Thursday, March 19, 2020

Preparing for the Coronavirus Pandemic Depression: Mitigating the Coming Economic Collapse

Cheery headline, eh?

Are we on the precipice of a severe economic downturn? A short-term recession appears to be inevitable, but an actual depression? Like, as in “The Great Depression” depression? As unthinkable as that was even last week, it’s becoming more and more of a potential reality. 

At this point, we’re seeing the infection rate double every two days. We’re on pace for my earlier projection of 700,000 cases and 15,000 deaths by April Fool’s Day. As of right now, we don't know where this could go, but the CDC is estimating a worst-case scenario of 1.7 MILLION dead by the end of the year. That's unlikely, but still terrifying.

At this point, we’ve closed schools. Dramatically limited international travel. In most areas, we’ve banned any gathering larger than a handful of people. Sporting events are cancelled. Bars, restaurants, and casinos are closed. Slowly, any business based on face-to-face interactions are being shuttered. 

In the near future, we’ll likely see manufacturing plants close down. Dentists. Cosmetologists. Salespeople. Warehouses. Delivery companies. All retail stores. The only businesses that are likely to remain open are those providing emergency medical care, news agencies, grocery stores, gas stations, and liquor stores. The only institutions that’ll remain open are public safety, essential municipal services, and maybe education.  If you’re not directly involved in one of those industries, you’re likely going to be unemployed. At least temporarily. 

It's already happening here in Colorado.

Commerce around the world is grinding to a halt. And this cessation of commerce is likely going to last months, not days or even weeks. This pandemic is going to wreck the economy on a global scale that hasn’t been seen for almost a hundred years. Unemployment is going to skyrocket. Wages are going to fall. Depending on how governments respond, inflation may spike. The prosperity we took for granted just three weeks ago is going to disappear, and maybe for a long, long time.

It’s a scary proposition, especially for those of us who are economically vulnerable. Our government appears to be in the process of dumping piles of cash into the economy, which will be a welcomed lifeboat for many of us. But Uncle Sam’s pockets are only so deep. We all have bills to pay, and many of us are living paycheck to paycheck. Facing economic ruin is scary enough, but the dread multiplies exponentially when a huge chunk of the population suddenly finds themselves in the same boat. Every resource, both public and private, will soon be under tremendous stress, and we won’t be able to help everyone. In order to survive, you're going to have to take matters into your own hands.

Luckily, there are real, effective, actionable steps you can take today that’ll dramatically lessen the impact of the coming financial disaster for yourself and your loved ones. If you find yourself in this boat, start doing these things:

  1. Develop a survival mindset. Abandon the pity party immediately. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stop seeing yourself as a victim. Start telling yourself “I’m a survivor, and I’m going to turn this disaster into an opportunity!” As ridiculous as this sounds, this actually works to improve your mood, boost intrinsic motivation for whatever you’re doing, and results in measurable increases in positive outcomes. It’s also helpful to start adopting the principles of stoicism
  2. STOP BUYING STUFF! Money is now your most valuable resource; treat it as such. Stop buying anything that’s not directly related to your survival. Food and shelter are necessary. Assume EVERYTHING else is a luxury. If you do have to buy something like clothing, do everything you can to be as frugal as possible. Hit up the thrift stores. Garage sales (expect a lot of people to start selling personal possessions out of desperation.) And so on. If you work in a field that will continue no matter how bad the pandemic gets, you can afford some luxuries, but get ready to cut them at a moment’s notice. 
  3. Build an emergency stash of cash. In extreme economic uncertainty and a panicky public, banks suddenly become vulnerable. Be ready for the possibility that your bank may close and you cannot access your money. Keep at least $1,000 cash on hand, divide it up, and hide it around your home. If you don’t have $1,000, save what you can and slowly add to the stash.
  4. Eliminate waste. Learn how to reuse everything you used to throw away, including food. Thanks to the internet, we have a nearly-unlimited repository of ideas on how to reuse pretty much anything. Here’s a few ideas to start. Also reset your thermostats to save energy on both heating and cooling.
  5. Learn to cook healthy foods from basic ingredients. This will help stretch your food budget immensely, and probably improve your health. Start watching the Food Network. Start Googling recipe sites. If you’re completely unskilled in the culinary arts, check out Youtube for some really good how-to videos. 
  6. Reinforce bonds with those in your social network. Mutual aid and protection from your “tribes” is the reason we’re hard-wired for tribalism in the first place. Do whatever you can to help out those who matter to you, and they’ll be willing to do the same.
  7. Learn to forage. If you live around significant wilderness, figure out what wild plants and berries you have at your disposal. Just Google “edible plants of Colorado.” Or wherever you live. If you live in an urban area, read up on dumpster diving. As unappealing as it sounds right now, this is one of the easiest ways to acquire a wide range of foods.
  8. Identify ALL charitable groups in your area. This includes churches, food pantries, and soup kitchens. If you’re starving, these organizations could be an important lifeline. 
  9. Diversify your professional skill set. Jobs are going to become scarce in the very near future. The more you can offer a potential employer, the better your odds of keeping or attaining gainful employment. Some careers that will still be around include police and fire, any kind of security work, paramedics, truck drivers, farmers, utility workers, corrections officers, bartenders, and people who can effectively market stuff online. 
  10. Learn the skills our grandparents knew. Do-it-yourself skills become extremely valuable during severe economic downturns. Learn how to hunt and fish, how to sew and knit, learn basic plumbing and electrical work, basic home and auto repair, how to can and other food preservation methods, sharpening and making simple tools, butchering and curing meats, gunsmithing, wine and beer-making, metal and woodworking, cheese-making, candle-making, and, as previously mentioned, foraging… all of these skills have value. The more you learn, the better you’ll thrive.
  11. Learn from the experiences of others. Humans have been encountering these exact situations we’re about to be thrust into, so why not learn what they can teach us? Read up on the Great Depression and how people survived. Read up on the more recent financial collapses in Argentina, Greece, and Venezuela. This blog, written by a dude who survived Argentina’s depression in the early 2000’s, is an excellent resource.

These eleven things are relatively simple to do, and the earlier you begin, the more successful they will be. A severe, protracted recession or even depression isn’t inevitable, at least not yet. But the pandemic is going to get much worse before it gets better, and the worst-case scenario is pretty damn bleak. Right now, most people are either in denial that our lives are on the brink of radically changing OR banking on irrational hope that this situation will miraculously correct itself. 

Me? I like to face reality, and I like to have a plan if that worst-case scenario comes to fruition. Taking some of these steps right now, today, will give you a degree of comfort in the face of a decidedly unpredictable future. 

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll start sharing some of the specific things I’ve been working on here in my world in rural Western Colorado. Stay tuned!

Also, if you liked this post, please share it. Part of my goal with this blog is to connect with like-minded people across the globe. If you’d like to connect with me personally, shoot me an email to

Take care of each other, folks, and be safe.


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