Sunday, October 1, 2017

NYT “How to Survive the Apocalypse” Forbes: "How To Doomsday Prep Like An Economist"

The Times piece has some good advice: a hoard of mini-bottles of booze used for either barter or the more traditional apéritif/digestif role can make the apocalypse more tolerable. Ditto for cigarettes.

Personally I think of the Wiemar inflation which highlighted the store-of-value character that the humble bar of soap possesses, especially for folks who don't directly own various means-of-production. And one of the lessons of Houston is how prized toilet paper and/or paper toweling can get.
As always we discourage gold as money, if you are going with shiny stuff, junk silver coins make more sense, both for recognition and divisibility.

After the jump we have a few other handy hints that may not be readily apparent but should probably be in your bag of tricks.

From Forbes' Modeled Behavior, September 30:

How To Doomsday Prep Like An Economist
The New York Times had a story recently about growing popularity of preppers, or the “swelling class of weekend paranoiacs of affluent means who are starting to mull fantasies of urban escape following the endless headlines about disasters”, as they put it. Let me be clear up front: I’m not a prepper. I don’t think social and economic collapse is imminent. But for the preppers and would-be preppers out there I thought it might be useful to consider how an economist would doomsday prep.

Let’s get right to the gold. People really like to imagine that owning gold, silver, and other precious metals is a hedge against an economic and social calamity. For some reason, goldbuggery and doomsday prepping are two flavors that go great together. The argument is that precious metals have been used for currency in earlier societies, and so when paper currencies become worthless as governments crumble, we’ll revert back to using precious metals. That's the argument, but part of the appeal is surely that it’s just fun to own gold and precious metals. It makes you feel like an explorer, pirate, king, or some other literary figure. Here’s the thing though: consider the income effects.

Income effects are the change in the demand for a good due to changes in income. Gold is very valuable in the current world we live in, which is filled with lots of high income people who like to buy gold for jewelry and ornamentation. According to the World Gold Council, 47% of the above ground stock of gold in the world is used for jewelry. A disaster bad enough to make developed nation currencies completely worthless is also going to absolutely obliterate the demand for gold because gold is a luxury and incomes will plummet.

And that’s just the demand side. As governments around the world collapse, the effective supply of gold is going to skyrocket as banks and reserves are raided. The US government alone has 9,000 tons of gold, and the 40 biggest central banks combined have 31,000 tons. That’s about 16% of all the gold mined in human history, and would be a cube of gold almost 40 feet in each direction. As the warlords of post doomsday world raid these reserves, that's a lot of gold that's going to get into people's hands.

I would predict that the price of gold as measured in many other goods and services will crater, making that pile of gold you stocked up worth a whole lot less than it is worth now.
So if not gold, what should you invest in to prepare? I would suggest a couple things.
First is human capital. Having skills that are useful and marketable in the post doomsday world will be important....MORE
In 2015 we linked to a Barron's Penta story in "How the Superrich Hedge Their Bets" with the introduction:
This is very serious stuff.
There are two questions you should be able to answer in the affirmative to establish a base from which to develop:
1) Do I have a talent or skill that I can market should the worst happen?
2) Do I have friends in countries outside my own domicile.
Link after the jump...
That in turn linked back to an  April 2011 post on one of the best investment books of all time

"How Travel can be an Education for Investors and Could Possibly End Up Saving Your Life and Fortunes"
...If there is an effective hedge against calamity, it is a combination of geographic diversification, retention of capital in mobile form and the keeping in personal touch with active businesses, both at home and in other centers.

One must keep personally alert, active and in the swim. Retired businessmen, in my opinion haven't much chance. One must not tie up all one's assets in one's home town or in a form that is not liquid and subject to easy shifts. There are far too many people who have a small business in their home city, their own house in the same city, and if they own any securities, some shares perhaps of the local utility company.

In addition their friends and connections are all in a radius of 10 to 15 miles.
My real thought is that one's greatest assets are his mental competence to do something useful and his connections.
Therefore establish some emergency connections away from home. Establish a fund or funds away from home as well, both as a "calamity hoard" and as an aid to keeping your foreign interests alive....
...One ought to be able to move to several parts of this country and the world, and have enough friends to be happy and get a helping hand to start, and have ready at hand enough funds for a grubstake to start.
Ask yourself how many widely separated  places you could go to and make a successful new start in life....
Excerpted from Chapter 29, "Travel as an Education for Investors" of Gerald M. Loeb's The Battle For Investment Survival, Simon & Schuster, 1935.

See also:
Happy 75th Anniversary to one of the few MUST READ Investing Books: Gerald M. Loeb's "The Battle for Investment Survival" Chapters 1-3