. Look into other currencies. It's not so much losing money and having to adapt, but it's the mental anguish that would come with losing the money. It would be a terribly demoralizing feeling if all of your savings are in a bank and that bank goes under. FDIC Insurance you say? Not nearly enough to cover a nationwide banking crisis. You will get nothing.
Assets will quickly become the storage of wealth. The man who has $10,000 in the bank has the tables turned on him when the guy down the street has NO money in the bank, but a garage full of tools he can use to start making money.
I think about learning to cut hair sometimes. Barbers are in great shape for an economic downturn. People always need a haircut and that's not going to change. A barber can feel much more secure in his profession than can a salesman.
If you can change careers now to a more stable arena, or get new training or tools that would allow you to do side work for extra money in hard times, NOW is the time to do these things. Everyone will be scrambling when things crash and then it's too late.
These are the things to think about if you're worried about severe economic downturn.