Monday, August 17, 2009

Long time prepper needs advise

Hi Ferfal,

I read your blog religiously and have found it a gold mine of wisdom based on fact... someone who is living the collapse.

I've been preparing for whatever may come for several years now. Food, fuel, weapons, tools, ammo, armor, first aid gear, generators, seeds, gold, silver... almost everything I could imagine. In addition to the material goods, I have updated or learned many new skills to help me cope with what may come.

I am Canadian, and self-employed in a business I have grown to hate over the years. The economy is beginning to affect my business. Reliable and effective staff are becoming harder to find and my health is beginning to suffer from the stress of trying to keep everything together. Another blow is that I do not own my own property. Been renting for decades. It has been impossible for me to get a mortgage for a variety of reason... the main one being that the banks here take a dim view of self-employed individuals. Even with the generous downpayment I have available, banks do not want to loan on rural properties. Too much risk they say... ha!

I have a low offer on my business which combined with savings, and liquidation of other assets, will buy me a decent property away from an urban center. A big downside is that it is worth easily double of what is being offered, just in assets alone, not too mention the reputation I have and the clients I already have. Another downside will be that I will be next to broke and my income stream will be gone. I would have to find a regular job, which will be difficult outside of urban centers, to keep the lights on and pay the taxes. In the meantime I plan to become as self-sufficient as possible to lower my expenses. The big plus is I get rid of my main source of stress, which I am afraid will kill me if I continue the way I am. I have had the business for sale for a year and no one except this person has even looked in my direction. This business will also become completely redundant if things get bad here

I'm really stuck. Could I stick it out for a few more years and come up with the balance needed to buy a retreat outright? Yes... if the economy doesn't get any worse. Will I have heart attack from the stress? Maybe, but I should be able to hold out for a few years. Do I have a few years before it all falls apart?

I have physical gold and silver holdings away in safe locations. My hope is gold and silver will rise to what they should be and I won't have to worry about a mortgage or selling my business. I'm not one to hold my breath... it could take forever for them to be where they should be or they could just go down.

The other piece of good news is I do have family in a rural area and do have plans in place to relocate there if the wheels come off suddenly. I have transport for my goods and the stored fuel to get me there. At least I am not without a place to go.

Any wisdom you can offer would be greatly appreciated.


Hi Steve (lets try to get rid of the doomer part :-) )

Thanks a lot for reading and I’m glad you find my blog useful.

Sounds like you are a lucky man, you have a well rounded setup in terms of material preps and skills.
Still you are apparently having problems in a much overlooked aspect of survival: Your finances and income.
Some survivalists concentrate so much on the unlikely that they overlook basic everyday issues such as having solid finances, a good job they enjoy and a well rounded budget.
There are survival experts that literally prepped themselves into bankruptcy. Even Mel Tappan admitted his greatest survival edge: A multimillionaire wife. :-)
Yes, money is supposedly mediocre tinder and worse toilet paper according to some survival gurus but who are they kidding?
An economy collapse catches these folks with their pants down, because it strikes where least expected: Their pockets.
Back to your email, I can only give you so-so advice since I don’t all the details but here it goes.
First, look at the bright side, you have your preps already and you have your own business.
My friend, thats more than most people reading this have.
About the stress, I hear you and it is true, it gets to you and it will get even worse until you take measures to fight the stress and change your attitude regarding everything, not only work.
Finding time for yourself, relax more, a hobby, quality time with the family and again, a relaxed attitude all helps.
My most humble advice and not knowing all the details: Don’t sell, specially at such a low price. It really isn’t the time to take such risks, with inflation and unemployment around the corner.
It worries me though that you don’t enjoy your job, that certainly is a problem because your supposed to enjoy what you do for a living, otherwise it affects your productivity and even worse, your life, and your supposed to survive to live and not the other way around.
Get rid of the idea of self sufficient as mythical goal where you reach it and you no longer need anything else. Unless you want to live in far less than ideal conditions, self sufficiency reduces your dependency of society, but it never eliminates it.
We’re all so self sufficient until we need to go down to the local hospital and try every trick modern medicine and technology has to offer. Money, proximity to proper health centers, you’ll always need them and use them sooner or later. The frontier settler was a self sufficient guy… and died at age 35 average.
I’m sure you have reasons to be stressed, but know that it could always be worse. That’s a lesson learned the hard way.
Not knowing what the business is about, is there any way you can change what affects you about it? Could you change the way you do business, how you do it, the people you relate to?
Is there a niche or aspect you’d enjoy more, or one you can diversify into that could apply to a crisis scenario? (there always is)
You’re looking at the half empty glass Steve, concentrate on the good things you have. They are many. You have your family, your preps, savings and a business you own. Man, most people would kill for that.
I’d tell you to look at your business from another perspective, try to change it into something you do enjoy. A self owned business and even more important, a hard earned reputation isn’t something you just want to throw away for ½ its price. Specially not now.
Don’t count on SHTF the way it would be convenient for you (what you said about gold) it almost never does.
Remember, stress has a lot to do with your attitude, change that, change the way you work, work less and if you don’t like your work much concentrate on the 80/20, the 20% of it that generates 80% of your profit.(Pareto Principle)
Take care man,



Joe said...

I'm in a similar situation as Steve. (Btw, good advice about losing the "Doomer" part - names and words are powerful to our attitudes and mental outlook).

This seems to be sound advice overall regarding the admittedly difficult step of modifying the business and also applying the 20/80 principle. Always good to count whatever blessings we have and always good to have a close friend or two who can cheer you up when discouraged.

Bones said...

I think the central issue is that there is really no such thing are being completely self sufficient in the long term. There is a large Amish community near here. The community is relatively self sufficient, but not the individual families. One guy just can't do it all. An established business, even one you hate, can give you something to to barter for goods and services even if the economy completely collapses. That is more valuable than the stored food, fuel, generators, etc.. Hating that business is the biggest problem. It's tempting you to throw away half it's value, which is unwise. If you can, find some way to reduce the part you hate. Stop worrying so much about making a potential future livable and start working to make the present more agreeable.

Jedi said...


I don't know your business, so the extent to which you can do this will depend on your market, but one reason people tend to hate their businesses is because they are trying to do everything themselves.

If that's the case with your business, then start looking for tasks that you can outsource. That doesn't necessarily mean find people in India. It could be someone local.

As the owner of the business, your job is to bring in customers and increase profits. If you are getting worn out by endless daily tasks that are time-consuming, but have to be done, odds are you need to find someone else to perform those tasks.

Here's what I'd recommend that you do.

1. Take a hard look at your business and identify what is making you hate it.

2. Make a list of your hated items and ask yourself which of those could be done by someone else, once they've been properly trained.

3. Have your best employees develop training material for future employee prospects. (I'd recommend short training videos that a person could sit down, learn from, and then follow)

4. As the owner, for any task that only you know how to do, you need to document your systems and processes for everything. Done correctly, someone should be able to follow the steps you've laid out and complete the task. The purpose of this is to tell them WHAT to do, not WHY. It should be a "paint by numbers" system.

Basically, unless you're in a highly-specialized field such as medicine, if you died tomorrow, someone should be able to look at the systems you've documented, follow the steps, and run your business.

This takes time, but once you've done it, you'll be free to focus on whatever it is you love about your business. You'll also be able to think like an owner and look for ways to expand your business and increase profits.

Like Fernando said, you should like what you do. I have a feeling that you liked your business at one point, and my hope is that you'll find that again.

Don't give up! It's easy to be an employee, but it takes a special type of person to run a successful business. You're doing what most people either can't, or are too afraid, to do, and you should stick with it!

If you want more specific advice, post a comment and tell us what it is that you do. There are a lot of talented, knowledgeable people who read this blog, and there's a good chance that you'll get some great tips and resources to help improve your business.

Joseph said...

Steve...I think one thing that might help is some off time...even just a long weekend. You sound burned out.

Anonymous said...

here's my opinion:
1. gold. commodities are headed down.
gold will buy today what it bought yesterday. it will Not Gain, but it
will Preserve value.
2. Money/lucre/whatever. for the rest
of 2009, you'll need it since people will accept it.
3. finally, job...keep it until it
dies. eventually, EVERY job will die(unless you are a gunsmith). take your job and heart attack to the bank. then...."cash out".

Anonymous said...

If they are only paying half price, make sure they pay cash!

If you decide to sell, make sure to structure the sale so that you are not dependent on the new owner to properly run the business to make the payments. You don't want him to loot the business, sell the assets, and then default on the rest of the mortgage.

Cash up front is best, but some sort of payment schedule, along with limits on the sale of major business assets can work for you if the buyer can't cut it - you get to keep the down payment even if he never makes another one and you wind up repossessing the business.

Your reputation is a major asset - don't let him destroy that and leave you with a bunch of angry ex-customers, because then your business is destroyed, and you still own it, sort of, until the last payment is made.

Anonymous said...

I tried to start what I thought was a "real business", only to have it fail. I learned a lot, but wouldn't do it again. My mother's father's side of the family, they're all tradespeople, and that's what my grandfather did most of his life. TV repair, diesel engine repair, air conditioning repair. Me, I repair computers.

I decided I didn't like having employees. Ferfal says in his book that if you want to know who you can depend on when SHTF, look in the mirror, because he's it. You need to structure your business so you don't have employees. You may have grown too fast. You need an accountant and a lawyer and such on hand, but your craft should be YOU.

In the end, people come to a business because they like the guy running it. Sell it, and all the customers leave. My grandfather tried to teach me that your craft should be as good as gold, along with your word, and that YOU should be the reason that people do business with YOU. I was too focused on some of these wealth gurus we have in the US who talk about having employees and such to listen. Now that he's dead, I realize he was right.

You need to not sell the business, but fire the employees (I think that's your problem, you hate managing people, well ME TOO!) and get back to "I'm Steve, and this is what I do. I'm the business, love me or hate me." You need to do things like buy land with cash if you can. That's what I will do. If you have plenty of gold, sell some of it and buy land.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

So far you've been given some good feedback. I guess only you can tell how relevant.

My 2 cents:

1. Concentrate on what you love in the business and outsource the rest.

This can also mean you sell a % of the business at a value you're happy with, and stay on as a consultant to work your client relationships. Is it worth calling a competitor who you think can buy you out for what you want?

2. If you are in Toronto, consider joining the Toronto Survivalism Group. They are a fun crowd - organizing interesting events, without the doom and gloom.

Best wishes

Anonymous said...

You need employees, you just need to get better employees and/or you need to learn how to better manage employees.

Anonymous said...

Hi ferfal,

Thought you would find this interesting. File it under the 'smart criminals are scarier' heading:

CHARLOTTE -- Federal law enforcement officials said Monday they have dismantled one of the largest organized home burglary rings in N.C. history.

At least nine defendants were engaged in the ring, which operated for several years in both Carolinas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"Hundreds of home burglaries are attributed to this gang where hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal property was stolen," the ATF said in a statement.

Among the stolen goods were more than 125 firearms.

The criminal enterprise "consists of mostly multi-convicted felons that targeted homes" in a dozen counties...The members of the crime ring, used sophisticated fixed and mobile surveillance and operated in organized teams with leaders to identify and burglarize targeted homes, the ATF said.

Anonymous said...

Here is the link for that story:

Anonymous said...

Read your book. It scared the dickens out of me.

I wonder if you could comment on what country's banks are the most reliable.

Do you have any experience or recommendations on Swiss banks, or Cayman Islands, or wherever?

It seems to me that keeping some of your money out of the reach of the government might be a good idea. I winced when I read how the Argentine government basically stole most of your dollars. Reminded me of the stories my grandfather told about Roosevelt and calling up the gold (he ordered everyone to turn in their gold at a low price, then raised the price the next month.)

I see an economic train wreck approaching, and I am wondering what to do to keep some of my money safe.

Anonymous said...

To the last anon:

The FDIC, the agency in the US that insures bank deposits, is now out of cash. So basically, if anybody has money in a bank that fails, you won't get it back. The best thing is to keep a well hidden safe full of cash and silver, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Here is how I deal with my money. After the bills are paid, the money gets split 3 ways.

1/3 goes towards more assets like food, ammo, tools etc.

1/3 to gold and silver.

1/3 in cash.

I have a decent amount of preps built up, or I would be spending all of my extra money to do it. Those things are most important.