The ultra-rich are very different from us in many ways. Like it or not, they are at the head of the herd with their eyes on the horizon. Often they have occupations that require them to seek risk aversion for millions or billions of dollars of their own and other people’s assets. They are similar to us in that they are interested in self-preservation. They are focused on their survival and holding their wealth and power in perpetuity. So, why are they prepping in more significant numbers? Why are they buying homes in more stable countries, diversifying their assets in multiple economies, building bunkers in some cases, and planning their emergency escape routes and means? Do they know something we don’t? Do they see something on the horizon that we, in the middle or back of the herd, can’t yet see? They make their living by being forerunners, forward-thinkers. They read the tea leaves and try to predict the future, so what should we take from that when up to fifty percent or more have, at the very least, an escape plan? Should we take a signal from them and prepare as we can? Can we be better prepared than they are?
1- What the Leaders of the Herd Know That We Don’t
The ultra-rich don’t work with their own money. They work with other people’s money. They avoid excessive taxation by moving their money to other countries. They keep their money for themselves. Even their philanthropic efforts are rewarded by society with substantial tax savings and returns, so much so that they profit from the act of giving. Lately, though, the ultra-rich have been expressing increasing nervousness about the world today. The CEO of LinkedIn recently said that well over fifty percent of the super-wealthy he knew had recently purchased safe escape houses far removed from civilization or in countries with more stable economies and societies like New Zealand.
When afforded a long view of the horizon, it is easier to see that all nations rise and fall. All economies grow and fall. If all your money was in Greece a few years back, you lost out when their economy collapsed. If you have investments in the Middle East, some countries in Africa, Ukraine, or Turkey, you have had a front-row seat to how quickly assets can change hands or collapse. You have had a front-row seat to the fragility of economies. The chances are that neither you nor I have either the investments in foreign countries or the unique perspectives of the world that the ultra-rich do.
While we may have a good understanding of how our town or city works, and we should be aware of politics at a national level after this last election season, the chances are our view of the real threats in the world are more at a micro-level. A prepper looks for the long threats that loom on the horizon and the immediate threats that hide around the corner. With their immediate surroundings well secured by walls and personal security, the ultra-rich have the luxury of looking more critically at the long threats on the horizon.
2- Nations on the Verge of Collapse
Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit, is less focused on a specific threat—a quake on the San Andreas, a pandemic, a dirty bomb—than he is on the aftermath of “the temporary collapse of our government and structures,” as he puts it. He is stocked up on motorcycles, guns, ammo, and food and plans on bunkering at his estate for as long as it takes for social order to be restored.
In a recent interview, he stated, “I think people who are particularly attuned to the levers by which society actually works understand that we are skating on really thin cultural ice right now. I think, to some degree, we all collectively take it on faith that our country works, that our currency is valuable, the peaceful transfer of power—that all of these things that we hold dear work because we believe they work.”
He is not alone in his thinking, either. Last spring, as the Presidential campaign exposed increasingly toxic divisions in America, Antonio García Martínez, a forty-year-old former Facebook product manager living in San Francisco, bought five wooded acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest and brought in generators, solar panels, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
People who are particularly attuned to the levers by which society actually works understand that we are skating on really thin cultural ice right now. It isn’t new. Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and a prominent investor, has estimated that over fifty percent of the people he knows also have a plan for a cataclysmic event, whether that is escaping to New Zealand or remodeling a Cold War missile silo in Nebraska. For years, the wealthy have hidden their money away in offshore accounts, made land purchases far away from government restrictions, and in areas with little access. As public institutions deteriorate, élite anxiety has emerged as a gauge of our national predicament. They understand that the dollar can collapse. They know nothing gold can stay. They understand that the cultural and socio-economic divide is wider today than it has ever been in our lifetimes, and that our nation, as strong as it may seem and as long as it has endured, is as fragile a union as any nation.
For example, in the first 7 days after Donald Trump’s election, thirteen-thousand-four-hundred-one Americans registered with New Zealand’s immigration authorities, the first official step toward seeking residency—more than seventeen times the usual rate. How many more registered throughout the last four years, and how many will register in New Zealand and elsewhere over the next four years? Internally, externally, revolutionary, or apocalyptically, they understand these machinations cause nations to rise and fall. They see it played out globally with other countries and ask themselves, “Why not here?” Like countless other nations, if our nation gets pulled apart, what’s going to be your plan?
As the economic divide becomes glaringly more apparent every day, the “have nots” who pay taxes will increasingly become more aware that the “haves” pay no taxes. As nation-states experience a sharp drop in revenue, as they have due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but retain the unfunded liabilities and inflated expectations and social spending inherited from the industrial era, tax consumers will be the losers. As they lose out, they will lash out against the rich, so the rich prepare themselves for this possibility. Areas of opportunity and security will shift. Economies that have been rich during the Industrial Era may well be subject to deflation of living standards and social unrest as governments prove incapable of guaranteeing prosperity as entitlement programs collapse. So, what can we take from their observations and their fears of our fragile and strained social and economic orders that compel them to prep at ever-increasing numbers?
3- Natural Tendency to Seek Risk Aversion
We share a natural tendency to seek risk aversion. Whether that is protecting our company’s online gaming servers from hurricanes in Barbados or protecting our families from a home invasion, our natural tendency as human beings is to assess threats, both seen and unseen, and reduce these threats to our security. A risk-averse investor is an investor who prefers lower returns with known risks rather than higher returns with unknown risks. The super-wealthy often protect millions and billions of dollars of their own and other assets. Their natural inclination is to hedge their bets and minimize risk. Most preppers are, by nature, risk-averse as well. They prefer the lower profile returns of well-stocked supplies and food stores over flashier but less useful purchases. The prepper typically puts more faith in a well-made tool and the knowledge and skills to use it over something that, realistically, can be used a handful of times.
While the average prepper can’t purchase a private off-the-grid island, refurbish a cold-war missile silo, or even buy secluded acreage to build a bug out home, the need to secure a geographical location is essential to long term survival. The first location to secure is your own home or residence. Understand your home in terms of defensible perimeters, lines of sight, and zones of control. You may not have an acre long driveway, but you probably have a walkway or hallway that leads to your front door. There are several blogs on CityPrepping that cover securing your home.
The second is having a bugout location if you find yourself in a genuinely SHTF situation. Again, you do not have to have the resources to buy and build on the best and most secluded acreage. In an awful case necessitating your need to bugout, you are not going to be able to pitch a tent on someone else’s land, either. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find a location secluded and off the beaten path enough that you could hide out if the world is falling apart. Is there a network of caves you once visited as a child? Do you have in your supplies and skills what you would need to survive, on your own and independently, hidden away from the eyes of others or the scrutiny of the government? Without a bugout location, even one you don’t own, you become a victim of the herd. When the military forces you for the common good in one direction or the other, you have no choice. To prevent this, make sure that you have a good paper map and a few good ideas. Maybe even plan and practice a route or two. Just like the ultra-rich, you should have a plan for hunkering down and protecting yourself as well as a strategy to escape to safer locations.
4- How You Are Better Off Than the Rich
As different as some of us may seem from the ultra-rich, we share several critical outlooks and are better off in some ways. If we went down a tick list of things to prep for, they would be similar, but maybe structured differently: civil unrest, terrorism, the collapse of the economy, EMPs, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and so forth. Our abilities to prep for each one are disparate. Let’s face it; we won’t be able to evacuate with our pilot and her family to our tropical island. In some ways, though, we are better off.
First, we have the opportunity to do it for ourselves. In an actual grid-down situation or one where the economy has completely collapsed, no amount of stored weapons will compensate for the skill of hunting and fishing. Still, a person familiar with a Remington 760 and where a game trail is will be the richest man in a grid down situation. As we have said before, knowing how to fish is more important than all the best of the best tackle. Do you know medicine, how to cook, sew or knit, brew beer, or make cheese? If you do, your value just went way up.
Second, we have a more significant opportunity to build networks and communities. While bringing a great deal to the table with their hoarded stores, the ultra-rich have a more challenging time building a network of skilled individuals. Whom should they, whom could they trust? Whom could they let into their secure compounds? How long until even the most secure of their compounds is overrun by sheer numbers of people looking to survive? Yet, the average person has a better read on his fellow average person. You can more keenly assess someone’s value to your network. You can better determine how the average person might help you to leverage the resources of an area. It’s your fellow person in your prepping community that is likely to ride to your rescue when the chips are down. It isn’t going to be the remotely compounded ultra-rich, former silicon valley executive with his tricked out bug-out vehicle hardened against EMPs.
Finally, as far as the ultra-rich’s long vision reaches, it is far removed from the middle of the pack, the day-to-day, what we see, and what we know. So, while we should be aware that the ultra-rich are prepping in extraordinary numbers right now for many reasons, it’s important to note that they may not be prepping for the right scenarios. They are prepping to try and maintain a lifestyle. You are prepping to survive in the worst of calamities. There is a difference, even if just a subtle one.
We can’t exactly hop our private jet with the pilot’s family and flee to our isolated sanctuary. We can: have escape routes to safer places, have a grab-and-go-bag, have the means to purify water, have a skill that brings value to the table. COVID-19 has initiated both the rich and poor to the prepper community. As the rich and the poor and the middle-income folks realize how hard isolation and independent survival can be, we all seek the Ultimum Refugio, the last resort, the last refuge. We are collectively aware of the hurdles we face. Now is the time to double down on your efforts. As recent times have demonstrated, food and supply shortages can reach even the most affluent neighborhoods. The only insulation from a disaster that you have is your knowledge and preparedness. Neither of those depends upon your income. So, yes, the wealthy are prepping for reasons to which we should pay attention. You should be prepping, as well, and the odds are better in your favor, even though the resources you have may be less.
As always, please stay safe out there.