by Adam Taggart, Peak Prosperity:
He who hesitates is lost.
Change, especially a collapse scenario, often happens quite fast. So fast that there's little to no time to react in the short frenzy between "before" and "after".
This is true throughout nature. Glaciers that took millennia to form calve off into the sea in a matter of moments. Old-growth forests filled with thousand-year-old trees can be decimated by a single wildfire. The bubonic plague "Black Death" pandemic of the Middle Ages killed one-third of the Earth's human population within just four short years.
Fast change is also a hallmark of human society. Movements and ideas -- oftentimes simmering for years, decades or longer -- suddenly reach a critical state in which the populace is swept up into history-making action. The outbreak of World War I. The Civil Rights movement. The dissolution of the USSR. The Digital Age.
When it comes, change happens swiftly. And life after -- for better or worse -- is forever different.
I've witnessed this time and time again since co-founding PeakProsperity.com. And in pretty much every instance, I notice that the vast majority of people -- including even many of the the watchful and preparation-minded folks who read this site -- are caught by surprise.
A good example of this was the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March of 2011. Of course, no one could have foretold the timing and scale of the tsunami, and virtually nobody expected that it could overwhelm the facility as spectacularly as it did. So in the immediate aftermath of the plant's failure, the world looked on in sympathy, not fear.
But on March 12th, that changed as the first of several hydrogen explosions was observed among the reactors. And then my phone rang.
It was Chris, my co-founder here at PeakProsperity.com. "I don't know exactly what that was, but it wasn't good", he said. Based on his background in the sciences, his strong assessment was that the situation at the plant was much more serious than was being publicly admitted to.
Since I live on the west coast here in the US, he advised me to consider getting a radiation detection/contamination protection kit -- "just in case". While we both hoped it wouldn't come to that, I quickly heeded the advice. I placed an order for a kit as well as a shipment of iodine tablets.
I was very lucky to have done so. Because just a few short hours later, as the world woke up to the worsening situation at Fukushima, anything related to radioactive contamination was sold out across the US. For months. The supply chain for that stuff was miniscule compared to the demand of a panicked nation.
If you were late to game -- and pretty much EVERYBODY but the extreme early-birds like me was -- you were out of luck. And vulnerable.
Now, thankfully, as horrible as the on-going crisis there still is (it's six years later and the radioactive fuel that melted through containment still remains in a molten state), the worst-case scenario didn't materialize.
But I still keep my contamination kit handy. More than anything else as a reminder of how fast things can change. And of the outsized value of early action.
More recently, we saw a similarly swift devolution of events at California's Oroville Dam this year. The west coast had suffered an especially wet winter, and an arrival of a Pineapple Express weather system in February didn't help the situation.
California residents were focused on flooding and mudslides in the usual places -- no one had any inkling that there was risk of larger infrastructure failures, let alone one at the tallest dam in the US. And, as the water levels rose at the Oroville Dam, the communication from state authorities was "All is fine. All is under control. There's nothing to worry about" -- until suddenly a mass evacuation of over 200,000 residents living downstream was ordered.
Not surprisingly, the subsequent panicked scramble resulted in tremendous traffic jams, slowing down the evacuation to a snail's pace. Residents had no time to prepare, buy supplies (if there were enough in their area to purchase), or line up a safe destination they could head for. They just had to grab what they could and flee as best they were able.
Again, everything appeared fine right up until the tipping point. Those with the foresight beforehand to pack a to-go bag, arrange a bug-out crash pad -- or better yet -- leave for a safer location until the waters stopped rising, fared much better than the herd who waited.
2008 Financial Crisis
On a more economic note, I've pointed out in a number of past articles how quickly things went south during the 2008 financial crisis. Even pundits like Chris and I, who warned for years it was very likely coming, were still shocked by how viciously it struck.
Most folks have preferred to forget how quickly the bubble popped. Between September and October, the S&P 500 lost one-third of its value. Poof!
Of course, the S&P then continued falling through March, ending at over 50% lower than its pre-crisis high. Millions of jobs were lost over these months. And the prices of other major assets from houses to bonds were savaged, too.
It all happened so quickly that most investors and homeowners were simply overwhelmed by the shock. Unsure what to do, they simply watched the price of their assets continue to fall -- praying for the carnage to end.
Timing Isn't Everything. Positioning Is.
They say that Timing is everything. I disagree.
Trying to time disruptive events is a fool's errand. In the years I've been involved in running this business, I've seen too many people make big bets (portfolio allocation, geographic relocation, job change, etc) because they were rock-solidly convinced a major change event was 'imminent'. Most of those folks eventually regretted the costs of their haste as the status quo continued to muddle on much longer than they'd expected.
Anyone who predicts with exactitude about the when of future events is deluding either you or themselves. More likely, both.
BUT, we can predict the what (i.e., what will happen) with much greater precision. And that's where advantage can be gained.
For instance, many of those paying attention in the years leading up to 2008 had arrived at the conclusion that bad policies and overly-loose lending standards had resulted in mal-investment on such a grand scale that a massive clearing event was inevitable. Did they know the date of the tipping point? No. But they knew the probability for a major financial crisis increased with each year.
Those who positioned themselves -- prudently -- in advance avoided the losses that everyone else took. As The Big Short detailed, some were even able to profit wildly from their foresight (though admittedly, this was just a rarified few).
The adjective "prudently" is important here, because here at PeakProsperity.com we emphasize risk management, not speculation. Our goal is to maximize our odds for prospering no matter which future outcome arrives. Yes, the intent is to enjoy the best (risk-adjusted) return in building our wealth as possible. But it's important to understand that sometimes 'prospering' simply means losing less than we would have otherwise, should events go against our expectations.
So for those looking to protect and growth their wealth, our advice is to focus on the positioning for highly-predictable events rather than their timing.
This is the same logic underlying an insurance policy. Illness/injury, car accidents, house fires -- the timing of these, if they happen at all, is unknowable. But should they happen, insurance only has value to you if you procured it in advance.
The exact same is true across the spectrum of the Eight Forms Of Capital (for those unfamiliar with this framework, it's the guidance we offer for building "true wealth" in life). Don't wait to invest in your health until you've developed a chronic condition. Don't put off building community before a crisis (injury, job loss, etc) forces you to ask for help from others. Don't forget about creating an emergency kit until some disaster (hurricane, earthquake, flood, etc) hits.
For those who put off taking advance action, it may be simply "too late" in a number of scenarios should the status quo quickly change.
Don't be an 'avoidable victim'. For the events you calculate are likely to happen, assess your current level of preparedness and take steps now to shore up any deficiencies. As you do this, ask yourself: What would I absolutely regret not having in place should this happen tomorrow? Make that list your top priority.
To help you in this, we have a self-assessment form, which you can download for free here. We use it at our annual seminar each year, so it's pretty well-honed at this point.
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