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In spite of the tendency for people to think of gold and diamonds as an emergency store of value for a shit-hits-the-fan scenario, I have a hard time understanding how owning physical gold would actually be of great practical use to me in such a scenario.

For the sake of argument and to avoid speculating on what this scenario might look like (nuclear disaster, global war, pandemic, natural disasters), let's assume that as a result of some combination of events:

  1. Major stock exchanges lose 80% of their value
  2. Significant portions of the economy simply shut down
  3. Widespread panic results in runs on banks causing them to fail
  4. A shortage of goods and insatiable for currency cause hyper-inflation
  5. Power, water and sanitation infrastructure fail
  6. You get the picture

My question is, what should you invest in now that would be much more valuable in a post-apocalyptic scenario?

  • 1
    A note to anyone casting a close-vote: make sure you read the criteria closely. I will not tell you how to vote, but thus far I disagree with the NARQ votes. It is not difficult to tell what is being asked, it is not ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad or rhetorical. Also, see this question on the meta. – George Marian Mar 16 '11 at 23:38
  • Zombie Squad wiki: zombiehunters.org/wiki/index.php/Barter – David Cary Mar 17 '11 at 0:32
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    First you need to survive the apocalypse, that is of foremost importance. – DumbCoder Mar 17 '11 at 8:52
  • I'm not convinced this is a good question for the site. From the FAQ list of questions not to ask: we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?” – Alex B Mar 22 '11 at 16:09
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    Vote to close. The question is ambiguous. The questioner offers six scenarios that present different responses. If the question was: "What should an ordinary citizen do to preserve their wealth in the event of a war?", that would be something that I consider a valid question that can be answered in an unambiguous way. – duffbeer703 Jun 14 '11 at 17:04

10 Answers 10

17

Gold and silver are for after the crisis, not during. Gold and silver are far more likely to be able to be exchanged for things you need, since they are rare, easily divided, etc.

Getting land away from where the crap is happening is also good, but it's more than that. Say you have land somewhere. How will the locals view you if you move there to hunker down only when things go bad? They won't really trust you, and you'll inherit a new set of problems. Building relationships in an off-the-beaten-path area requires a time investment.

Investing in lifestyle in general is good. Lifestyle isn't just toys, but it's privacy, peace of mind, relationships with people with whom you can barter skills, as well as the skills you might think you'd need to do more than just get by in whatever scenario you envision.

For the immediate crisis, you'd better have the things you'll need for a few months. Stores probably won't be supplied on any regular basis, and the shelves will be bare. Trying to use gold or silver during the crisis just makes you a target for theft. With regard to food, it's best to get acclimated to a diet of what you'd have on hand. If you get freeze-dried food, eat it now, so that it's not a shock to your system when you have to eat it.

(Can you tell I've been thinking about this? :) )

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    Excellent point about gold and silver not being used during the crisis. Many people miss that very important point. Gold and silver give you savings after the crisis has abated. During the crisis many other things will be more valuable. – Muro Mar 17 '11 at 11:22
  • "people with whom you can barter skills", Ideally this would be in a place where the people you know have skills and goods that would be of any worth to barter for in the first place ;) – AlanSE Jun 24 '11 at 17:31
17

This is going to be a list of some things that will likely be of value immediately after some apocalyptic event. However, note that I am not answering your question of what you should invest in now to take advantage of such an event. That is a pretty ridiculous notion. Preparing oneself for such a possibility is certainly a good idea. That said, there are some realistic limitations to how you could take advantage of such a situation. Namely, the very real requirement of physical security. Unless you have a huge posse -- armed to the teeth -- to defend your cache, someone will come along with a bigger and better armed group to take it. (Not to mention that I am the type of person that would -- at least -- consider organizing such a group to take you down; if only as a matter of principle.)

  1. Guns & ammo (Also, knives; ideally ones that can be used as weapons and for food preparation/hunting.)

    • Also, fishing gear and other ways to obtain food.
    • (Bows and arrows come to mind, both as ways to obtain food and for protection. However, there is a serious practical limitation. Arrows (and even bows) are much more fragile and bulky then guns and bullets.)
  2. Alcohol. Especially liquor. It's concentrated and easier to store than beer or wine. Beside for getting inebriated, it is useful as a sedative and antiseptic.

  3. Non-perishable foods. Canned goods are obvious. Though, grains and cereals can be stored with relative ease under some circumstances. (Obviously, not so easily done in an urban area.)

  4. Methods of starting a fire. Preferably rugged ones, such as flint and steel. (Lighters would only be of limited use. Matches are bulky and require water-tight storage.)

  5. Salt and/or salt-licks. (Possibly, other forms of non-perishable bait.) As bstpierre puts it, hunting will be about survival not sport.

  6. Hand-tools.

  7. Textiles, fabrics, thread and needles.

  8. Medicines of all sorts, though especially antibiotics, antiseptics and painkillers.

  9. Books of a practical nature. Topics such as: wilderness survival, cooking, carpentry, etc.

The list is mostly ordered in terms of value & practicality.


Ultimately, I doubt there is much that will provide a practical investment idea for such a scenario. The physical security issue is a big limiting factor. In a post-apocalyptic scenario it goes back to who is bigger, stronger and better armed.

One thing does come to mind: knowledge. Prepare yourself with the skills and knowledge you need to survive in such a scenario and you will be invaluable. Also, as bstpierre notes in the comments, connections will likely also be important. (Probably local or nearby connections.) No one person can do it all alone. It will come down to cooperation.

  • Thanks. But you're right; you're not answering my question ;-) I was not thinking of supplies or weapons but more in terms of investments. Let's say I would have to be able to invest at least $1 million in these assets. – Zippy Mar 16 '11 at 22:55
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    @zippy Honestly, I doubt that there is much of that nature. It may depend on the severity of the event. However, most investments that come to mind have practical limitations, like you already mention for gold. Take land, for example. Unless you can provide for its security, it will be of limited use. You will be overrun, if that land provides something of value. (For example, good hunting ground.) – George Marian Mar 16 '11 at 23:01
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    @Zippy - I'm with George. In such a severe scenario those are probably the only investments that matter. Anything that holds value only through the force of Government (stocks, bonds, land, gold, futures, etc.) isn't going to be worth squat under total anarchy. Sure you may have a gold mine, and ocean front property, but without a gun your neighbor will quickly have those things. – JohnFx Mar 16 '11 at 23:09
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    +1, this is the list I would have written with a couple of changes. (1) I'd put skills at the top, this is an investment that pays off even in emergencies that aren't "apocalyptic". (2) Connections. It takes time (and sometimes money) to cultivate connections with other people so you can have a network of people with complementary skills and assets who trust each other and help each other when it matters. (3) Salt -- big blocks of it -- when TSHTF, you don't hunt, you bait. It's not "sporting", but you're surviving. And that's the bottom line -- you survive, you don't profit. – bstpierre Mar 16 '11 at 23:39
  • Cigarettes. Just imagine what the smoking addicts will pay/exchange for a box when they go cold turkey. However, I'm not sure how long can they be stored. – M.K. Oct 27 '11 at 16:51
5

Friendship

This is a long term investment but can be very useful during tough times. Be prepared not only to take but to give as well.

Moreover:

  • it is useful even when no crisis is around
  • the more you use it, the more it provides return on investment
4

Bullets, canned goods, and farm supplies that don't need gas (e.g. seed, feed, plows).

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    Unless you are talking about horse-drawn plows, you absolutely need fuel for plows. They do not drag themselves across the field. There is always a tractor of some kind in front of them. Also, you forgot alcohol. :) – George Marian Mar 16 '11 at 22:06
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    Is this investing or stocking up? – MrChrister Mar 16 '11 at 22:28
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    If the economy is that messed up barter is going to be the only currency available, and yes, horse-drawn plows. – Bryan Anderson Mar 16 '11 at 23:21
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    Non-hybrid seeds. Hybrid seeds aren't sustainable: seeds from the vegetables grown won't grow new plants. – mbhunter Mar 17 '11 at 2:03
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    @mbhunter - investing vs saving. His stock will need to be rotated, maintained and won't grow over time. (Besides I think this whole topic isn't super on topic but I won't argue) =) – MrChrister Mar 17 '11 at 5:40
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I find these type of questions silly, but I'll bite:

  • Silver coins, in the form of pre-1964 silver dimes and quarters
  • Booze
  • Land away from urban areas with access to clean water.
  • I don't think they're the slightest bit silly. – mbhunter Mar 17 '11 at 2:05
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    Why silver? So that they can be melted down? – Andrew Grimm Mar 17 '11 at 12:56
3

Guns. Without them, any other conceivable asset would be taken from you. By someone with guns.

2

A book on the power of persuasion.

The people will need you to lead them to the glory land like the Deacon* from Waterworld

*Dennis Hopper. Study up.

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    And keep an eye out for Kevin Costner. Don't trash his stuff or he will mess you up. – MrChrister Mar 16 '11 at 23:46
  • OUT OF THE BLUE DOWNVOTE!!!! THE HORROR – MrChrister Jun 14 '11 at 17:43
2

Apocalyptic like MAD MAX, huh?

Well, no one so far has mentioned Gasoline, not paper gasoline futures but the real thing in barrels or tankers.

Guns, ammo, sure... but if everyone on the ground is shooting each other I'd prefer an ultralight helicopter. You all have watched MAD MAX, right?

On a more serious note, there is a country in the South Pacific that never saw fighting in world war 2 due to its remoteness, but is large and developed enough to be agriculturally pretty much self sufficient, and with a low population has plenty of space. Might be good to squirrel away something down there...

  • Interesting points, but gasoline/diesel are relatively bulky and difficult to store. Also, the machinery will require other resources, namely oil to maintain them. Regarding your ultralight helicopter, they are susceptible to small arms fire. Your final point about remote areas runs into issues of practicality. How are you going to get there? What will the locals think of you when/if you do arrive? – George Marian Mar 17 '11 at 18:34
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    Yes, gasoline is highly perishable. Also, internal combustion engines are noisy. If you're the only one with fuel, it's going to be obvious to everyone around. I'd rather have skills than fuel. – bstpierre Mar 18 '11 at 2:07
  • No, @Paul is right. Try to find an oil tanker filled and establish your own gas refinery. – MrChrister Mar 22 '11 at 19:53
2

Barton Biggs's book Wealth, War and Wisdom aims to answer the question of what investments are best-suited to preserving value despite large-scale catastrophes by looking at how various investments and assets performed in countries affected by WWII.

In Japan, stocks and urban land turned out to be good investments; in France, farm land and gold did better. Stocks outperformed bonds in nearly every country.

Phil Greenspun recently wrote a review of the book.

1

Assuming that the financial system broke down, not enough supply of essential commodities or food but there is political and administrative stability and no such chaos that threatens your life by physical attacks.

The best investment would then be some paddy fields, land, some cows, chickens and enough clothing , a safe house to stay and a healthy life style that enables you to work for food and some virtue at heart and management skills to get people work for you on your resources so that they can survive with you (may be you earn some profit -that is up to your moral standards to decide, how much). It all begins to start again; a new Financial System has to be in place….!

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protected by Chris W. Rea Jul 17 '11 at 23:57

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