Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mistakes survivalists make

(This is an old post, posted at minion's some time ago )

Another question from leftofcentralfl in Mnionreport:
QUESTION: What mistakes do you think most people make preparing for what you and your countrymen have gone through?

I wouldn’t call them “mistakes”, I don’t hold the SHTF Bible so all I can give is my humble advice which may be correct or not, so all I can tell you is “ I wouldn’t do that if I were you”, and depending on how sure I am , add a smartass grin smiley.
There’s simply some preparations that make little sense if you think about it, others that I’ve seen that just wouldn’t work, in spite of all the speculations.

a) Maybe the one that rubs me the wrong way the most concerns retreats. It’s also something many survivalists consider the summit of their preparations. A self sufficient fortification-ranch, with the nearest neighbor several miles away.

Isolated farms or retreats are targeted and are often victims of robbery and in some cases extremely violent home invasions. You may have 6-10 able men you are counting on to defend it when TSHTF… “when TSHTF” …so they aren’t there right now? Then you don’t have them, nor will you have them when you need them, most likely.
The isolation works to the attackers favor, who often take their time having their way with everything and everyone inside the house.

The “away from everything” theory just doesn’t work when taken to the field. Happens here and same happens in Africa where ranchers and farmers have to fight rebels, rogues or whatever they are calling them these days.

They’ll find you, they’ll know about you one way or the other. You cant hide simply by living a gas tank away from the city. If there’s a road that reaches your place, you are fair game, doesn’t matter if it’s a dirt road in poor condition. You get there with a car/truck? So can bad guys.

You are obviously safer from small time robberies or pickpocketers and snathcers, but you are more vulnerable to the worst kind of criminals. Not that living in a city or suburbs makes it MUCH safer, but I’d rather live here where I live now than in a farm house any day of the week. People can somehow organize to hire security, talk to the police. Yes, most people border idiotic and are pretty clueless, but it’s better than being alone with no chance of even trying to convince people.
I’m not talking about living in a large city being the best option, I’m talking about living in a small town or community, looking for safety in numbers but avoiding the problems of a metropolis.

I definitely would choose a house in a small town or subdivision near a city, rather than a far away retreat.
Rather than looking for the ultimate self reliance retreat in the middle of nowhere, look for a subdivision where you have enough land, where you can keep a small orchard and some small critters if you want, a place with a basement where you can build a NBC shelter as time and money allows. That’s what I’d look forward to if living in US.

b) The barter items thing is also pretty strange. I don’t see how it could possibly be a smart idea to buy goods to sell or trade after a crisis, surely not in the quantities suggested by some people. Beats me, are they going to set up a shop in their garages and sell everything? Would you buy food an other supplies from a guy that sells it with no possible way of verifying the conditions under which the food was kept? How much of a profit could you possibly make , comparing to having saved that same amount of money in gold, for example?
I don’t understand it and I don’t know of anyone that made a profit by doing this. Yet, people stock up on TP and many other cheap, easily obtainable items thinking that it will be “worth it’s weight in gold” after the crisis. Newsflash: if it’s cheap and easy to produce, it will keep being that way AFTER tshtf.
Some guys advice to “invest” in such goods, tools, food and supplies for after TSHTF. No, no , no. 200 or 500 bucks worth of tools rusting away in the shed is not an investment. Its’ 200 bucks worth of tools for which you don’t have any use. That’s not an investment.
An investment generates money, while products rotting away in some basement does nothing for you.

c) Forgetting about their financial security. I’d worry about REAL investments. Buying real estate that will provide me with a steady income on the longer run, an investment portfolio divided in a couple of reliable ( or as reliable as any organization can be) that will slowly grow, most of it set on minimum and medium risk investments, and not falling for the promises of high risk ones.
Money is so important, I cant begin to explain it. When prices skyrocket beyond the limits of superinflation, money does not turn into toilet paper as many survival experts predict, it become cherished, more valuable to you than ever. You have to turn yourself into a discriminating shopper, always looking for the best possible price, sometimes shopping in different branches of supermarkets so as to find the better deals and avoid those “hot” items grocery chains slip without you even noticing.

My father is visiting right now, handling business, and one thing he told me when I asked how did he see things going on here, he used the words “cheapskate” and “miserly”.
He said something like“ People count coins over and over, by the cent, and spend maybe 10 minutes thinking about spending every cent. They also look kind of shabby, untidy, I can’t explain it. Even the guys running around downtown with suits look bad”
I explained that his overall perception was indeed correct, mostly because the average person here uses clothes until they wear out, there’s not that much money left for looks, not getting haircuts as often as they should, shaving.
Yes, the fall on the purchasing power of people did affect the average person ( at least most of them if not all) and you can see it on the streets.

d) Not all places are equal in terms of crime, but if something like this happens in US, I’d worry about being armed at all times, and learning how to use it to defend myself.
Again, not talking about waiting for the end of the world to bug in and pull the shotgun out of the firing ports, just go on with your life but do so armed.
Most people here don’t see things this way.
The anti gun campaign is very strong here, and the majority of “sheep” see guns as evil objects, even though rape, crime and violence is smeared on their face every day. What can I say, most people are pretty stupid.

Those of us who go armed in this country are a reduced minority. After a few words, we recognize each other at the range or at gunshops with a knowing nod, knowing that most people, even among shooters , don’t share our opinions.

Even among “gun people” we have our important share of “Zumbos”, elitist hunters who think that firearms are hunting tools and shouldn’t be used by the lesser “civilians” for self defense.

e)Not trying to bore anyone to death here or anything, but going back to the issue of money. It’s so important to be financially set. Rather than spending tons of money on junk you wont ever use invest it smartly. Rich, unprepared people will suffer after TSHF… only in your wildest dreams. Money buys everything, including expensive food, medical care, security and relocation if needed.
When the economy collapses a big chunk of what used to be middle class ( 50% as minimum, more for sure) ends up being poor. It doesn’t matter how much guns you have, doesn’t matter if you can start a fire with a couple popsicles sticks or build an atomic bomb with a Snickers bar and a paper clip. Skills are of course important but you finances affect everything.

If you are middle class do everything you can to improve, climb way up the ladder. No I’m not talking about making more money than Bill Gates, I’m just talking about something every determined middle class person can achieve , no need to be a freaking financial genius. Make sure you climb your way up to the upper middle class, because once the pyramid starts sinking you don’t want to be below the 50%.
If you are really serious about financial security, diversify your real estate and other investments in different countries. My father did this and it made all the difference in the world. The man is my hero.

When you see serious trouble in the horizon and survivalists are thinking about bunkering in their cabins, you simply go on vacations to check out that little apartment or house you bought in Costa Rica for a bunch of pocket change a month. If Zombies take over or China invades, you can look for a job there, or live like a king thanks to the income you receive from that other apartment you have in France, a place in a small town near a mayor University, which you rent to students each year.600 Euros a month will allow you to live comfortably in Costa Rica, and most countries in South America. And the best part of all this? If nothing EVER happens you just have a few properties here and there that are constantly generating money for you, in case you want to retire early or if you ever have a health problem or any other issue that puts you out of the job market. Again, a couple of properties here and there inst’ such a big deal, most people can achieve that with a bit of effort, its’ just a matter of priorities.

f)The lack of reality based preparations. Some people focus on preparing for something that will never happen, preparing for getting up one day and walking into Mad Max’s world. This is of course, not a smart idea. Not only are you forgetting about the other, more likely possibilities, but you also ignore that you’ll have to go trough them before it reaches to a road warrior point, if it ever gets to that.
People that have thousands and thousands of dollars in tools, equipment, and maybe spent hundreds of thousands more building the ultimate retreat, but don’t have a penny invested anywhere. When asked they‘ll say that it will all be worth nothing when TSHTF.

Hopefully, this person will have several years worth of food along with all the other stuff he’ll rarely get to use, so at least he wont starve to death. But is eating all you aspire for in live? Not to mention what would happen if he got sick/robbed/place burns to the ground/hurricane/flood destroys it and suddenly needs the money he said he would never need.

Prepare for a broad spectrum of possibilities. So you’ll have your food and supplies for short and medium periods of time where supermarkets may be closed due to looting, riots, lack of supply , etc and you have others plans in case things get worse or you are forced to get out of there.
Something like what happened here happening in US? Don’t go nuts, shooting the neighbor’s kid for crossing over to your yard to pick up his frizzbe. Just adjust to the situation.

Once the first few weeks are over and people start calming down, just be more careful out there, don’t throw away money on stuff you don’t need and try to keep a generally low profile. It’s also important to do well at work, because people get fired like crazy during those times, companies trying to reduce expenses or not needing you any more for lack of production.

During these times is when your investments kick in. Not only do you have a place to exile to if things don’t go back to normal or they don’t fit what you expect in life anymore, you also have a form of income that is out of the circle of your local economy. Let’s say the dollar looses ½ it’s value, you still have your apartment in France or wherever the heck you want to invest, pumping in Euros that are now much more valuable, probably compensating for the local inflation, so weather you decide to leave or stay, you have the means to go either way.



Anonymous said...

You had me going, until letter E.

Yeah, if I could afford a "little place in France" or a spot waaaaay down south, I sure don't think I'd be quite so worried about this economic collapse.

Even without debt (we only have a mortgage) we don't have enough to jet off overseas and buy a place.

The rest I enjoyed.

FerFAL said...

Depends on your budget, but mostly on how much you want to actually do things.
It's easy to say "it can't be done", much easier than getting off your butt and doing it.

For example, there's a province here called San Luis, where the governor was pretty much giving homes away.

Monthly payment was 100 bucks, 33 dollars a month for a home.That's WAY less than many of you guys spend on Starbucks...
Legit business, no trick of any kind.
For a brick and mortar home and a chunk of land in South America.
You didn't know that of course, but no one is going to come knocking on your door offering these deals.
First step is believing it can be done. Denial gets you nowhere.


Anonymous said...


Is there a chance you could give us a link to this San Luis deal? Preferably in English.

Investing in to Argentina from Europe, rather than the other ay around, seems like the better choice right now. And BTW, France has the worst legal structure for a landlord. A squatter can stay in the property for something like six months after they stopped paying rent.

Have you ever thought about brokering deals like this, as a means of income for you and your family?

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

Great article. Reminded me of "Law 18 Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous" -- Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power.

"First step is believing it can be done."-- Ferfal


Anonymous said...

Hi ferfal, I have been reading your stuff since you started. You are doing a great service by detailing your real life experiences.
As you say.. what to do about the SHTF very much depends on what kind of SHTF you experience. You experience economic collapse in Argentina.. while the rest of the Western World is pretty much OK. If the economic collapse is Global.. it will be different. If world trade breaks down.. then the rural retreat starts to look better. It could be "remote" or every degree in between. As you suggest, it is better to have multiple levels of plans and preparation. I don't have a room full of "toilet paper".. but I have $ and a plan to get some if I think it is warranted. And a plan B too. I do have a shed full of glass jars for preserving (canning) food. Such jars will be virtually unobtainable if TSHTF, but they are dirt cheap now..as long as you have room to store them. ( actually I have noticed they are becoming much harder to find..which I guess is a "sign of the times"...:-) ).
Reading your Blog is a form of preparation.. as it opens your mind to situations you might not otherwise think of.

Anonymous said...

You seem to take a different approach from the recommendations at survival blog. This is the second article this week I have read about the rural crimes being more vicious and "through". It seems like the "smart" bad guys would look for weaker targets and take everything. Discovering a well-stocked retreat would be well worth the effort to carefully stake out.

The moral of the story is that a rural retreat without serious around-the-clock security is a sitting duck...

I think the key is to have a means to be "self employed" providing services that people need in such an environment.

I also think that surviving in Argentina is VERY different from surviving in a world-wide economic collapse. For one thing, while the rest of the world functions Argentina's farmers would prefer to export rather than sell locally (because locals are poor and cannot compete on a world market)... in a world-wide collapse this would be very different because there would be no foreign demand.

Without foreign demand, then local farmers would be trading locally.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Much food for thought! Thanks!


Natog said...

I agree with 99% of what you are saying, I just cannot afford to buy property overseas as a hedge. I don't have the vacation time to go and check on the property, nor will my job allow me to disappear on short notice If I need to toss out a renter and rent it to someone else.

Then again I did buy a lottery ticket this morning... who knows!

Wickwire said...

Here's the list of countries recommended by LiveAndInvestOverseas.com :

* Argentina (Really?)
* Belize
* Colombia
* Costa Rica
* Croatia
* Dominican Republic
* Ecuador
* France
* Honduras
* Ireland
* Italy
* Malaysia
* Mexico
* New Zealand
* Nicaragua
* Panama
* Portugal
* Spain
* Thailand
* Uruguay

Anonymous said...

LOL, I'm in France and want to get out of it! Who said grass looks greener a little further?
Each country has his own risks, here it is leech-like bureaucracy that slowly sucks everything you have.
So my advice, and main goal, is to balance my life in two or more different countries. I already incorporated a small business in a friendly place, opened a bank account on it's behalf and started to save on it.
Odds are better that the S* hits differently in your own country and the other one. You can balance advantages of each place.
An existing business, or a small real estate, can greatly helps your emergency relocation if needed. You would not look like a refugiee but a legitimate business man.


(Ferfal's excellent blog is not the place, but it would be great to make a review of each country with its pros and cons)

FerFAL said...

Sorry guys, Rodiquez Saa deal in San Luis is gone by now.
You did need to actually go there, so it was not as if you could sell it on ebay.

"Odds are better that the S* hits differently in your own country and the other one. You can balance advantages of each place.
An existing business, or a small real estate, can greatly helps your emergency relocation if needed. You would not look like a refugiee but a legitimate business man.


Yes, thats the idea.
Even if it's just owning 33 % of some small drugstore or candy kiosk somewhere with a couple guys you know enough and trust.
As long as it generates some profit, it is an investment after all.


FerFAL said...

* Argentina (Really?)
Yes , why not?
As long as you understand the risks involved.(high ones, high profit too)
I mean, its not as safe as investing in Spain, even Uruguay is safer in terms of legality and corrupt gov, but I'd invest in Arg. instead of Croatia any day.


FerFAL said...

"The moral of the story is that a rural retreat without serious around-the-clock security is a sitting duck...

I think the key is to have a means to be "self employed" providing services that people need in such an environment. "

Those are excellent points, thanks


Anonymous said...

Ferfal, I'd love to know what happened to people who had mortgages on their homes and lost their jobs? Where there so many people that they just ended up keeping their houses because no "authority" was around to enforce a foreclosure? Please explain this as I think all of your readers would greatly appreciate.


FerFAL said...

Thanks, that a good example.
Yes, of course those that couldn't pay lost their homes sooner or later.

The difference here with USA, was that loans for homes aren't given away like candy, so it wasn't that much of a mess.

But a lot of people lost theri homes for various other reasons, not being able to pay for taxes after spedning years unemployed being the most common.

These people ended up increasing teh number of villas, shanty towns, and people living on the streets or under bridges and highways.

Thats what I talk about when I say SHTF isn't "fair".
Cops arent around to protect you and crime is a disaster, but they will evicy you nad kick you out to the street is the proper order is emmited.
Same for intruders, they do little to stop crime, but shoot someone dead and you better have a good lawyer and a case he can sustain.
I know a man that ended up in jail for shooting home intruders that broke into his house, armed. Reason; He waited until they turned to leave and shot them in the back with a lever action 44 he used for pig hunting ( so much for lever action guns looking good in court). The explanation was that they were already leaving and his life was no longer in danger.

So be careful out there guys, don't start shooting girl scouts selling cookies and beggars just yet. :)


The last cause said...

FerFal, I've read your blog for quite sometime now, and I just have to ask:

When things were going bad, was there no recourse to growing your own food?

And was there any fish available?

And would it have been possible to network and barter among friends?

And did the local Churches have any recourse to offer Charity?

And BTW, we would complain, complain, complain, then once the idea that no "help" was coming, things would become ugly and very fast..

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything expect money - as in the USA - FIAT Federal Reserve Notes - as being precious, even with super/hyperinflation. This is not the case. We are destined to go the way of Zimbabwe. Having 'dollars' whether in hand, or in any account will not be 'precious.'

Anything - and I mean anything - will be better than worthless Federal Reserve Notes, backed by nothing and YES they will indeed by TOILET PAPER. This is not 1929 when notes were backed by gold. Also, the FDIC is a scam, it will save no one.

Anonymous said...

The only reason you consider those things "mistakes" is because of the nature of the Argentinian Collapse. While it did have a serious impact on the country, it was not a complete collapse i.e. complete loss of all services etc.

A retreat is only a target if it's near where some criminals happen to be, but they won't have the resources to go traveling out into the backwoods unless they're living out there. They will pick on the lowest hanging fruit first. And most likely there will be very few people who can make it very far (considering how unprepared and unfit most people are).

Barter is of course necessary when there is a hard collapse. If gas is short no ones going to be trucking in toilet paper, that's entirely unrealistic.

In the great depression in the US the people who were furthest away from the cities were least affected because

A. No one could get out there to rob them (it would drain their resources too quickly)
B. They were more self reliant
C. They weren't dependent on city luxuries (good shipped in daily via trucks and trains)

Anonymous said...

To Anon who said
"In the great depression in the US the people who were furthest away from the cities were least affected because
A. No one could get out there to rob them (it would drain their resources too quickly)"

Both sets of my grandparents lived through the Great Depression. One lived in town, the other WAY rural, in the mountains.

Guess which one was robbed multiple times? My grandmother said that the town people headed to the country to beg, borrow, or steal if they must, the food they were starving to have. If the farmers resisted, they were often beaten, sometimes to death, for "being selfish". Never forget the mentality of the entitled... you have, I want, end of story. My grandparents were robbed several times, both by starving townies and unknown drifters. Food, livestock, even a vehicle were looted... and gramma said she couldn't begin to count the times her garden was picked clean in the middle of the night. This, despite them living 30 miles from the nearest town, well into the mountainside, up a windy dirt road.

Similar things happened in Europe during both world wars, where hungry urban dwellers convinced themselves that the country people were hiding food and causing them to starve. Resources? They had their feet... and all these people talking about how fat and unfit people are and how they won't survive? Hey, fat people lose weight when they have no food, and when there's no gas, they start walking. By the time they become angry and desperate enough to come after people outside the city, believe me, they won't be fat and breathless any longer.

Criminals in urban areas are not stupid. They know that if they are going on a hunting expedition, they need to steal a good set of wheels and steal enough gas to keep them going. They'll already be armed to the teeth. And make no mistake, once they finish picking off their usual stomping grounds, they'll quickly head out to look for fresh meat.

I live in a small rural community (pop 1000+/-) 60 miles from the nearest major city, 15 miles from the nearest town. Nearly all of us garden in our backyards, many of us have a few hens as well. Nearly all of us own firearms. When the crime begins to spill over out from the cities and into the country, I'll take this community and it's 1000 members at my back any day, over some bunker with half a dozen guys in the middle of nowhere.

Anonymous said...

Anon said "In the great depression in the US the people who were furthest away from the cities were least affected because

A. No one could get out there to rob them (it would drain their resources too quickly)"

In the Great Depression in the US, which occurred in the 1930s, criminals were not NEARLY so organized or heavily armed or well stocked with vehicles and gas stations to rob as they are today. Don't kid yourself. If we see another GD, it will go down nothing like the first one.

Also, those machete wielding thugs in South Africa seem to have no problem butchering white farmers, despite their lack of resources and the farmer's rural locations.

Never underestimate your adversary!

Anonymous said...


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