More lessons

But there’s more. 🙂 I remembered some more lessons from the 2020.

Probably the most important one is, never tell me “but what are the odds?” Yeah, what are the odds that there will be a global pandemic-induced hysteria, and that we’ll locally also have two major earthquakes on two separate fault systems, none of which would be the one that causes periodic earthquakes in Zagreb? In hindsight, the odds were 100%, and foresight is only quantified ignorance anyway.

Also, people tend to ridicule preppers, usually by prefacing the term with the attribute “doomsday”, as in “doomsday preppers”. Actually, doomsday is the only thing I’m not prepping for, because it’s pointless. If it’s doomsday, everybody dies and as far as I’m concerned it’s the best possible outcome, because fuck this place. You don’t prepare for doomsday, you prepare for the situation where there was a flood and water is not drinkable, and your house is rendered uninhabitable, or there was an earthquake and your apartment building was damaged, there’s no electricity and there’s a major gas leak. You prepare for a civil war where city block limits become the front lines and there’s sniper and mortar fire. If you think that’s unrealistic, you haven’t been in Croatia or Bosnia in the 1990s. I live here and it sounds very realistic. Also, I remember the power outages in the 1980s, the fuel shortages, and basically everything-shortages, plus hyperinflation of two different currencies in two different states. I get especially pissed off when I meet Croats who act as if such things are impossible and you’d have to be crazy to anticipate the possibility in your plans. As far as I’m concerned, they are the insanely gullible ones. This year I was one significant crack on the outer wall away from emergency evacuation and relocation, in which case I would have needed both my cash reserves, gold bullion, the redundancy of having two cars, and the precaution of having the necessary things in backpacks already. It was a very close shave, and although I’m very happy not to have needed it, having the option didn’t feel like very much of a luxury, or like overkill planning. It felt like just the right thing.

Another thing is, you don’t know what you’re preparing for. 2020 shows it’s possible to have more than one significant crisis at the same time, and not only that, they can also be completely unrelated. Also, you can have a crisis-cluster, in the sense that a civilizational crisis of identity and worldview can produce an economic crisis, a political crisis, mass hysteria, overreactions to actual threats that could have been dealt with in a more calm and rational manner, and then you can have a debt crisis, financial system crash, pension fund crash, mass unemployment and business infrastructure crash, etc., and on top of that you can have random natural disasters such as hurricanes, snowstorms, earthquakes, fires, floods etc. And on top of all that you can have wars. If you’re lucky, most of that can miss you, and it’s only something in the news, with no bearing on your daily lives. Or, if you’re less lucky, you can barely survive covid and then an earthquake can demolish your condo. There is such a thing as a shitstorm, which makes the concept of preparing for a specific single type of a disaster misguided and naïve. You need to cover a reasonably wide spectrum of disasters, and the good thing is that the recommended measures mostly overlap. In the majority of scenarios, you need to have as much money saved as possible, so you can react and solve whatever problem it is that happened to knock on your door. Also, you need to factor in the possibility of utility disruptions, and not necessarily short ones – if a major transformer station is flooded or there’s a fire, the damage can be very hard and slow to fix. If a major power station blows, the entire electric grid can go offline and it can take months to fix. If an earthquake really hits, as it did in Zagreb, the buildings might still remain damaged almost a year later, simply because the state will fuck up the reconstruction effort as it invariably does, and people don’t have the money to do it themselves.

Another important thing to consider is that a crisis can impact your source of income, even if it didn’t affect you directly. Companies can go under and people can be fired. The entire industries can be shut down – for instance, tourism won’t do well in lockdown times.

Also, when shit starts happening, it’s too late to take warnings seriously and start preparing. Everybody will have the same idea and you won’t be able to get things. Necessary supplies might be out of stock or rationed. Also, trying to find a place to rent in the aftermath of a major disaster that hit your area, well good luck with that, because if everybody’s house is damaged everybody will have the same idea and you’ll have the choice between terrible and terribly overpriced. Have all the necessary hardware and supplies now. Make all the emergency plans now. When you’re hit by a disaster, you’ll be in a state of shock and you won’t be able to think clearly, let alone make coherent plans. That’s how you get a rush on toilet paper supplies – people aren’t thinking clearly, they just shat themselves and something gravitating around their arseholes is the main thing on their mind. You need several plans, made when you’re calm, secure and lucid, and then you get to pick one that’s appropriate for the type of crisis that struck.

The lessons of 2020

In 2020, I had the opportunity to put some of my theories about prepping to the test: first, I had covid19, which didn’t kill me by the thinnest of margins, but it took me around six months to recover from lung damage. Then, while I was still in the very early stage of recovery, meaning that I no longer had 39.5°C fever, and the fever would start again if I strained myself at all, the Zagreb earthquake struck, with the epicentre basically under my arse, damaging the condo I’m renting. Then came the corona lockdown, disrupting the economy and the supply chain. Things barely started getting back to normal when the second wave of lockdowns hit, in the late fall and winter, and then the second Earthquake hit Croatia, epicentre 50km from me, much stronger, but less damaging at my location; still, it managed to eject a shovel of concrete and plaster from the walls, just as a way for the 2020 to send us off.

In all of that, we (by which I mean my family and friends) had some utility disruptions, basically the electricity not working for a short while, but it was soon restored. The stores were trashed by the quake, but reopened within days. The lockdown made it more difficult to get supplies, but we could still do it. All in all, the level of disruption to basic services was minor. The disruption to the economy, however, was very hard and it hit some people worse than others.

So, were my precautionary preparations useful? Did I have to tap into my food and water supplies? It’s a complicated question to answer, because physically, no, we didn’t use them, but psychologically, it helped a lot to know that if the stores don’t reopen quickly, we can survive on our food supply for weeks. It would be a boring diet, sure, but we would not be pressured to go looking for food in a potentially dangerous environment, and this isolated us from the sense of panic that was widespread. The most useful thing to have, in terms of disaster preparedness, was money. The fact that I had cash and gold that I could tap into, and trivially go and rent a house, even if the prices were unreasonably high, in case our place was rendered uninhabitable, was a great thing, and the fact that I had a solution at hand at any time, in case I decided to actually go for it, made it possible for me to stay completely calm and approach the situation strategically.

As a result, I had the opportunity to both confirm and revise my assumptions from before. The main revision is that, in a common disaster scenario, having money is the single most important thing. Sure, having some food and water handy that you can eat and drink during the first day of being hit, by either an earthquake or a flood or what not, is very important, but if you don’t have money, your supplies will be quickly exhausted and you will be left with your home potentially uninhabitable, in some tent or a trailer, depending on welfare. However, if you have money, you are several phone calls away from fixing your situation; move to a hotel initially, then find something to rent or buy, move there. Within a few days, problem solved. In order to be able to react quickly, having a stash of local currency is essential, because you will need to pay for transportation, workers, and a place to stay. You need money in order to get out of a bad situation, and you need to have layered access. You need some cash, then you need to have something in the bank, and then you need to have more in a deeper layer, of lesser liquidity but still accessible as soon as you liquidate the investment. Here I mean crypto, stocks, bonds, and of course precious metals. Having a few 1oz gold coins in my pocket and knowing each can buy me more than a month of rent, or serve as a deposit, was a really useful thing, in a sense that I knew I had the option, but now I had to think things through instead of being rushed. The problem with gold coins is that your local coin dealer can be wiped out by the same disaster that wiped you out, and this will make it difficult for you to convert metal into more immediately useful forms of money, with which you can actually buy food and lodgings. This is why you absolutely must have enough cash to be able to pay for the most immediate things in the first couple of days. The banks might work, or they might not. The ATM machines might work, or they might not. You need to have all the options covered. Yes, I know it’s tempting to buy new and fancy gadgets and clothes and what not now, when things are fine, but when shit starts hitting the fan, you will wish you had that money in an envelope at home, so that you can put it in your backpack when you have to evacuate into your car because your house is either collapsing or is on fire or is flooded, and you have nowhere to go. The money buys you a place to go. It removes you from the X, and gives you the option to help others that are likewise affected, perhaps more so than yourself – and that’s actually a very likely scenario, because you are more likely to be a rescuer than a victim. Have money in reserve. Have layered reserves – cash, gold and silver coins, money in the bank, money in some offshore account accessible via debit card, investments you can liquidate if need be. Being poor puts you at the greatest possible risk in any disaster scenario, because it removes all the illusions of things being relatively fine because you have a place to sleep, even if you’re poor, and leaves you with nothing, and with few options. If you’re sick or old, being poor combined with a disaster scenario makes you the most likely person to die in said scenario. Having just enough funds to remove you from the X immediately following the disaster, is the single most important form of disaster preparedness.

Having a good flashlight, a good backpack, a battery pack to charge your phone, a good water bottle, a fire starting kit, a knife, blanket and some dry clothes, that’s all fine and you should have a backpack with all those things somewhere, if you need to evacuate immediately, but the most important thing to put in that backpack just before you leave your home is a wad of cash, a tube of gold bullion, a credit/debit card to access your bank account, your ID and your mobile phone. Then, as you sit in your car or at a bench in a park, you can use your phone to find a new place – not necessarily in the same town, if the whole town is a disaster zone – yes, you have the money – and then you can hire a truck to move your things before they are damaged by the elements, to either your new home or to a warehouse you can also hire, as a temporary measure. Don’t waste too much money on “prepping gear” now; if it comes to surviving in the woods by making traps for small animals, you’re fucked, so focus on the things that give you the greatest number of options in the most likely scenarios – and that’s an emergency backpack with the essentials for the first couple of hours, and money, as much as possible, strategically layered in various forms of liquidity. Also, when you start tapping into that money, you need to realize that the clock started ticking and you need to recover your earning ability, because any fixed amount of money can and will eventually be exhausted, and having it just postpones being fucked. Sure, you want to postpone it, but you also want to immediately start working on making more money, so that you replenish what you spent. You need to have plans, and your plans need to have backups, and those backups need to have friends. Also, you need to be ready to ask for help – in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, if you have friends who can help you evacuate your family and things from the disaster zone, that can be the most important thing, even more important than money in the first moments; however, after the first few hours, money starts asserting itself as a crucial asset, and if you don’t have it, you’re fucked. If you have it, the disaster might only actually last those first few hours, or a day.

So, that’s basically what emerged as the most important in the aftermath of 2020. You need to create options for yourself, in form of a store of money you can immediately tap into if you need to pull yourself and your family from a situation that potentially renders you all homeless. Also, I simply assume that you have a car, and you can use it as your temporary headquarters to which you will move the most important stuff that you managed to rescue from your destroyed home. If you don’t have a car, you’re limited to what you can carry in a single backpack, and that’s a super shitty situation to be in. Sure, be prepared for that and have the most important things in that backpack, and mobility is not as important as money, but it’s a close second. A car can carry multiple people and lots of stuff. It extends your options; essentially, it’s an option-multiplier. Also, it can provide heat during winter, and that can literally save your life if you’re sick or elderly. If I had to evacuate from my condo, barely recovered from covid, with slight fever and destroyed lungs, and tried to carry significant weight in that weakened condition, in freezing cold, and I didn’t have a car that can keep me warm and evacuate me to a safe place, I’d be fucked. Those are the lessons I learned; they are few, but they really cut through all the nonsense.

Gold and silver spiking

Gold is at the all-time high in all currencies, including USD. Silver is having the third greatest recorded spike since the 1970s, but as you can see from the graph, its behavior has historically been fundamentally different than that of gold.

What does this tell us?

One thing is certain: both gold and silver had their greatest spikes at the same times, but silver spiked higher, more violently, making it possible for investors to make greater earnings if they were smart, but those spikes turned into suddenly appearing cliffs, the greedy ones fell off of. Basically, everybody who believed silver was going to the Moon got in late, somewhat akin to buying Bitcoin at $18K, they didn’t sell when they should have, and so you still have people who bought silver at $50/oz, and never sold because the loss would have been too painful; BTW, those $50 are not adjusted for inflation, so that would be much more money now. Why am I saying this? Because every time metals do this, and they did something similar in the August last year, some people get hysterical, screaming how silver is going to the Moon, it’s going to be more valuable than gold, everybody should put all their money into silver and never sell it. In September, when silver falls off a cliff, they disappear, and many people who bought into the hype are left feeling deceived. Why am I pouring cold water over hot coals here, despite the fact that I believe that the metals are indeed going to reach fantastic heights? Because, historically, at every single one of those spikes people were hyping the shit out of the situation, saying it’s going to keep rising forever, it’s going to the Moon, up to the very point where everything fell off a cliff. It happens with stock, it happened with Bitcoin, and it happens with metal. Every time there’s a spike, some people make up a rationale about why it’s not a bubble and why it’s not hype. Sure, the spikes happen because something was undervalued, but then hype gets into the picture and the price over-corrects.

One thing, however, is different now, compared to all the other times, and you can clearly see it on the gold price graph. This spike is much higher, and starting from a much taller “hill” than all others that came before it. This means the fiat currency is in deeper problems than ever before, especially since the spike from the 2012 ended when people were lulled into the false belief that the “quantitative easing” was a limited thing. Now it turns out that it isn’t, and some kind of logic says that if a certain trend was stopped by something, now that we see a similar trend, but it’s not possible for the same thing to stop it again, it’s not unreasonable to assume that this time the storm will be much bigger. Big enough, maybe, for the entire currency system to be fundamentally restructured, and at that point I would like to be 100% in precious metals, because although it might be a great way to make money, any money you might make by selling at some high point might become worthless once the currency system is transformed, and holding metal past that point is the only way to safety that I can see.

 

Access to precious metals might be restricted

I found out today that a major Chinese bank is prohibiting its customers from buying precious metals, citing some bullshit “concerns”. Basically, for the good of their children.

HSBC and JP Morgan are blacklisting Perth mint, citing some bullshit “concerns“. Some children somewhere are suffering and they can’t stand it.

The real reason is that the major banks and the states want all the gold for themselves, at these cheap prices, and if the people are allowed to get into gold too quickly, the prices will rise and the market will dry up. I expect some AML law to be passed restricting or outright outlawing purchases of precious metals by the citizenry, because precious metals are bad things used for money laundering, financing of terrorism, tax evasion and poor children will cry if you buy gold, so only an evil person would have it.

So, basically, buy it while you can, unless you are a complete fool, and if you buy the bullshit the states and banks are telling you, you deserve no better than the fate they have in store for you. If you want to not be a slave, prepare to see yourself as a criminal and a terrorist, because that’s where this is going. You’re either a slave, or a criminal and a terrorist. You’ll be left with no middle ground. Obey their laws and be ruined.

PS.: If you think I’m being paranoid, watch this:

Gold

It will be no news to anyone following me thus far that gold price recently rose to the all-time high in USD, and had long ago passed the all-time high in EUR. Also, if you followed me long enough, you’ll know that I predicted this much before the current corona-crisis and what not; so, you know those things have nothing to do with it, other than exacerbating the shortages of physical metal on the market, compared to the “paper”.

The expected question would be, is it still a good idea to buy, or should we wait for the current spike to subside? If you take a look at the graph, it’s obvious that the growth isn’t linear, and the price goes back a little after each spike, so the question is valid. However, we don’t live in “business as usual” times. There are presently no shortages of gold on the retail market, and the prices are well above those in the corona-peak, premiums and all. My assessment is that the target price of gold is somewhere in between 15000 USD per troy ounce, and 100000 USD per troy ounce, depending on several factors that are difficult to predict, such as the actual volume of fiat currency that will have to be backed by gold, the number of retirement funds, hedge funds and others who might exchange sovereign bonds for gold, the percentage of citizens with savings who might rush to gold in attempt to save their money from inflation, the percentage of holders of speculative and volatile assets who might want to save whatever they can when their respective markets collapse, etc. It’s difficult to predict, but in any case, the predicted end-game price of gold is at least 7.5x of what it is now. This makes long-term decisions easy. Short term, you tell me; I certainly can’t tell. There’s too much short-term chaos, even without people who don’t know what they are doing, and who seem to have taken to trading on their phones during the quarantine. I sense chaos, panic and anxiety in the air (coming from the deep levels of finance), with only a whiff of greed (and that comes from the hipsters who don’t know what they’re doing). What we want to do is do all the buying before the graph turns from linear to geometric, and at that point you’ll look at the gold price somewhere between the AC unit and the roof, projecting from the current graph on your screen.

What about silver? I don’t know. It might blow up, it might do nothing. I don’t know what it will do, and unlike gold, it didn’t do anything logical so far, so I can’t anticipate its behavior in the future. Sorry. I’ll stick mostly to gold, and hold just enough silver to not regret it if it actually does what some silver bugs are predicting.