It’s pretty safe to say we’re living in a world where everything is dramatically different than it was a few months ago. Regardless of how we personally feel about the response to the coronavirus pandemic, we still have to live in a society that has adjusted the parameters of acceptable behavior and has changed irrevocably.
While it’s impossible to guess precisely what comes next (I mean, were you really expecting aliens and murder hornets?), we can surmise from the things happening right now which way the future is headed. And we can use that information to prepare ourselves for it.
The following are some areas in which we may soon (or already) be facing difficulty, as well as some suggestions for meeting them head-on with resolve and preparations. If you’re looking for more information about the second wave of the virus and effects of that, go here.
It’s no surprise that the economy is in shambles – after all, it’s been all but shut down for months. Back when I wrote about the potential costs of COVID, I underestimated the total destruction of small businesses and the devastation of the workforce. I didn’t go deep enough in my analysis to foresee 40 million people becoming unemployed in the span of two months or that not just small businesses would suffer – that dozens of major corporations would also go under, taking even more jobs with them.
Few would have predicted the mass money printing for stimulus checks and small business loans and grants, putting our nature further in deficit than ever before. There’s even a possibility that the US could willfully default on its debt to China as the government struggles to handle the most exorbitant national debt in history.
Things that could directly affect individuals are:
Unemployment: It may be difficult to keep your job or find another one.
Inflation: As the government continues printing money for “stimulus” it weakens the dollar, reducing its value. This means that the price of goods will increase. So every trip to the store will cost you more money.
The implosion of credit: As more and more people become unable to make their payments, massive swaths of the economy will suffer, including housing, banking, and the automotive industry. This will result in an inability to get future credit for mortgages or cars, and will also result in a loss of jobs.
What can you do about these things?
It’s more important than ever to have an emergency fund. That might be easier said than done when jobs are difficult to come by and when the money you do have doesn’t stretch as far. If you are getting that extra $600 a week from the CARE Act, I can’t stress this strongly enough: SAVE IT.
Now is not the time to try and pay off all your debts, particularly if your future is looking precarious. Continue making the minimum payments while you wait to see what’s going to happen. Put aside the money you would be using to pay off debt – you can always pay it off in a few months if things are looking up. Remember that the big banks get bailouts. Everyday people do not. Paying off your unsecured debt should not be a financial priority right now.
Don’t get in over your head with expenses. If you can cut back, you should start doing so now. Don’t sign new phone contracts or expensive leases. Reduce your monthly cost of living as much as possible.
The public education system
The public education system was early to exit from normal operations. Children are currently doing “distance learning” online with their teachers and being guided by their parents.
While a lot of parents complain, many others have enjoyed reconnecting with their children. Some parents are also realizing that the education they thought their kids were receiving isn’t all it’s been cracked up to be when they find their children are far behind the curve and the teacher never even mentioned it.
After seeing some of the horrifying plans for schools reopening with “appropriate social distance,” many parents may decide not to let their children return to school at all. Here’s what the CDC is recommending.
Photo Credit: CBS 12 News
What can you do about the education situation?
While for many the loss of “free childcare” would pose a financial difficulty, a report on the Cato Institute suggests this could be a positive change.
Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, we may be on the brink of a massive educational reset. With families back in charge of their children’s education, free from the constraints of compulsory schooling, they may increasingly demand more educational choice and freedom. Some of these families will choose to opt‐out of schooling altogether, inspired by the learning, growth, and reignited curiosity they witness in their children during this time at home. (source)
It may turn out that educating kids at home is beneficial to the whole family. Here’s some advice for public schoolers from a homeschool parent and the first post of a series on getting started with homeschooling. It might be a good idea to begin looking into some homeschool programs to see what will might be a good fit for your family. In most states, you’re under no obligation to follow a public school curriculum when homeschooling.
The food supply
We’ve all see bare spaces on the shelves at the grocery stores. There’s a major problem getting food from the farmers to the people who need it. Our system has been designed around the centralization and processing of food.
Interestingly, this problem isn’t necessarily about actual shortages as much as it is processing and distribution.
Processing plants across the country are shutting down as more and more employees become ill. At least ten large meat processing plants have closed due to the virus. Distribution issues have farmers dumping thousands of gallons of milk, plowing under vegetables in the fields, and leaving potatoes to rot.
A lot of the food being produced was destined for restaurants, hotels, and cruise ships. Diverting it to grocery stores and the millions of people using food banks right now (because they didn’t get their money from unemployment yet, remember?) is unfortunately not as easy as it should be. This article explains some of the issues with getting food to hungry people.
One of the issues processing. With meat, in particular, this is difficult – most folks aren’t even going to be willing to process their own chickens and it’s wildly unrealistic to imagine a family in the city processing a cow or a pig. With produce, it becomes a little bit easier – anyone can wash fruits and vegetables – but employees are still needed to harvest the food.
A lot of that scarcity could be remedied if we could reallocate things – if janitorial supplies could be sold to the general public, if farmers could sell directly to stores or consumers, and if farmers could donate unpurchased items to food banks.
To summarize, farmers are losing billions of dollars and people are going without food, while the food we have is left to rot. Hopefully, President Trump’s new 19 billion dollar plan will allow the federal government to play matchmaker between frustrated farmers and hungry families. (source)
Governmental bandaids aside, this isn’t a problem that will be going away quickly. In fact, it may get worse.
What can you do about the food situation?
No matter where you live, you can produce or acquire at least some of the food you eat.
Gardening – Grow food any way you can, from sprouting microgreens in smaller apartments to container gardens on a patio or balcony to full-on vegetable gardens that take up 90% of your back yard. With all the bare shelves at the grocery store, producing any of your own food will be helpful. Here’s some information on how to start a garden inexpensively.
Livestock – If you live in a place where you can have livestock, now might be the time to do it. Many cities allow 3-6 hens in backyard coops, and of course, if you live in the country, it will be no problem to have chickens. Having fresh eggs at your disposal could be very important one of these days. Also, keep in mind that chickens are a great way to dispose of leftovers and vegetable scraps. Here’s some information on raising baby chicks. Rabbits are also a good animal to raise and can be farmed a lot more subtly within city limits because they’re so quiet. They can provide a very sustainable source of meat.
Hunting – If you already have the equipment to do so, hunting can help you to acquire meat. A deer could provide your family with venison for months. Smaller game, like ducks or geese, are also good additions to your freezer. And depending on where you live, you can use snares for rabbit or other small mammals.
Foraging – Even in the midst of the city, a park can be an abundant source of food in season if you know what to look for. Get yourself a good regional guide to the food growing freely in your area. It’s important that the book be regional because there are so many medicinal and edible plants in the US, you’ll want to narrow it down to what you can find where you are now. Makes sure your harvesting from an area not sprayed with toxic pesticides.
Sprouting – The fastest and easiest way to grow something yourself is through sprouting. While supplies for orders are backed up, you can get excellent guidance on sprouting what you already have on this website. Sprouting can be done just about anywhere, in just about any home. They provide high nutritional value and some fresh veggies, any time of year.
The ability to locate or produce food is something that can mean the difference between keeping your family’s bellies filled or hunger. Grocery stores remain low on inventory and food banks cannot keep up with the demand of people who are out of work and who haven’t yet received their unemployment checks.
The supply chain of other goods
It isn’t just food that people are having difficulty finding. Nearly any store you visit right now has a lack of inventory. Some of it isn’t being produced, other things aren’t being imported, and still others are somewhere in limbo in the broken supply chain.
Some of the things that are missing are products that originate in China – see this massive list.
Other items, like paper products, are also sparse even though many of these things are made in the USA. It isn’t just because of so-called “hoarders” either, as the media wants us to believe. There have been shortages of TP across the globe and the main reason is the fact that everyone is now at home most of the time now. Previously, a lot of a person’s toilet paper usage was outside the home – so everyone was using those giant janitorial supply rolls. Most households are now using 40% more toilet paper than before. This interesting article goes into detail about why there isn’t a quick and easy fix for this. (source)
We can expect shortages of everything from medications to automotive parts to hygiene supplies in the near future due to the breakdown of the supply chain.
What can we do about the shortage of goods?
In reality, a lot of the things we used to run to the store and buy simply aren’t essential. We can begin to downsize and to focus on needs instead of wants.
We can begin to be more careful with the resources we do have. How many times have we said, “It’s cheaper to just replace it than try and fix it” when tossing something in the trash? We should be living by the adage, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
It’s also a good time to begin to be more creative with our reuse of things. Can you use the fabric from an item of clothing you’ll no longer wear to make something else that you need? How can you repurpose things? What multiple uses can you get from items? You can’t go wrong with learning new skills like making or repairing commonly used items.
Instead of making a dash to the store your first option, see how you can solve problems without buying anything. Start looking for substitutes and make your items last as long as possible with careful cleaning and maintenance. This way of life has the added bonus of helping you to get a handle on your finances.
The increasing desperation
As Selco has often warned us, the biggest threat in an emergency is often not the emergency itself, but other people. Many of us saw this during the lockdowns, both within our inner circles as well as outside our circles, with the sometimes surprising behaviors of neighbors, coworkers, and friends.
As the financial catastrophe our nation is facing becomes more apparent, so will the desperation that people are feeling. And desperate people can behave irrationally and dangerously. Anyone who has ever considered the extreme measures that they would go to in order to feed or protect their children can understand that others feel exactly the same way.
Right now, during these early stages, we’re still in the “good” times. The government is doling out money hand over fist. Food banks are still operating, although supplies are very limited. A lot of people have looked at this as a “paid vacation” from their everyday lives. Many are making more money staying home collecting unemployment than they made at work – for some it’s triple the amount.
But when that money stops coming in…when the food banks are empty…when the jobs don’t reappear…when supplies are short even for those with money…when there’s no more help?
That’s when people will begin to feel desperate.
What can you do about this?
First of all, it’s of the utmost importance that you practice good OpSec. That’s a military term that means “operational security.” Put simply, OpSec means that people outside your inner circle should be completely unaware of your supplies, your level of preparedness, and your willingness and ability to defend what’s yours.
Nobody needs to know you have extra toilet paper or canned goods. If you really want to help someone out, pick up a few things for them at the store and drop it off in the bag from the store saying, “I grabbed a few things for you while I was at the store.” Make sure they don’t think it came from your home because hungry people have very long memories.
Secondly, you need to be prepared so that you don’t feel this same desperation. We’ve been talking about preparedness on this website for almost a decade. If you haven’t put your plan into action, you are truly running out of time to do so, and quickly. Stock up and get ready because the future is going to be bumpy.
Last but definitely not least, we can expect outrage.
Outrage will occur for a million different reason when times are tense, not the least of which are:
Loss of constitutional rights
Loss of freedom to move around as you want
Loss of the ability to make a living
Loss of loved ones
Loss of security
Loss of certainty about the future
We’re dealing with a scenario in which loss is rampant. One of the stages of grief is anger and we can absolutely expect this to erupt. We’ve seen some of this anger already, with protests across the country. Of course meeting those protesters are counter-protesters – everyone has a different story so they’re viewing this situation through a different lens.
The sides are being clearly drawn here – people are being cast into the role of caring only about the economy or only about public health. Those who are outraged aren’t looking for the middle ground – they’re furious due to their loss or their fear of loss. And don’t forget, this is an election year, so the media and the political parties will be out there in full force, stirring the pot.
What can you do about this?
You have to be prepared to protect yourself and your family from those who are outraged. This might mean staying at home in order to avoid conflict, enhancing your home security, carrying a weapon (aren’t you doing that already?), or taking measures to isolate and protect the health of the people you love. It might also be staying “gray” and understanding the baseline mood of the place where you are. Regardless of your personal feelings, the best way to avoid drawing attention to yourself is by being just another person in the crowd/neighborhood/office.
I strongly encourage you to be proactive about this and take responsibility for your health. If you are in a vulnerable group (or have a loved one who is) are you really going to trust other people who don’t care to protect them?
If you are in a state with a lot of restrictions, it pays to be attentive. (Of course, it always pays to be attentive.) If you choose to go protest, that’s entirely up to you. If you hope to avoid potential trouble, when there are large, angry groups of people, don’t be there. It only takes a small spark for people who are already angry to erupt and you probably don’t want to be around when they do.
If there are large, angry groups of people, don’t be there. It only takes a small spark for people who are already angry to erupt.
Find things for which you can be grateful.
This may sound like crazy advice, but finding things for which you feel gratitude is the most life-changing thing you can do when you are trying to adjust. And adjusting is exactly what we must do as we prepare to meet a future that is different from what we ever expected.
You may find that your situation has dramatically changed since the beginning of the year. You may have lost one income or all income. You may be depending on checks from unemployment. Your business may not be able to withstand the extended shutdown. You may find yourself unable to pay bills that were never a problem before.
It’s a whole new world out there.
If you can find things to be grateful for, it will give you the encouragement you need to push forward. A full pantry, healthy loved ones, being together with the people you care for, being able to be present in your child’s education, making new and supportive friends online, a thriving garden, a delicious and filling meal, some free time after years of non-stop work–>activities–>bed only to get up and start it all over again – all of these are reasons for gratitude. Every day you’re on the right side of the grass is a good day if you can find things for which you are thankful.
Your attitude is everything. If you wallow in misery, you’re going to be miserable.
Everything has changed, but it’s still important to find reasons to be happy, grateful, and hopeful. These traits will help you find the resilience you need to survive and thrive, regardless of the challenges ahead.