Gaye Levy, Contributing Writer
I don’t think that there is any denial from the working class that we are still in the throes of a recession. And many also believe that if we are not in an actual depression now, we will be soon. The rising cost of food and health care, the elimination of the single-family home from the American Dream, the lack of jobs for the unemployed, and the wholesale underemployment of many with jobs . . . well even an economics dunce like me can see the writing of the wall.
Luckily, I am prepared. And even though some of my peers get tired of my continued emphasis on preparing for an uncertain future, the reality is that the door on the old way of life is closing and families of all types need to be ready. But my intent here is not to preach.
Instead, I have a special treat. My longtime friend George Ure has given me permission to repost his muse on the Perfect Modern Depression Family that was previously shared only with his $40 per year subscribers at Peoplenomics.
A Perfect Modern Depression Family
Don’t know as I’ve ever given you a sketch of where I’d be if I could design a perfect family situation for weathering a Great Depression, but it might be a family set up something like this:
• Dad works as a lineman for a utility company. He’s going to have a fairly steady job because people will want their lights on, but with people getting lights turned on and off, as they pay their bills, or not, he’d have lots to do pulling meters and so forth. Since climate change means more violent weather, lots of potential for pick-up hours, too. And at double time in some cases. Or, maybe dad is an x-ray tech, or runs an ultrasound or MRI machine in medicine. Lights and meds will still be around.
• Mom works as a grocery checker, or works as a meat cutter in the local store. Many still have meat cutters and they make good money, get good vacations and, yep, have an inside line on food stocks even when things start to run short.
• Johnny, their boy, has a paper route. He’s going to have a hot business on his hands because as people drop Internet connectivity, the small local newspaper could make a big come back, especially because people will be looking for local deals on everything. He wants to be a doctor when he grows up and since he’s on the honor role, he has a good chance of making it.
• Suzy, the daughter, has been really active in 4-H – so much so that she’s been getting hints from the teacher that she might get a full-ride scholarship to a state Ag school. She seems set for a good career and she’s thinking about becoming a veterinarian.
• The family house was purchased 19 years ago and has been refinanced recently, not to pull out equity, but to reduce the monthly payment to the smallest possible amount since the family knows tough times are coming. Resetting at 20 years, even though they had only 10 years to go, helps. I might not do it, but I don’t have to pay for kids, except for the ongoing school taxes.
• The family has slowly acquired about 100 ounces of silver and 10 ounces of gold.
• Did I mention Suzy has been doing a backyard garden and that Mom has been canning the past couple of years? Nothing fancy; some dill pickles, a few fruits and beans and tomatoes from the garden. These past few weeks, she’s been blanching and freezing other varieties.
• Dad’s gone off the deep end, putting a solar cooking rig in the back yard – sun-driven BBQ and oven while Mom’s order of a year’s worth of grains in nitrogen-packed containers came in a few weeks back.
• Uncle Bob is a dentist, and everything in the mouth is done and paid for with cash. The family’s 3 cars are all in good repair and in the area of 50,000 miles each, including the subcompact the kids share. Fresh tires on them all, too, since overseas sources may dry up in the Depression.
• The family all have library cards and have rediscovered reading. As a result, family dinners are lively and thought provoking conversation gatherings which build the family bond. Neighborhood kids come over, too, since the food is so good and it’s not like their homes at all.
The Worst Family Profile
If you think the first family has it made, you got it right! Contrast how an adverse time is going to work out for this family:
• Dad works for a financial services company selling annuities. He’s on the verge of losing his job because people aren’t buying that kind of financial product anymore.
• Mom was selling real estate, but since she just got into that in the fall of 2008, she hasn’t made hardly any money at it, and though she keeps hoping to get a few sales, like most agents, she’s only able to make $23,000 per year because of the downturn.
• Billy, their son, is totally immersed in video games and Goth. He’s on expensive ADHD medication and has a 2-second attention span on a good day. He’s eating almost exclusively a high-fructose corn syrup laced diet which has made him fat and his attitude is horrible. His grades are failing and he’s talk about dropping out in his junior year of high school. He spends a lot of time on the cell phone running up his phone tab alone north of $100 per month.
• Christy, the daughter, has turned into a drug-smoking slut, popular with gang-types, and lately with mom and dad at work, several items around the home have turned up missing, including Billy’s last cell phone which cost $350 to replace because he threw fits about needing a stylish phone.
• The family home is one payment from foreclosure most of the time. Dad hasn’t been able to bring down credit card debt, and with all seven cards the total is more than $60,000.
• They refinanced the house at the peak in 2008 and pulled out money for a new SUV, but that was wrecked the month after they bought it and the insurance didn’t pay off well, so they drive a four-year-old SUV with high miles. It’s going to need tires soon, but there’s no money for them, since they put custom 24″ wheels on it for appearances and those tires are $350 each now.
• At the end of each month, they are about $300 cash negative, but the bank cards have “helped”. The parents are praying for better jobs and sending resumes everywhere.
• Dad got called into the office next Thursday to meet with HR. He’s one step from fiscal disaster.
• The family doesn’t eat together, no one reads, and meals are expensive as a result with a high ‘fast food’ cost. Neighborhood kids come over to smoke dope, make a run at Christy, and see if Billy’s checked out so they can swipe some of his game cartridges.
Given a choice, I don’t think it’s too hard to figure out which family is going to survive a further 50% reduction of income. One is actually a family team, while the other is a haphazard collection of social ills residing under a common roof that may be ‘called’ any time.
Now I am sure that many families fall somewhere in between the “perfect” family and the “worst” family. The point, though, is to figure out where you are in this continuum and to begin taking the steps to move closer to a perfect family dynamic.
So what are some of the decision and choices?
One that sure comes to mind has to do with housing. Depending on your financial condition, age, and employment status, where you live may indeed become one of the most significant changes you can make to ensure your security in the second depression. Should you live in a single-family home, or a multi-generation shared residence? Should you move to a “cheap” state where property taxes are low and the cost of living is reasonable? How about moving to the country where you can grow your own food and raise chickens? Or, what about being geographically independent by living in a large motor home (dirt cheap right now) and roaming from one Wal-Mart parking lot to another?
Okay, I admit the latter option is a bit extreme but still, if all of your money is presently going toward housing, you need to rethink your situation and come up with alternatives, even if it means finding housemates or becoming creative in some other manner.
With the goal of becoming the Perfect Modern Family, I heartily endorse learning as much as you can about personal survival skills. Learn to cook, learn to sew, learn to build a fire and learn to fix stuff.
The other thing? Learn to become self-entertaining, and by that I mean learn to be happy with books, walks in the woods or the park, and the company of others who share like-minded and spirited conversations about things that matter.
Gut feelings are a funny thing – sometimes right and sometimes wrong – but as you age, you begin to trust those instincts more and more. There is no doubt in my mind that the old ways of doing things are long gone, and if you are “old as dirt” as I am, you just know that old ways will never return.
Gaye Levy, the SurvivalWoman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable, self-reliant and stylish lifestyle through emergency preparation and disaster planning through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com. SurvivalWoman speaks her mind and delivers her message with optimism and grace, regardless of mayhem swirling around us. Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!