In 2012, Hurricane Sandy, also known as Superstorm Sandy and “Frankenstorm”, struck the northeastern United States, causing massive devastation, and loss of life. Sandy developed in the Western Caribbean on October 22nd, moving north through Jamaica, Cuba, the Bahamas, and most of the Western Caribbean. On its way north, Sandy impacted 24 U.S. states. To make matters worse, Sandy merged with a winter storm, producing a rare hybrid in what is known as a Fujiwhara effect. As the storm made its way up the Eastern seaboard, states in its path made disaster preparations, and President Obama signed a state of emergency letter for the state of New York on October 26th. New York City canceled school for 1.1 million students, ordered 375,000 residents to evacuate from low-lying areas, and opened more than 76 evacuation shelters around the city, according to an article in MarketWatch.
Three days after Sandy hit New York, CNN aired heartbreaking footage of a Staten Island woman who pleaded for help. She said “We're gonna die, if we get killed with the weather. We're gonna die, we're gonna freeze. We got 90-year old people. Please! The pres... we have no cars, don'tcha see? We need the... please...the President Obama, please listen to us down here, we are gonna die. You don't understand, you gotta get your trucks here on this corner, NOW! This is three days!”
As tragic as the story was for this woman and the countless others who were in the same situation, this incident highlights the harsh reality that most people are unprepared. In spite of the fact that for the previous week, news stories covered the devastation of the approaching storm, and government entities set aside resources to prepare for the disaster, this woman was afraid that she would not survive after only three days without government assistance. Her story should serve as a sobering warning for today, that we need to be prepared to take care of ourselves in an emergency.
Sadly, most people fall into the category of the unprepared. They live their lives from day to day without thought or preparation for disaster. In the example of the Staten Island woman, even though she knew a week ahead of time that the Superstorm of the Century was heading her way, she was unprepared to survive for more than three days without government help. Many people around the country were unprepared when the Corona Virus first arrived in the United States, and many are unprepared for what the coming months or years may bring.
What about you? How long will you be able to last under the current conditions? You have electricity, running water, and all the supplies that you have available in your home at this moment. What if conditions deteriorate? What will happen if the quarantine orders last for months longer, stores run out of supplies, and the economy comes to a standstill?
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in the U.S. barely managed to stay afloat, in spite of living in a country that offers unlimited opportunities. They will be the first to suffer when the economy stalls, and government aid implodes. According to a 2017 CNBC story quoting from CareerBuilder, 78 percent of full-time workers said they live paycheck to paycheck. 56 percent said they were over their heads in debt. Even among those with an income of $100,000 or more, 59 percent said they were in the red. Clearly, most people in the U.S. are not financially prepared for unexpected disasters. But surely people are prepared for anticipated expenses, right?
The following statistics from an article from The Motley Fool show the dire financial condition of many baby boomers: The baby boomer generation, or those born between 1946 and 1964, make up a substantial portion of the U.S. economy. They are also entering retirement age in large numbers. According to the AARP, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every single day. Having had their entire lives to prepare for their inevitable retirement, you would expect baby boomers to have prepared well ahead of time, right? This, however, is largely not the case. The median 401(k) balance of someone in the 55-64 age group was $177,805, according to a report from Vanguard. Using the “4% rule” of retirement, this translates to sustainable income of just $7,112 per year in retirement. Worse yet, 45% of baby boomers report having no retirement savings whatsoever. Not surprisingly, baby boomers want to save Social Security. Two-thirds of baby boomers think preserving Social Security and Medicare for themselves and future generations is more important than reducing the deficit. Most baby boomers favor increasing Social Security benefits and taxes paid by working Americans.
What can we learn from these examples to apply to the current COVID-19 crisis? It's too late to prepare for the coming of COVID as it is already here. It is not too late to start preparing for what will come next, though. If the government continues to pursue statist policies, we can expect that the economy and our freedoms will suffer over the coming months and years. Prepare yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally to become resilient to the coming changes. Right now is the time to get your own finances in order to make it through a prolonged depression. Build a business or another method you can use to create value for yourself and others. Start planning for various contingencies. Prepare yourself and your family for potential unrest or violence. Set up a communication plan for your family, friends, and support network. You will all need each other as things get tough. As the future is uncertain, no step by step guidance will apply to everyone. Evaluate your personal situation, identify your own strengths and weaknesses, and make the preparations that apply to your own situation.