Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Preparing to weather the COVID-19 economic storm


I've written extensively about the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I'm not going to repeat it all here.  Many others have shared similar observations.

I found a recent article at Dark Brightness, a New Zealand blog, to be a very good checklist for my own preparations.  The blog has a lot of faith-based content, but being a retired pastor, that's something I don't mind at all, so I've become a regular visitor there.  I had to laugh at the author's meme about New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern:




The article from which it came contains a lot of very useful thoughts.  Here's an excerpt.

Deleverage.

Sell your assets now, before the file sale. Prices are flat to going up: use that. You need to free up capital. Sell your house first and rent out of town.

Look around the house: Do you have collectables? Downsize your car. Get the mortgage gone and the credit card paid up and torn up.

If we head into a depression, cash is king ... There is a chance that the government will either hyperinflate or confiscate savings, but the biggest risk right now is a global depression, and in such a time you want to have cash for the fire sale that will happen after the storm and when the banks are forced for foreclose.

If you do sell, don’t spend your capital. You are going to need it.

. . .

Minimize.

Live not as your parents lived. They grow up with inflation: if you did not buy something now it would be more expensive in a year’s time. That includes my parents, and they predate boomerdom. Instead think of their parents who lived during the depression. They did not have much, but what they had was very good quality and they cared for it.

The aim here is to spend as little as possible over the long term, use as little outside the house as possible, and survive on one full time income – which may be two or three part time jobs.

Buy carefully and buy quality. Have good clothes (it is time to resurrect “Sunday best”) and work clothes and then rugged clothes: for many work clothing will be rugged clothing.

Get good tools, learn how to use them, sharpen them, and repair them.

About a year ago ... we went through a lot of our clothes, got rid of the worn out ones and the things we did not wear, and bought a few needed replacements. We had found, when traveling, we only wore half of what we bought. Do likewise: repair, reuse, wear out. Shopping is now hunting for quality – and you won’t find that in the main city streets, but you may find it in the farm equipment shops.

There's more at the link.  Interesting and thought-provoking reading.

At a recent gun show in a city near us, I saw signs confirming much of what I've forecast, and what the article above warns about.  There were a lot fewer people than usual walking the aisles.  That may have been due to fears of being exposed to COVID-19, or perhaps because after several months of economic hardship, people didn't have much money to spend.  I suspect the latter.  Nevertheless, business was abysmally slow, and many vendors were despondent.  If one had cash to spend, some real bargains were available as sellers tried to get whatever they could, and cut their prices.  Cash was, indeed, king that day.

I also noted several vendors who were private citizens looking to make ends meet.  They were unemployed, and had no way to earn a living except to sell their personal firearms and ammunition stocks.  Some had sold most of their collections.  That's sad for them, but at least they had something to sell, and could raise money that way.  Others are not so fortunate, right now.

The Wall Street Journal posits that COVID-19 promises to bring long-term disruption to the world.

The pandemic’s legacy will be crisis and chaos—and the trajectory of human civilization has shifted in ways that will test political leaders and economic policy makers more severely than anything since World War II. This is partly because the return of great-power competition introduces new risks and complications into the international system. More fundamentally, it is because the information revolution is beginning to disrupt the world as profoundly and traumatically as the Industrial Revolution disrupted the 19th-century world.

The transformation of the workplace by information technology has been a bright spot in the pandemic, allowing many businesses and important institutions to continue functioning even as key employees stay home. But the same transformation is also driving many of the forces destabilizing society: declines in stable manufacturing jobs, whole regions hollowed out by economic change, the collapse of professional journalism and the rise of social media, the implosion of traditional retail, and looming job threats as self-driving cars and other new technological innovations move into the marketplace.

A host of 21st-century problems threaten to overwhelm the institutions of both national and global governance: the emergence of China as a new kind of economic and geopolitical challenger, the escalating arms races in cyber and biological weapons, the global surge of populism and nationalism, and the growing risks from poorly understood vulnerabilities and relationships in volatile and rapidly changing financial markets. Any one of these could push the world into a cycle of crisis and conflict resembling the first half of the 20th century.

Covid-19 is less a transient, random disturbance after which the world will return to stability than it is a dress rehearsal for challenges to come. History is accelerating, and the leaders, values, institutions and ideas that guide society are going to be tested severely by the struggles ahead.

Again, more at the link.

In case the WSJ article isn't clear enough, its reference to "the first half of the 20th century" encompasses the Great Depression, sandwiched between the First and Second World Wars, the bloodiest conflicts in human history.

I don't see any rapid recovery on the horizon, economic or otherwise.  I continue to predict hard times ahead.  Please think about your own situation, consider what I've written (and what the blogger at Dark Brightness has to say), and prepare as best you can.

Peter

12 comments:

Off The Wall said...

I have already made what moves I can to free up capital and eliminate debt. Now I'm at the point where I need to decide where to park that capital, small as it is. The hyperinflation risk is real - the US dollar's integrity has been destroyed by years of Quantum Easing.

Gold is at a record high but predictions are that it will go much higher. Bitcoin seems very artificial if we suffer any tech breakdowns. Other currencies? I have no idea. Stocking up on beans & bullets is rather apocalyptic but I think I have almost enough for now, you can't eat ammo and if you actually need to use it all you're SOL anyway.

Peter, does your source here have any concrete suggestions?


Logan said...

You can't eat ammo, but you can probably trade with it with higher liquidity than silver/gold/dollars in the event of a violent depression.

Peter said...

@Off The Wall: First, make sure your own preps are as comprehensive as possible. Second, retain sufficient cash on hand (in currency) to cover up to 2-3 months' expenses. Third, any money surplus to those requirements can be invested in hard assets such as gold and silver coins. Gold coins are very hard to come by right now, but silver's up by a third over the past few months, and is forecast to go up a lot more. I can think of worse places to stash a few thousand dollars . . .

Eck! said...

After 5 months of this prepping now is kinda late.

We been in prep mode since early february and a lot of
careful planning and purchases has keep us out of the
hot spaces.

As to bullets and beans, makes good sense to the limits
of planning. So were good. I did stock up on pellets
for the air rifles, cheap and effective enough.

Finances we run limited plastic that is plastic as cash,
and used like cash no credit in use. Cash on hand in a
true crash is often so devalued as to be useless. Being
prepared [as in having good or services] for a barter
economy for hard needs helps.

Housing, selling and renting puts you at the mercy of the
landlord over a bank. I think the y are both troublesome
depending on who and where. Better plan is a smaller
house paid in full. Better a 300 to 500sq/ft cabin you
own than something that is market controlled. Money
devalues rents go up.

As to that energy and water independence, your own well
and solar power. Lowers running costs. Heat is less
an issue (wood if needed).

Medicine are the tough items. If you must have them its not
hard to know that and essential to have a stock.

I don't believe is precious metals. can't eat them, wear
them and while some with trade on them its value is not
market value when local. Its ounces for cabbages. Conversion
to metals maybe a hedge against banks or funds expiring.
Only meaningful for some time in the future recovery side
when those metals will for certain have lower value. Some
of what drives the value is their use in high tech, most
of that will expire too in a real crash. You also have
to secure it against theft, flood, or fire.

Eck!

7916 said...

Business assets and personal retraining.

The assets and training I'm thinking of here would be for businesses you can own and operate yourself that are not classed as luxuries or beautification, but more recession/depression proofed. Trades like welding, electrician, various repair types from farm equipment, small engines to appliances, High tech stuff like 3d printing, CAD/CAM, or just building better small farm equipment to sell on craigslist. Since most plastics are sourced from China, plastic vacuform and production equipment.

Buildings will be cheap, so don't worry about buying those. Good land with water, especially with water rights. There's going to be a helluva lot of used restaraunt equipment around, so rentable commercial kitchens. Anything around smaller scale food production, medical supplies, etc.

There's not going to be a lot of passive income opportunities for awhile, so activities you can do yourself without the red tape of employees is the way to go.

tweell said...

Precious metals will generally hold value and have been handy in other countries that had depression and hyper inflation. Argentina and Venezuela come to mind. I will not touch gold, it was confiscated by FDR and what happened once can happen again. I agree that precious metals should be after your other preps are taken care of.

Off The Wall said...

@Peter - glad to hear I'm on your wavelength. Been mostly steering away from silver so far because it's a lot heavier for the value, but I have a bit. Growth in value is still important in this inflating world so I'll think about more.

Some other good advice here too, thank you all.

ADS said...

Now is the time to get medical procedures done that you've been delaying. Eye exams - update that prescription and buy backup glasses. Dental work, while it can be done by a professional in a medical setting and not pliars in the dark.

weka said...

Thanks for the link. ADS: I agree -- we have sad cases in NZ where people had breast lumps and could not get investigated due the government stopping all non emergency procedures (and closing all private hospitals) for close to three months.

We did that last year before we knew of the flu.

I agree that the best time to prep was 10 years ago. But in NZ there is a small window of hope with official unemployment down this month... Propped up by billions of wage subsidies which are times to end aroundaaround election next month.

So we are selling spare stuff now and clamping down on spending ourselves. And we are better off than most.

Because when the USA has a mild cold NZ gets a pneumonia.

Anonymous said...

STOP thinking of gold and silver in terms of dollars. There is no correlation. Precious metals are worth what they are worth when and if you use them. Evaluating them against a fiat currency that has absolutely no real value is misleading.
You will most likely not need your precious metals unless the fiat currency has collapsed. This is why you need to start thinking about what you will personally accept in payment for your coin. Today, I can hire a carpenter for one to two ounces of silver an hour. After the fiat currency collapses, what amount of skilled labor will an ounce of silver buy?

OvergrownHobbit said...

Why do you write "faith-based" instead of Christian?

Peter said...

@OvergrownHobbit: Because there are many faiths other than Christianity, and I'm trying to be even-handed here.