“You might be a prepper if your homeschooled 7-year old knows Morse code, your dog has a bug-out bag, and your basement is filled with toilet paper, ammo and bic lighters (and you don’t smoke).”
This week, the spread of the novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, and the corresponding 9-percent-in-a-week drop of the stock market are in the headlines. Today, we focus on how to prepare for a potential emergency situation or disruption of “life as usual.” In a few days, we’ll cover safe havens for saving and investing. (If you are practicing Prosperity Economics, you might have “weatherproof” strategies already in place to keep your money working—even during a black swan event!)
In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, let’s quickly review the situation. According to the compiled official data synthesized at Worldometers.info, over 82,000 people in 50 countries are now reported to be affected by Covid-19. Tens of millions have been quarantined and the loss of life, especially in China, is sobering.
The economic impact has also been tremendous. Supply chains have been disrupted, with countless factories closed or running with skeleton crews. Some families have run out of money—or food. Public health experts are starting to label the coronavirus a pandemic—the first in a century. The news has triggered a sell-off in the stock market, which has just erased three months of market gains.
Obviously, as important as your portfolio is—nothing is more important than making sure you and your family are safe and sound! These tips are designed to help you address the current developing situation, and they will help you be ready for any emergency.
Emergency Preparation 101
What turns an interruption of your routine or cash flow into an emergency? Not being prepared! Just like the purpose of an emergency fund is to turn unexpected expenses into, well, simply expenses, so being prepared for a disruption of “life as usual” makes it more of an inconvenience than an all-out emergency.
With the Covid-19 situation, the great majority of people will have mild symptoms or even no symptoms at all. Yet even those without the virus can be impacted with little warning. South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and China have locked down entire cities. This week, hotels in Spain, France and Austria have quarantined their guests. There are also thousands of people in the US who are self-isolating due to travel history or potential exposure to virus carriers.
We don’t tell you this to alarm you—but to make sure you have an opportunity to prepare! Politicians and public health officials have been doing a balancing act: How to inform the populace without causing panic. They are not going to say, “Everyone go get food right now!” as that would cause chaos and hoarding. But there are steps you should take now to prepare. Here are five things to consider:
#1: Plan B Scenarios
What if your child’s school suddenly closed next week—for the next 2 months? Or what if the supermarkets closed, or the shelves became suddenly bare? Or perhaps your place of work is shut down—or alternate shifts are required. Now that the CDC has warned that it’s only a matter of time before we see outbreaks in the US, these are scenarios you should prepare for.
Talk with your employer (or employees, if applicable). What is the contingency plan? Some companies are allowing employees to telecommute, when possible.
If your children cannot attend school for a time, brainstorm ideas with family members or neighbors. Can you home school? Can one parent stay home, or can a grandparent help? Perhaps a group of parents could divvy up childcare duties, or older siblings can care for younger ones.
Should a natural disaster or other event occur that causes communications such as cell phones to go down, have a pre-decided meeting place and contingency plan.
#2: Store Ample Food and Water
The most important necessity is food and water. You’ll want to have a good supply of drinking water for all in your household to last for up to 30-60 days in case of a pandemic, natural disaster, or economic disruption.
Then you’ll want food that can last you for a minimum of several weeks. Consider such items as:
- nut butters
- vacuum packed crackers
- canned tuna, chicken, or salmon
- protein bars and granola bars
- dried fruit
- nuts and trail mix
- chili and soup
- cans or jars of fruits and vegetables
- MRE packages—ready-to-eat meals used by military personnel and backpackers. (Note that demand has dramatically increased and there are long shipping delays. Consider packaging your own meals.)
You can find some great tips to building or buying an emergency food supply in this article, “14 Easy Ways to Create an Emergency Food Stockpile.” Also see this page on eating and cooking when the power goes out.
In addition to deepening your pantry, consider starting a garden so that you can provide a portion of your own food, either a traditional one or an aeroponic garden, which is ideal for apartment dwellers (or anyone who doesn’t want to play in the dirt!) Gardens are a great way to help your budget as well as provide food in emergencies.
#3: Stock Essential Emergency Supplies
Whether a disruption is economic troubles, extreme weather, or something else, it is always wise to be prepared for an emergency. Supplies to put on your checklist:
- Candles, lanterns, flashlights, and extra batteries.
- Cell phone with battery-powered charger, inverter or solar charger.
- Toilet paper (one of the first things to vanish from Hong Kong’s shelves!)
- Supplies for cleaning and disinfection.
- If caring for the sick, personal protection equipment such as gloves, protective eyewear and respirator masks are recommended. (Disposable N95 masks, which are commonly used for painting and other projects are ideal. Try your local hardware store—they are scarce online.)
- Manual can opener and coffee grinder.
- Plenty of back-up toilet paper and toiletries.
- First aid supplies, back-ups of any essential medication and supplements.
- Portable power packs and/or a generator.
- Fuel for heat (depending on where you live) or an alternate way to heat your home.
- An alternate way to cook food should you lose power for an extended time.
- Extra gasoline for vehicles.
- Board games, cards, books, etc. for leisure activities you can do if the power is out.
- A hand-crank radio, a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert, and/or a battery operated TV to check the news.
For a longer list, see this Basic Disaster Supplies Kit list.
#4: Ample Cash and Liquidity
A natural disaster, civil unrest, or yes, a pandemic could cause local branches or credit unions to close temporarily. Cyber attacks, as well as technical difficulties, can compromise ATMs. It is also not uncommon for banks to simply ration or run out of cash, especially during a disaster. (Of course, people have far greater deposits in banks than banks have cash—a function of the fractional banking system.)
If you could not access your checking account, could you purchase food and other essentials? It could be wise to keep perhaps 30 day’s worth of cash in your home in case banks have to close for a time. But don’t keep it under your mattress or in a coffee can in your freezer—those are the first places thieves look! (Check out “Twenty Places to Hide Money at Home Besides Under Your Mattress” for ideas.)
Besides actual cash (the green stuff), having a portion of your portfolio liquid is essential to emergency preparation. We recommend that people do not invest at all until they first have adequate savings. By savings, we mean savings accounts, whole life cash value and other cash equivalents. If your money is tied up somewhere else, now is a good time to start freeing up cash so that you have a proper emergency fund and cash on hand.
#5: Focus on What you CAN Control… Your Thinking!
Positive focus and gratitude are essential in every economic climate, but especially in turbulent times! Every minute you read the fear-based news or listen to people spouting off about problems is a minute you cannot spend shoring up your mental capabilities or learning something useful.
Your thinking could also help you stay or recover quickly. Johns Hopkins research revealed that positive emotions strengthen the immune system. Dr. Bernie Siegel proved that love and laughter heals. Positive, powerful thinking also helps people to remain healthy or recover more quickly, reports the New York Times.
A positive focus impacts your wealth as well as your health. Nearly a century ago, Napoleon Hill interviewed some of the wealthiest people in the world to determine the common habits and principles that led to their fortunes. His findings eventually became a best-selling book, Think and Grow Rich. As the title reveals, the book’s main theme is this: wealth begins in the mind. To earn and keep great prosperity, you must control your thinking.
It is through prosperous thinking that some people make fortunes while others lose everything. When you focus on solutions rather than problems, amazing results become possible.
An important note about preparing for emergencies…
Some people consider it foolish to stock up on extra food and supplies, believing it is an overreaction and that an emergency will never happen. Those who have lived through floods, hurricanes and other disasters will tell you differently! Don’t let anyone shame you into not preparing. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself and your family.
You purchase car insurance, health insurance, home and life insurance for the same reason… to be prepared! And the time to prepare is always BEFORE it’s too late to do anything about it.
The BEST case scenario is that you’ll never need the emergency supplies—you’ll just have extra food you can rotate through. And most importantly, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you are ready for (almost) anything.
If we can assist with life insurance or investments that are not correlated with the stock market… there’s no time like the present to reach out to Partners for Prosperity. And stay tuned for our next article on save havens for your money!
By Kim Butler and Kate Phillips