If you are reading this article, and are on this site, you are probably more than awake to the fact that life can throw some pretty nasty curveballs your way. Sometimes it seems random, bad luck, and other times you’d swear that God had it in for you personally.
That’s why we are all here, and all do what we do to prepare: we want to be ready to meet those crises head on and prevail, or if we can’t do that at least minimize the damage or just get out of the damn way.
Natural and man-made disasters, civil unrest, disintegrating culture and outright collapse of empire are all serious existential threats that most of us are all too aware of.
But there are other kinds of disasters that life can throw at us, ones that are very personal but no less devastating. The kind of disasters that don’t burst forth with sound and fury but instead seem to lie in wait for the unwary like a tar pit; unforeseen and unforgiving.
I’m referring to things like job loss, a major health crisis and family schisms. The things in life that, sadly, many of us will go through at some point.
We all know people, friends or family, who have endured these things and come out the far side changed, and not changed for the better. In this article, I will be departing somewhat from my usual content to talk about how you might best prepare for these all too personal disasters.
People, and the Bad Things that Happen to Them
I could go on for hours writing just about all the bad and terrible things that can happen to people. Good people, bad people, the innocent, the guilty, none are truly immune from a twist of fate, and all the guises that it may take.
I am not making too broad an assertion when I say that we all know someone whose life was turned upside down by an event that would never, not in the most liberal definition, ever qualify as a real “disaster.” Funny that, cause the destruction and dysfunction left in the wake of such events may reap no less terrible a toll than one.
If you have yourself or someone you know lived through one of these events- unemployment, a financial meltdown, a health crisis, even homelessness– you can attest to the life-altering stresses brought to bear.
Racing thoughts, panic, crushing hopelessness and fear, ever-present fear. Fear of what might happen to you, or your family. Fear of what people will think of you and your perceived failing or shortcoming. Fear of an uncertain and unknowable future. Guilt. Shame. Anger. As far as toxic emotional cocktails go, this can be among the worst.
It is in many ways easier for some to grapple with a clearly understood phenomenon like a natural disaster, no matter how awful, than the nebulous and uncertain doom that can result from a tumultuous life event. Those threats are all clearly external, not internal, in nature.
While a feeling of helplessness can always result from falling victim to any kind of extreme and life-threatening/life-changing event, this is often more likely and more insidious when it results from an internal instance.
If you or a loved one have a serious health crisis on your hands, one that perhaps requires the most specialized (and expensive) care to treat, you may rightly feel entirely inadequate to the task.
You are reduced to a bystander, or at best a caregiver. If you are the one suffering from the health problem you may be enraged and scared that your own flesh could betray you so. Talk about a massive ding to your confidence in your own capability.
Job loss and chronic unemployment can severely threaten the integrity and survival of person or family. Money may not make the world go round but it makes the turning tolerable.
Especially for those with dependents- spouses, children, parents, etc.- the inability to provide for them and the feelings stemming from that coming and going are nothing short of crushing. It is an ugly thing, but this more than many others can drive stress levels into orbit and sunder relationships.
A big part of any leader’s responsibility is to Provide, not just Protect. A lack of financial resources means sacrifice, then lack, then going without. Ultimately you are talking homelessness and malnutrition or even starvation. That is reality staring back at you.
Even with steady income, an ever-rising cost of living- food, housing and other commodities- means that your dollars do not go as far. It always seemed best to me to imagine your money shrinking if it wasn’t working.
Saving for a rainy day is fine, but if your money is not put to work making more money, at the very least to offset inflation, then your nest egg may be a jellybean before you know it.
This constant need to not only produce but to expand, grow and add income is a huge stressor for nearly everyone. It is not enough to hang on, to have enough, to get by; entropy is real, and if you are not outrunning it you will be nibbled away to nothing by it.
And then of course you can get the whole symphony of despair. I call it disaster dominoes, and it is the stuff that all great country and blues songs are made of. You lose your job and you can’t find work.
What meager savings and credit you have is quickly spent. Your spouse leaves and takes the kids. You know another, better suitor is waiting in the wings to poach them away from you.
Your vehicle is repossessed, the bank forecloses on your house and now suddenly, so suddenly, you are dispossessed: no family, no home, no vehicle and no hope, heck, not even a prayer from where you are sitting.
All you have left is your wits and your grit to rebuild your life. It happens all the time.
A Practical Approach to Dealing with Personal Disasters
Now, I have been through some rough, rough patches in my life. We all have, I know that. I am not of the mind to swap stories and compare scars. One man’s or one woman’s trial of a lifetime may be a simple study in perseverance for someone else. Context matters.
Furthermore your resources and resourcefulness matters. Your “wiring” matters; some people are almost suicidally brave when facing down personal, mortal danger, but go to pieces when a loved one is threatened with disease.
Many parents can attest to the ferocity and bravery that materializes when a child is imperiled, but they would otherwise describe themselves as not particularly courageous.
But, believe it or not, it is entirely possible to prepare for these kinds of personal life crises the same way as you might some typically discussed and fussed over natural or man-made disaster. It may seem a little strange to consider these highly personal events in such subjective light, but I can assure you can.
If you are a seasoned prepper or a gritty veteran survivalist, I know you already have the planning and procedure part of doing so down pat. The hard part is broaching the subject, even with yourself!
Let’s get real: when considering such things as relationship crisis or job loss, most of us are of the Honorable Ostrich School of Emergency Management. Stick your head in the sand and wait for the ominous, scary feeling to pass. With a little luck, it won’t happen to me.
Cue the dramatic sigh. Sadly, friend, hope is never a strategy, and luck always favors the industrious. You should be scared of a loss of income! You should be scared of falling terribly ill and all the second- and third-order effects that entails.
You should be scared that your family, if you have one, may be riven by infighting or seemingly irreconcilable grievances. That means you are a reasonable, rational human being.
So, what do you do, actually do about them?
Preparing for Life’s Bad Hands
In the following sections, I will offer my advice for preparing for the “Greatest Hits Album” of the nasty things that may befall you or someone close to you as an adult somewhere on the road of this thing called life. All of this is strictly practical advice in keeping with the tone of this site and much of my writing.
I will not be going off on ethical consideration tracts, as your value system and mine may be very different. That being said, the esoteric nature of much of the following means that addressing mindset issues is worthwhile, and I’ll offer my take on such things where appropriate.
Loss of Income and Unemployment
I have tackled this first because frankly it is among the most severe problems that any person can face, even here in the hand-out happy USA of 2019 and other Western nations. It has been said that money won’t make you happy.
Well, newsflash everyone: it sure won’t make you sad, and more importantly nearly all of us need it and whole lot of it to survive and prosper by the standards of the day.
Sure, if you and yours are content or even happy living in such way that all you want and need is provided by your labors to that end, more power to you. That being sad, the IRS may yet have something to talk to you about, and you cannot generally make “modern day” problems go away by paying in produce, eggs or livestock.
You need money. Money is among the most powerful tools at your disposal today. Enough money will see some problems literally evaporate, and if you really become wealthy, you are effectively operating under a different set of rules than everyone else. Barring you’re a near-100% self-sufficient homesteader, a severe enough lack of money will mean no food, no utilities, no home and no nothing.
So how do we make sure the bucks keep flowing? Is a good job enough? Sure, it can be, but insulating yourself against a loss of income is more than a good job and a savings account. What is truly needed is financial anti-fragility.
What do I mean by anti-fragility? Consider your own income as a man’s neck that supports your head. What happens when a man has his throat cut? You got it: death in short order.
Now, think of something like the hydra from Greek mythology. The hydra could not be killed by even such a terrible blow as cutting off its head. Instead, two heads would grow from the sundered neck! Cutting one of those would result in two more growing from that neck, and so on.
Before you know it, if you hacked away at this beast, it would have several heads on several necks, and be no worse for the wear, actually more capable than before it was attacked.
So bringing that example home, you want to be the hydra in this scenario, not the man. You need multiple, redundant, self-contained streams of income. How you accomplish this is up to you, but there is a plan for every person at every level of financial means.
I’ll use myself as an example. As you are all aware, I am a prolific writer of articles on this site and others. I get paid for that, and pretty well for the time involved. It is not my “day job,” my career. My day job is still predominately security consulting and the training of civilians in the use of firearms.
That isn’t all: I have several real estate investments that pay me monthly whether I work or not. I have also flipped several other properties for tidy profits by renovating them. Relationships I made in that business turned into other opportunities to include, if you can believe it, voice acting.
What money I do have saved is earning interest, even if it is only a nominal percentage to offset inflation. Now, I do keep a significant stash of cold, hard cash as a hedge against a major collapse of financial institutions, but that is a proper prep, not savings per se.
If I were to lose one or even a couple of the above income streams, I could ratchet up any of the others to offset or completely replace it, or at the very least slow the bleed enough to buy me plenty of time to get my hand on the next monkey bar with nary a lost wink of sleep.
I have a variety of skills that I can put to use for gainful employment in a variety of sectors. In my opinion, that will be more and more important as time goes on and we grow ever more litigious and face ever more turbulent economic waters. Specialization works great when everything else is great, but when things go pear-shaped, adaptability and flexibility most often win the day.
So what can you do? Well, you could duplicate my example, of course, but let’s assume that you have not followed my exact skill tree and career track. You can start to build your own anti-fragile income plan by doing the following, roughly:
1. Take Stock
What skills do you have that you can put to work? You can make money doing almost anything in the U.S., but you should focus on things that yield more money than things that yield less.
Remember: he who does more is worth more. You can do things, build things, fix things, or flip things. I have friends who have made a killing fixing and flipping junker cars.
One associate hit a bout of job loss, and decided to simply go door-to-door offering to clean people’s gutters for $30. Turns out he did better doing that than the job he left! Consider all options rationally.
2. Implement Now
Don’t wait for a rough patch to start hustling and building your secondary streams. I do all of my writing at night, for instance, after I finish with other obligations, training, etc.
You might be able to implement and work on your secondary source of income on specific days or at specific times. The sooner you start greasing the groove, the better off you’ll be.
Now that you have extra income coming in, what is the best use of it? If you can spare it totally, put it back to work someway. This could be traditional investing practices or even spending it on yourself.
No, I don’t mean a vacation or a new gun! I mean spending it in making yourself more valuable. What might that be? Is it new certifications or skills for your job? An entirely new skillset? A degree? Could it be reinvested in a way that will help you make more money easier? Could it be an assistant or employee that will help you make even more money?
4. Go Passive or Automate
Invariably the best way to make money work for you is to make it do all the work. Look for ways to hook up income streams that don’t require your active participation and oversight to make them produce. For me, that’s having rental properties.
Sure, I have to deal with oversight and periodic decision making, but a management company handles much of the day to day stuff with nary a blip, and I make a profit monthly. You can do the same thing, or consider something like a website that lets you profit from affiliate links and advertising.
You could start a small business and hire a few employees to do the labor, leaving you to call the shots. You only have so many hours in a day, no matter how industrious you are.
5. Cultivate Backups
You should endeavor to always be networking and pressing palms with friends, family and associates looking for opportunities, even if you only keep them in reserve. Sudden job loss or loss of income is not so scary when you have multiple opportunities and multiple people that can help you transition into something else.
With all the turmoil and uncertainty facing our country, it is not smart in my opinion to put all of your eggs in one basket with one source of income, no matter how certain you are about your indispensability or your prospects.
Having additional sources of income is essential, and having entire secondary skill sets that you can put to use in order to cope with shifting economic forces is priceless.
Not for nothing, if you have been a diligent prepper for a time you are also better equipped to handle total loss of income than most. Consider the fact that you probably have a sizeable stash of water, food, and other necessities like hygiene products and such.
Maybe you grow your own food or at least supplement it with a garden or livestock. No matter, those are all necessities that you won’t have to worry about when you must tighten your belt. Your bellies will be full. You’ll be clothed. You’ll have light. That’s preparation all right.
Dealing with a health crisis, either yours or a family member’s, is always a severe trial, one that tests the mettle of both your heart and your head.
Obviously, there are all kinds of injuries, illness, diseases and ailments that can befall you, and many of them result from accident or otherwise strike without warning, but among the worst are those that have the potential to incapacitate or cripple you.
This is one of the touchiest subjects for many folks based on the people I have talked to, and the idea that all of your hard work and choices up to that point seemingly amount to nothing in the face of your new reality (for however long it lasts) is terrible to consider. But consider it you must if you are to be truly prepared for all of life’s eventualities.
What is important in the context of preparing for a health crisis is understanding what kind of eventuality you are preparing for. Specifically, not all health crises are created equal.
You may be facing a relatively routine corrective surgery, lengthy rehabilitation, and loss of capability from an injury sustained after which you can expect your life to more or less get back to normal.
You could be looking at treatment to slow or forestall the onset of some slow and insidious ailment that will rob you of mind or body. And of course, tragically, you could be staring down the barrel of a terminal diagnosis. None of these are nice to consider, but you must, especially if you have family or other people counting on you.
No matter which of these you are facing, it pays to be a part of a truly committed, tight, family unit or tribe. My family took care of both of my grandparents when they fell ill. I will do the same for my mother.
Presently, I do not have a wife or children, and so will not have that afforded to me when I am that age, though my closest friends are as brothers to me were something to happen to me now. That kind of family culture and commitment is something you cannot buy. It must be built, it must be instilled by way of conscious, consistent nurturing and practice.
Even so, every family has its rogues, and some will not be dependable for the task. Better to set expectations and find out now than in gravest extreme.
Start with the least deleterious of these, a serious injury that will require surgery, rehab, the works. One must consider the first and second order effects of this eventuality, namely a loss of income, and the great expense of the medical treatment necessary if you want to A.) live and B.) regain mobility and normalcy.
The most obvious answer, for many, is to get health insurance. Easier said than done in this day and time. Health insurance is expensive, and even if you have a policy, you can absolutely count on your insurer trying to screw you. If you have to wrangle with them to get them to pay up, you may be deferring treatment in the meantime.
A better answer is, of course, have that rainy day fund stacked, or real assets that you can liquidate quickly to help pay for, or at least finance, the necessary procedures. It might seem like a bad play, but you must be alive and functional in order to right the ship.
What about the prospect of some slow-acting and deteriorative condition? That’s ugly, but at least you have the benefit of some amount of time. Use that time as best you can.
There is still much that you can do in the meantime, so it makes sense to plan ahead for it. What are the most important things you have yet to do for your people? Is this something you need to complete materially?
Is it something you need to impart or pass on to them? If you make it a point to constantly have your priorities front and center you will not struggle with indecision when the best years or months of your life are dwindling.
What about the big one? A terminal diagnosis? Again, as callous as it may sound there are practical things you can do to help the people you care about. The single most important one is a last will and testament. Make sure your estate is sewn up tight and sorted way before something like this even crosses your mind.
I know these are never pleasant things to think about, but doing something concrete about your end-of-life arrangements, even if it is just instructions to your survivors for dealing with your remains can do much to give you peace of mind and alleviate their anxiety. Probate is never a pleasant process. Don’t leave it up to the courts; see to your own affairs now.
Another nod for insurance is obtaining a life insurance policy, and this is one way to lessen the blow of your death if you are the breadwinner for your family or for people close to you. Even if you do nothing more than make sure the cost of your funeral and final arrangements are covered this will prevent an unexpected expense from nowhere for your survivors.
Treat all grades of health emergency as just another series of events in any disaster that may befall you, and prepare accordingly.
Disintegration of Relationships
This is another raw and touchy subject for folks, but it is also one that everyone today, I believe, feels even if they cannot quite put their finger on it or will not admit to it.
Face it: the nuclear family has been greatly strained and imperiled by a confluence of forces in modern life, some deliberate, others incidental. No matter the scale of them, they are very, very real. Especially for married couples, the number of people who are miserable and the number of divorces is high and remains more or less steady over time.
The strain of work and children alone in addition to the billion other daily things that surely and slowly sap our willpower bit by bit sees many people saddled with a sense of detachment and inevitability in their relationships.
Adult friendships are also subject to loss as life drags on, with the demands of life and distance that comes between people leading to once adamantine bonds of fidelity and fellowship growing brittle over time.
This is awful, of course, because the loss of important relationships are a fundamental source of pain and suffering for people but also because are terribly destabilizing to the lives of all involved.
I am not so naïve to say that every single relationship and marriage will hold together by dint of enough deliberation, attention and hard work, but I am saying that many that have failed might have been saved by deliberation, attention and hard work.
You must treat your valuable relationships with the focus and seriousness of a priceless resource, because they are. Every connection that you have made, and forged, that you lose is one that is harder and harder to replace as you get older. You aren’t in high school anymore. You opportunities for creating those bonds are rarer and rarer. Even if you do, you have less time left to cement them.
No relationship, platonic, romantic or otherwise, will endure in the face of neglect, and if it does, it isn’t a real relationship. You must make the time to fortify your bonds. For married couples in particular, your relationship is the bedrock, the literal foundation of the family unit.
I always puzzled over the couples that burn the candle at both ends to give their children their best lives now at the expense of their opposite number. It is madness: the children will be miserable and their prospects bleaker should something happen to their parents’ relationship.
A couple’s priority should be the care and nurturing of their bond to ensure that the family unit remains stable and viable. Happy parents most often make for happy children.
You are the leader(s) of the household. So lead. Create that strong family culture by example. Nothing should be more important than the family, and anything that interferes or imperils that should be dealt with appropriately.
I have known couples personally that were essentially strangers to each other because of a combination of different work schedules, sleep schedules, and a truly unbelievable activity schedule for one of the children that involved regular regional travel.
They were at the time some of the most miserable, desperate people I knew, but boy you would not think so from the pictures on social media… Don’t let things like happen at any cost.
Losing a friend, or letting your bond and rapport with them grow cold is sad, but also a bad play as far as your preparation is concerned: people that you can count on, at least peripherally, in a crisis are not to be taken for granted, and that is exactly what you are doing when you are only every once in a blue moon interacting with your people.
When was the last time you sat down to a meal with them? Helped them out of a jam? Did something together, just for fun or in service to your prepping goals?
Simple, little things like that can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your camaraderie alive. And you should endeavor to, because that may be the only thing that means the cavalry is coming when the balloon goes up.
Disasters come in all shapes and sizes, but none are so common and so trying as those of a personal nature. While they may be unavoidable in the conventional sense, you can prepare for these personal disasters life places in your path the same way as you would any other; by calm, measured assessment and disciplined application of your time, effort and energy.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.