Wednesday, February 27, 2008

How to Survive the Upcoming Economic Collapse

Pretty much every honest and informed person agrees that it's coming – the collapse of the dollar, the end of the American Financial Empire, and a depression that will compare to the depression of the 1930s. The evidence is in the financial news, and abundant on Keynesians, Monetarists, Mercantilists, and Socialists have seen to that as they have consistently destroyed the wealth of this great country.

Greenspan is thought of as a genius, because he had the good sense to leave office and give the mess he helped create to Bernanke before it became obvious it was a mess. Now all that the sensible person can do is prepare for the worst and hope that the preparations won't be needed because Ron Paul will secure the Republican nomination.

The honest and informed economist advises buying gold and gold stock, hard monetary commodities that can't be deflated by government as a solid hedge against inflation. But how can the average person, middle class to poor, prepare for the upcoming collapse? Advice to buy gold or gold stock isn't as useful to those without the resources necessary to do so. Based on the assumption that the basic infrastructure remains intact, that there are jobs but fewer of them and that the stores are still open but with higher prices, there are ways a family can prepare.

The first step is basic financial management. Debts should be paid down and credit cards paid off. The best situation to have going into a recession or depression is to be as debt free as possible. It is time to start ignoring commercials and the desire for the newest and shiniest gadgets. An inexpensive car serves just as well as transportation as a fancy sports car in spite of what advertisers may say. Shop wisely, compare prices and find the best value for the money, which often means buying staple goods in bulk. Purchasing essentials in bulk saves money in the long run, plus a stockpile of food staples can be put aside for emergencies.

Next, take stock of family members and their living arrangements, as residence is the largest expense in the typical household budget. It may become necessary for families to adopt the old tradition of family living with family, instead of the current system of each house having one small family or even just one individual. The family will need to become the safety net it was in the past, with family members each contributing to the whole. The more stable incomes in one house, the better off that house will be. The loss of an income in a house with multiple incomes will not be as devastating as the loss of an income in a house with only one or two incomes. This is already being done as it is harder now for young people to establish themselves: young people graduating from high school or college often return home so they can afford to pay off loans and try to save enough to move out.

Securing a place to live should be the highest priority. Homelessness is the worst possible outcome, especially in economic hard times as charities will be less able to provide assistance to more people in need. Living with family enables the pooling of resources and abilities, so that each can support each other to avoid any being subjected to homelessness. Any relative with extra rooms in the house will be able to help out family members who cannot afford to live on their own anymore. Anyone who has room to take in other family members should prepare psychologically for the adjustment.

Try, when looking over the family situations, to find a family member whose residence has a yard. All the houses in the suburbs have a front and back yard. These can be put to good use, even better use if fenced in, because yards can become gardens. Diversify the garden – include a patch for a few fruit trees if possible. Collect catalogs from nurseries.    These have a wealth of information on companion and succession planting. They also help determine what can grow best in any particular area. Right now most companies provide these catalogs free.

Gardening is hard work, but with more people living together the burden of tending to the garden is shared among several people, lightening the load. Even the children can participate in activities such as pulling out of weeds or crushing of bugs that will attempt to infest the garden. The more food that is grown the less food that needs to be purchased, which is particularly important in the event that food distribution becomes a political tool or prices rise to the extent that that purchasing food becomes too costly. This will extend the family budget. Even those who are in the cities can still garden: window box gardens are an old tradition, and if each apartment in a building grows a different product the garden will be diverse and plentiful.The flat roof top of many apartment houses makes for a good place to garden, as do vacant lots found in many cities.

The household's vegetable based waste as well as garden waste can be added to the compost heap. Leftovers should not go into the trash; they should go back to the garden. Unfortunately a small compost heap won't produce sufficient temperature to degrade meats, dairy products, and non-herbivore animal droppings. Vegetable kitchen and garden waste are excellent sources of composting. This will save on the need to purchase fertilizer for the garden. More information on compost heaps can be found here.

If the yard is medium sized, consider keeping a chicken coop. A family that keeps chickens will have eggs and occasional meat from the back yard. Historically a chicken coop was considered a source of eggs with meat as a by-product. A rooster should be included so that the flock can be self-sustaining. Other alternatives include keeping a beehive or a rabbit hutch. A beehive will provide honey and also wax. The recent bee blights are happening in industrial bee farming, where the bees are not properly nourished as they are traveling from farm to farm, being fed only one type of pollen and nectar at a time, and being fed corn syrup while they are traveling. While the blight is also impacting domestic beehives, in the suburbs a single beehive has a wide range of food and will keep itself healthier and the bees will pollinate the garden and orchard, although one beehive per neighborhood is sufficient. A rabbit hutch actually provides the least benefit, as rabbits only provide fur or meat, but still remains an option for those with smaller yards when zoning laws forbid chickens, and can actually be kept indoors by city dwellers. Keeping rabbits or chickens guarantees a source of protein to compliment the fresh fruit and vegetables already being provided by the garden. More information on raising chickens can be found here, while information on keeping bees or rabbits can be found here and here.

For those with large properties, farther from the cities, it may be possible to keep, in addition to a chicken coop, a couple of goats to provide dairy and also meat. Cows require extensive feeding and pasture, sheep produce too little milk, and pigs produce too much aroma for the suburbs. All that is needed are a couple of does, because all that the community needs is one buck for fifty does, but at least two does are needed as goats are social creatures. Let a professional farmer be the buck's owner, and pay (or trade with) that farmer for breeding services. This will provide two kids a year per doe on average plus a good amount of milk, and some report that goat's milk is actually healthier than cow's milk. Of course any organic milk is superior to government approved processed milk, but goat's milk doesn't trigger lactose intolerance since the sugars and proteins are different. There are different breeds of goats, and some even provide wool which can be used or traded. A goat can even be a beast of burden; pulling wagons for example, although there is a limit to how much can be hauled compared to cows or horses. Being pulled around in a goat drawn wagon will be an inexpensive pleasure for children. For more information on raising goats look here or here.

There are artificial barriers that may prevent the home garden approach to surviving a depression. Zoning laws and beauty ordinances may prohibit vegetable gardens, orchards, chickens, and goats. It is best to find out the laws before engaging too heavily in these activities, but with a good fence around the back yard this shouldn't be too much of a concern. Zoning laws may make the front yard a loss, but sometimes a fruit tress or even vegetable plants that are pretty enough to plant between flowers in the front yard can pass beauty ordinances. With the need to garden and keep small livestock, the local government might succumb to the pressure to change restrictive laws.

Slaughtering livestock properly isn't easy, which is why this should be done by a professional butcher. The savings in the cost of meat will compensate for the payment of the butcher, but it may be possible to kill, pluck, and dress a chicken at home. Every part of the animal has potential use, even the feathers. In the case of rabbits and goats, not only is the meat the direct benefit the hide can be tanned and used in clothing. Organ meats can be eaten as well, something often forgotten in modern times, and even intestines can be used to wrap sausages.

It is time to relearn the old crafts. My own love of cooking led me to discover the joys of making my own jellies and jams, baking my own bread, as well as fermenting home made fruit wines. It will be better for the family to discover how to can and to make jelly and jam from the products of the small garden and orchard. Milk can be made into cheese, and even meats can be canned for later use, which is fortunate because the purchase a ½ a hanging cow or pig, which will provide a large amount of meat which will have to be stored. If any family member has a freezer, that will be a great asset. Frozen meat tastes more like fresh meat. Having learned that, a well prepared family can move on to more advanced food storage techniques such as salting, smoking, and drying. Along with preserving the meat, these add variety to the diet. People normally think of jelly as a topping, forgetting that it is actually contributes to the diet as a fruit as well, especially when made from home. In the long run homemade foods cost less than foods prepared in the stores; what is being purchased in the grocery store is convenience, and when money is tight convenience is a luxury. Time is being spent so that money can be saved and a healthy diet is the result. Such a diet has no preservatives, lower salt contents and no high fructose corn syrup which has been linked to the growing problems of obesity and diabetes.

Knitting and sewing should be learned. There are books out there that describe those arts at every level, from beginner to advanced, and even children can master the making of a knitted scarf. It may seem that those following the advice to start a home garden would be too busy, but knitting or crocheting is an activity that can be engaged in during times when a person is relaxing or after it gets too dark to work in the garden. Knowing how to mend clothing will extend the life of the clothing, and any repaired item of clothing is an item that does not need to be replaced.

The current culture of the United States seems obsessed with youth, leaving many to forget the contributions that the elderly can make. They will become very valuable assets because they remember the household survival skills, can teach them to the younger generations, and can help look after the children, even the teenagers. Multigenerational care was once the norm and it can be again. While the parents are working hard to support the family, the grandparents will teach the grandchildren. Instead of paying to store the elderly in a nursing home the family can now profit from their knowledge and wisdom. Even the children can participate in family endeavors as they discover how the chores they do actually contribute to there being food on the table at the end of the day.

With extra adults in the house it becomes a lot easier to home school, which is a strong benefit since the public schools will become increasingly degraded and the children will be able to help during the day in between studies. A flexible schedule is possible so that children can contribute in large scale family activities. With a larger pool of adults in the house to contribute to the education of the children there is a broader talent pool to draw from, negating the complaint that one parent cannot possibly teach all subjects.

There are resources outside of the family that can be drawn on. Religion will assume a greater importance, if for no other reason than community ties. The principle source of effective charity is the religious charity for those who need it, so those who can help others are able to find those who need help. The people that meet at the temple, synagogue, church, or mosque function as a greater extended family to help out in hard times such as sickness or injury, or even joyful ones like childbirth, and are also contacts for those seeking employment. Different families can also pool the homeschooling resources, creating small private schools in the church. With even more people to draw from there is an even greater breadth and depth of talent available.

Finally, find a home business that can be invested in, and any of the above listed activities can contribute to it with barter or sale of family farm products. Starting a home business is even easier in the age of the internet. Cable television is certainly not a necessity, but the internet is becoming a nearly so. Monster is great for anyone who is looking for work; Amazon and eBay are great for those looking for good prices or to sell goods.    With internet access, it is possible to advertise any home business on one of the many free website hosting services.

Any family that follows these recommendations will find that the upcoming depression will be far more bearable, and will, in fact, be considered rich compared to the neighbors. Simple steps – not easy steps but still simple ones – and if followed any who cannot yet afford to invest in gold will be able to by the end of the upcoming depression.    All of these suggestions are also profitable when not in a recession or depression, but it is only in difficult times that they become necessary.

It never hurts to prepare, but if you don't want to have to use any of these precautions, vote for Ron Paul.