The Art of Bridge Building

Posted by FeelingAwake
FeelingAwake
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on Monday, 04 June 2012 in Sign Posts

I was hoping to have a few weeks or even months to ease into my new weekly column, without having to go straight to the doom. But it seems that circumstances are going to force my hand here. After watching the last few weeks and into this week, I have to admit that the long 18 to 24 month calm period since the last nut scrunching drops in the global markets, appear to be over.

Much like the summer of 2008, the summer of 2012 appears to be taking on the same up and down action, with each up going further up, and each down leg going even further down. If you remember the heady days of mid to late 2008, the markets would see 300, 400 even 700 point drops in a single day, only to see the next day jump an equal amount to the positive. Friday saw the first 250 point plus drop in a long time on the DOW and I would expect there to be an equal jump in the markets during this week (I am typing this Monday Morning before market open) to the upside. We might see a sideways day Monday and Tuesday due to the markets in England being closed, but do expect a “feel good” day where the market commentators can all exclaim that now is the time to bottom feed for good bargains.

I am not a market watcher per se. I only use it as an indicator (sign post) of the broader economy and how it can come to affect me on a personal basis. That is the whole point of this on-going article, it is to give you sign posts as to where this is all heading. And the DOW (and other equities markets) are good sign posts to divine what is coming and how soon.

For the past 18 to 24 months I have almost stopped watching the markets on a daily basis, simply because nothing was happening. And it makes sense, seeing as that there was a global and concerted effort to keep the markets propped up by any and all means. I won’t regurgitate all the extraordinary efforts they have used to keep up the appearance that all is well in the world of economics, just understand that it was unprecedented in the annals of history. And as such you need to be thinking about ways to protect you and yours as we enter this next phase of our collapse. I will give you some lessons that I learned as we entered the initial phase of real collapse in 2008 and hopefully you can take something positive out of this article.

I can remember as if it were yesterday, the summer of 2007. I was in Ames Iowa and the Republican straw poll that takes place there every four years. I was there to support the fledgling presidential run of Congressman Ron Paul. I had spent the past year stringing up Ron Paul for President signs on expressway overpasses in the middle of the night, and spending my days voting up Ron Paul in any and all online polls. From 2006 when he first announced (and I literally wrote a check and sent it to his new campaign) to the summer of 2007, saw him rise from complete obscurity to at least some semblance of notoriety. Especially because he was being proven right on a daily basis as it related to the deteriorating economy. I remember sitting in a bar over that weekend and hearing the news that several Bears Sterns funds had been suspended due to losses and the markets fell like 3 or 4% that Fiday.

This was the beginning of the nearly 18 month saga that concluded at the end of 2008 and into the early parts of 2009. It was this 18 month period that re-defined who I was, and how I was going to react to this ongoing and never ending crisis. And it is from here that I hope to give you some sound advice and some real plans to work towards to prepare for this next leg down.

The first lesson you should take from my 18 months of soul searching is this… KEEP YOUR JOB! This was a huge mistake I made in the later part of 2008. I had worked for a fortune 500 company for nearly 10 years. It was directly tied to automotive and as such it had been falling apart for several years. 2008 saw massive lay-offs and non-stop bad news on all fronts. I remember being called into a big meeting at my plant, where I was one of 4 I.T. support personnel. I recall saying to myself (and after talking to my wife), that there was likely to be 1 of 3 things said at this meeting. One was going to be immediate and massive layoffs. Two an across the board 10 or 15% pay cut for all salaried employees. Or three; BUYOUTS! I got into the meeting and on the first slide it said “Buyout for salaried employees”. I almost let out a shout of happiness that they were actually going to pay ME TO LEAVE the company.

Long story short I took the buyout and got nearly 8 months of pay in one massive payout, which also allowed me to collect unemployment from nearly day one. This was exactly what I wanted. I took the money we received and paid off all kinds of debt. And I also went on a spending spree to purchase things I thought would help us navigate the coming collapse which I was positive was coming at any moment. I bought a 3 fuel (NG, Propane Unleaded Gas) generator from Yamaha. I bought a Xantrex whole house inverter and a bunch of Marine batteries to power my house in the event of power outages. I bought tons of food and canned goods. I did all the good doomer prep things you are supposed to do.

I then started my garden and put up my green house and I spent nearly 18 months re-organizing my life. I did side work and tried to start a home computer repair business. My unemployment benefits ended after 12 months and the last 8 months were funded by my buyout. By the end of 2009 things had not fallen apart yet. BUT IT WAS GOING TOO! 2010 started and by February it was becoming frustratingly obvious that they had “saved” the system and that things were not going to fall off a cliff.

The food I had bought for the pantry was now nearly a year old, and since I hadn’t bought it over time, it was all going to go bad at the same time if I didn’t use it all up. The batteries were now over a year old and all the things I purchased were sitting mostly unused, but were there “just in case” things fell apart.

So here are the lessons you should learn from my premature pulling of the rip cord. NEVER UNDRESTIMATE THE POWER THAT BE! And always cover as many bases as you can, and try not to put all your eggs in one basket. I made a HUGE mistake in 2008 that almost cost me EVERYTHING. I almost lost my house in 2011 as I found it harder and harder to get a job since I had let my resume go cold. I had over 14 years experience in IT network management and I couldn’t even get a freaking call back. My wife’s job was on the rocks as she was a teacher and we lost our medical insurance.

This was a very hard time for us and only by a string of good luck did I finally get a shit job as a Network security person, which was just a fancy term for a guy that sits and watches alarms on the network and calls them in to the proper teams. It paid 1/3’rd of what I made in 2008. But it led to another better paying job. And that one led to an even better paying job. And in the end I made it back to another fortune 500 company making about 10% more than what I was making in 2008.

This story could have ended much differently. And I hope you listen to my lessons learned here. I am a big proponent of the numbered lists. So I will end my article with a tick list of all the stupid freaking things I did in 2008, and I hope you can learn from them.

 

1) DO NOT LEAVE A GOOD JOB. Even if it is soul crushing and sucking all the life out of you, you make sure you stay employed. I know you probably have visions of starting a home business and getting to stay home with the kids and hunkering down. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you had better be damn freaking sure the idea will work. And you don’t need to quit your job to find out. I could have went right back to work after my buyout and I could have been so far ahead. But I let my conviction that we were going over the economic water fall, blind me to the reality that things can hang on a lot longer than I could have ever thought possible. I could have taken on a 3rd shift job and used my time during the days to see if a home computer repair business was possible. I could have slowly built up a clientele and then left the new job a year later under a lot better circumstances.

2) PRETEND AS IF THE WHEELS WILL NOT FALL OFF. Since you are on a website called Collapsenet.com. I think it is safe to say you have your priorities straight. You understand the dangers that lurk out there and you have taken the hardest of all steps and that is acceptance that things may dramatically change over the course of the next few years. But you need to keep living in both worlds. Most of us are not lucky enough to have seen this coming decades ago, and as such we cannot just quit our jobs, and go and live on a self-sufficient farm. So it is incumbent upon you to keep you and your family fiscally solvent during this time of strife and collapse. This means preparing for the worst but HOPE FOR THE BEST. This is easier said than done for the doomer mindset. You have to segment your life into two diametrically opposed sides. On the one side you have the knowledge that things are going to change for the worse. Possibly orders worse than the Great Depression. On the other side you drive in your car, you type on the internet, you eat out at restaurants and you take the kids to little league or boy scouts. YOU must learn to live in both worlds at the same exact time and with nearly equal fervor. Go to work and do a good job! Make sure that you are not the guy/girl that gets let go during the next layoff round. Make sure your kids are not robbed of the childhood because mom or dad is so pre-occupied with collapse that they ignore their kids. Make them part of your plans. Take them out to the garden and teach them to plant. Teach them how to shoot and maybe even take them out hunting with you. The point being… LIVE YOUR LIFE. Use the time you have been given to slowly(speeding up as the situation warrants) to move from your “normal” life to your “new” life. Spend your free time doing all the things you know you need to be doing. Gardening, Learning to Hunt, Shooting skills(both firearms and archery). Gathering things you know you will need in the future, like non electric tools, materials, etc.

3) DO NOT GO AND BUY A CRAP LOAD OF FOOD. This one is easy. Do not do like I did and buy all your food at one time. You have time! Start today, and setup a shelf in the basement or the closet. Go and buy a little bit of everything. Next week do the same, week after that, the same. Just make sure you keep doing it and inside of a few months you will have a nicely stocked pantry. Make sure it is stuff you will actually eat on a daily basis and rotate religiously. I didn’t do this. And now I have a lot of stuff that is at its expiration date and unless I eat it soon, will go to waste.

4) KEEP PAYING YOUR DEBT LOAD. This will be the most controversial. And I would like to clarify what I mean by this. Many doomers stopped paying for their debts in 2008, thinking that it was all going to fall apart. Well it didn’t and the tax collectors and the debt collectors hound them mercilessly. I did my best to stay on top of my debt. I used a fair amount of my buyout to payoff things like Student Loans and the last of the loan on my old car. I paid off my Credit Cards and cut them up. We were left with the mortgage and a car payment(for a little bit newer car), my wife’s student loans and our monthly utilities. I cannot tell you how much this saved our asses in 2009 and 2010. Since we had reduced our monthly nut to such a low level, we were able to keep on top of things a lot longer than we would otherwise have been able. But because I was unemployed for so long, we still ended up falling behind on the mortgage and her student loans. But I finally got a good job, and we dug out. Here is the bigger point. So long as you are playing in the world of jobs and loans and banks and the rest, you had damn well better keep yourself legal. This means that if you are going to stop paying your visa payment or that old consumer loan, you had better do it right! Declare bankruptcy if you have to, or let it go into collections and then come back to them after 3 months of no payments, and low ball them with a payoff amount of 50% of the total. Whatever you do, DO NOT ignore your debts. This doesn’t mean taking it up the rectum by the banks, it simply means have a plan that is more involved than just walking away from your debts because “the system will implode tomorrow, so I will just stop paying”.

5) LEARN A NEW SKILL AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN. Days are for propping up your current life, evenings and nighttime is for building your bridge to the next life. I skipped this part and almost paid dearly for it. I leaped from my half completed bridge in 2008 and “hoped” that I could make it to the other side. Guess what? I didn’t even come close. I got very lucky and made it back to my side of the bridge and now I am back on it. I try and spend my evenings and nights educating myself and learning new skills. I went deer hunting for the first time ever last fall. This was something I had always wanted to try. I made it happen last year. I now have all the equipment I need to hunt. The only thing I am missing now is the skill to actually do it. This fall my brother and I will be out there trying it again. You should be learning to grow things, even if it’s in a bucket. You should be learning about how to watch the markets, to give you a hint as to when something really bad is going to happen (that is why you are here on collapsenet!).

The bigger point of this article is to learn to live two lives for now. For many, you are 90% bought into the system and 10% doomer. Your job should be to quickly as you can, reverse that ratio. But doing it in a way that doesn’t include you throwing yourself into the water and “hoping” that you will make it to other side, chances are YOU WILL NOT! Make a plan and stick to it every single day. I had a plan in 2006 and 2007 and I was following it, I panicked in 2008 and jumped off the bridge I was creating and almost fucked it all up. Learn from my experience and keep building your bridge.

Come here to Collapsenet.com to understand how fast you should be building. I won’t lie to you, if you are just getting started on your bridge, you are WAY BEHIND. But this doesn’t mean you are doomed. My brother just woke up to all of this in 2009, nearly 5 years after me. He has surpassed me in every single way in regards to moving from being 100% in the system and ZERO % doomer to being probably 40% in the system to 60% doomer. I am likely 50/50 at this point.

And always stay positive. Understand that you will be constantly plagued by depression. Understand how to deal with depression and how to spot it early. The best cure for doomer depression is action. And the best action is derived from a well thought out plan of attack. MAKE A PLAN.. STICK TO IT.. KEEP BUILDING YOUR BRIDGES!

-Robert F Denner.

 

 

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