Saturday, February 6, 2010

How much is enough?

If the world went to hell in a hand basket tomorrow would you have enough?

Enough what?

The answer is obvious: enough to get you through whatever it is. Whatever that is.

It matters not whether the "whatever" is depression, hyper inflation or any of the dozen or so long term disasters that could impact your life, when you get right down to it enough means enough to eat. Period.

Would you rather be hungry in a palace or satiated in a hovel? I'm guessing you'd go for the hamburger on a tin plate over the airburger on a gold plate.

Since air is free and abundant and water is nearly so when we talk about "enough" we're ultimately talking about food and the things that it takes to get food. For most of us that means money.

We give the grocer money and the grocer gives us food. But what if the value of the money decreased? Would the grocer still be willing to hand over the same amount of food for the same amount of money? Probably not. It's called inflation.

When it gets really out of control we call it hyper inflation and think of the Weimar Republic in 1923 Germany and fifty million Mark postage stamps but there are other examples of hyper inflation.

So how do we protect ourselves from hyper inflation? Gold? Silver? Foreign currencies? Food? True, we can get the latter by holding the former but there are translation problems. A gold coin may buy more groceries than you want but do you want to accept your change in a currency that's decreasing in value so quickly that the grocery store clerk who hands you your change demands to be paid twice a day so as to be able to afford to buy food on his lunch break before it doubles in price at quitting time?

Silver, particularly U.S. pre 1965 Junk silver dimes and quarters would come in handy at the grocery store.

If you look at recent hyper inflation in other countries you'll see currency black markets springing up overnight so having the right currency could be helpful.

The American dollar has been the currency of last resort for decades, but what do you resort to if the US dollar goes hyper? Swiss francs (CHF), New Zealand dollars ($) (NZD), Canadian dollars ($) (CAD), Australian dollars ($) (AUD) or maybe you'd like to bet on the Chinese Renminbi (¥) (CNY)?

Long term the Renminbi is probably the one to bet on, but let your grandchildren worry about that you're worried about being hungry tomorrow.

If the American dollar catches hyper pneumonia the rest of the world will catch an economic cold. You won't be able to escape hard times, but you can alleviate them by having some savings in a foreign currency in a foreign bank.

But why not eliminate the middle man? Most of the canned food in your grocery store now bears readable expiration dates. Join Costco or one of the other big box store clubs (I receive my membership fees and more back from Costco every year by using my True Earnings card from Costco and American Express) and save by buying canned goods (among other things) by the case.

Buy canned foods you normally eat. Store them in a cool dry place; a closet or your garage will do. Put the new stuff on the back of the shelves and eat from the front of the shelves always eating the oldest first.

But do you want the family fortune in cans of Campbell soup in the hall closet? Probably not, but a years supply of food would go a long way towards helping your family through a bout of hyperinflation. Having your savings in a foreign currency in a foreign bank would enable you to take care of your other financial obligations

And, of course, you'll want to have a bag or two of pre 1965 "junk" silver coins.

How much of any of the above is "enough"? Well, as Yogi Berra is said to have said "Prediction is difficult, particularly about the future." Exact amounts would depend on how long the hyper inflation lasted, but having preparations in place should help ease you through whatever comes.


HCF writes:

Zimbabwe has recently experienced the worst inflation in history. They survived. People are clever and find ways around things.

Zimbabwe may yet beat inflation.

Instead of change, some merchants resorted to hard candy as change. The ultimate solution for Zimbabwe was to disown its own currency and make American dollars, South African Rand, and Botswana Pula legal tender in Zimbabwe.

If it happened in the US, I'd expect Canadian dollars and Mexican pesos to be used if they had stable values. You do occasionally run across Canadian change in circulation in the US anyway.

In the longer term, especially if there was no viable alternative, expect precious medal coins to become the de facto medium of exchange. This is where silver coins are more useful than gold. Gold is great if you're trying to sneak out of the country. Silver is great if you want to buy staples in the market or a tank of gas.

Good point, HCF, I'm expecting pretty much the same thing (alternative currency wise) if hyperinflation hits the US dollar. If anyone were to ask me I'd say put your faith in precious metal coins (particularly US pre 1965 silver coins) and Canadian dollars.


To Comment on this article
E-Mail Me
Unless you specifically ask me not to, I'll post your reply here in the blog so everyone can read it. Of course I'll remove your last name, email and any other specific information for privacy purposes.