Let’s assume that there has been a financial collapse. Maybe inflation set in, followed by hyperinflation. Maybe we went to war with China over Taiwan and while we did not exactly lose, neither did we completely win. Regardless, the dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency and its value is dropping fast, dragging the country along with it.
You, and most of the people you know, are unemployed, but you get $10,000 a month from the government. That sounds like a nice sum, but a gallon of milk is $500 and a loaf of bread costs $350. Most of the fast-food restaurants have closed because a double cheeseburger costs $7,000 and doesn’t even include real meat anymore. The cows are likely out there somewhere, but there are no meat packers working and truck drivers are hard to come by. Most of the retailers have closed because the dollar won’t buy anything on the international market, so Asian manufacturers have stopped selling us goods. There are some U.S.-made goods, but no one can afford them.
Assume also that our trip towards becoming a third-world country accelerated. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, the dependent became more dependent, and many people are angry and at loose ends. Most people have been laid off, the utilities work intermittently when they work at all, and fuel is so expensive that the streets are empty because most people cannot afford to drive. The rich live in exclusive sections of town behind walls guarded by private security armed with automated weapons with carte blanche to shoot anyone who looks like trouble. They drive about in convoys and their chase trucks mount duel .50-caliber machine guns.
The government barely functions because they stopped paying their employees, the banks have been looted, the stock markets have closed, and the corporations have shut down or moved overseas. The hospitals ran out of supplies and are largely abandoned; the schools shut down early in the crisis, and no one answers when you dial 911.
Jobs that pay a living wage, meaning $750,000 to $1 million a month, are hard to come. In any case, no one in your family has one.
How to you afford to live?
When the jobs disappear, you barter, you trade, you work off the books, and you form networks that support each other. You use your skills to generate off-the-books income. If you have no skills, then you use your strength and work, the very definition of manpower. Here are some examples:
Sell or Trade your Surplus
You are a prepper, so let’s assume you have a stash of something. Maybe it’s ammunition. Maybe it’s garden seeds. Perhaps it’s antibiotics. Whatever you have, you can trade it or sell it to raise cash.
In the above list, garden seeds are the best item because you can replenish your supply each year by saving seeds from your garden. The problem with something that is desirable is that someone may rob you or kill you to get it. They might kidnap a family member and try to extort it out of you. If the police still exist, they might arrest you and threaten to “disappear” you unless you turn it over to them. For this reason, it may be better to sell or trade simple items that are useful but not valuable, like gallon jugs, 5-gallon buckets, or homemade rat traps.
Sell Something you Make, Grow or Raise
An obvious example here is moonshine. There’s going to be a market for alcohol, and they looted the liquor stores long ago. People around here sell microgreens, candles and soap at the farmers’ market. All will still have value post-SHTF.
In our case, we could sell or trade four or five dozen eggs a week. We would just have to guard our chickens with our lives because people will want to steal or eat them. During the summer, we could also raise a couple of clutches of chickens to increase our egg production, sell for meat, or sell to people who wish to raise their own eggs. We can also sell honey and possibly a few bee hives or nucs. That alone won’t support us, but it will help. Maybe it won’t be too late for us to start raising rabbits.
Maybe you can knit. Pick up a few ugly Christmas sweaters at the thrift store, unravel them to salvage the yarn, and knit socks, mittens, or caps; people will need them in the winter when there is no natural gas, and socks wear out fast when you are on your feet all day. If you have a wooded lot, you could cut and sell firewood or make charcoal and sell the charcoal. If you have a stash of flour, make something simple like pretzels or flatbread and sell them on the street. Use the proceeds to buy more flour on the black market. There will still be a market for food, but not at $7,000 for a double cheeseburger. You need small, bite-sized hand-held morsels that are cheaper.
Provide a Service
If you had a side gig, you might find that it becomes your main gig. This could be anything from welding or repairing small engines to home sewing. If you have a solar power system, you could charge people’s electronic devices or 12-volt batteries for a fee or trade. While hospitals may be closed, people will still need bones set, wounds stitched, teeth pulled and other basic medical and dental care. Nurses, EMTs, paramedics and dental assistant could hang up a shingle. Babies will still need to be delivered, creating the need for midwives. There could be a resurgence of herbalists and other medical services to help replace the prescription medicine industry.
Perhaps you were a shade tree mechanic. People are going to need things repaired or rigged to run on alternate power sources. Can you convert a washing machine to run on a 5-horse power lawn mower engine? Or can you take in laundry? Or repair and patch clothing?
If you have a scooter or bicycle, people might need a courier or messenger. HAM radio operators could send messages around the country or around the world for pay.
If you reload ammo, that could be an option as long as your components hold out. Because it takes skill and specialized tools and knowledge, not just anyone could do it. Gunsmithing is another option.
Then there’s sex work. I guess you could call this the oldest service in the world. If you have no other options, it may be one way to put food on the table.
Work for Someone with Money
The elite will still be hiring. They will need guards, drivers, maids, cooks, gardeners, dog walkers, and tutors for their children. They might need seamstresses and tailors, mechanics, a handyman, or other household help. Getting in with them could be very useful, especially for a single person with no dependents who might get room and board within their walled compound.
Beyond the elite, successful entrepreneurs will be hiring. Those two guys who started distilling corn liquor are likely going to build their business. They will need help with distribution, security, and someone to source bottles and jars. I expect the illegal drug trade will also flourish. (How good were you at chemistry?)
Without the police and judicial system, there will be more crime. You could consider a crime or a con. (Maybe targeting the elite.) Of course, crime will also create a high demand for private security and bodyguards. If you have military experience or have some training, you might be able to hire yourself out. Uniforms won’t matter much, but those who need protection will snap up people with their own guns and ammo who to act like they know what they are doing.
Become a Money Changer or Make Loans
I saw a tweet two days ago with photos from a silver stacker who had 10,000 ounces of silver in his stash. That’s about $230,000 worth of silver in today’s dollars. Imagine what it would be worth after hyperinflation.
Assuming he had junk silver dimes and quarters as well as rolls of Silver Eagles and what I assume were 100-ounce bars, he would be in an excellent position to become a money changer after the SHTF.
Here’s how that would work: In order to buy food, a woman decides to sell her gold necklace. She can’t take it to the market and trade it for food, so she goes to a money changer. He weighs the necklace, determines its value, and gives her silver or dollars in return which she can spend on food. (If she’s smart, she’ll take the silver.) Likewise, if someone shows up with Euros or Yen, the money changer can convert them into dollars or silver, which can be spent locally. In each case, he does so with enough profit to support himself and to allow him to sell to a larger distributor above him that will take the gold off his hands and replenish his silver supply. Assuming he is the only money changer in the area, he could charge a huge premium.
A money changer would need visible and physical security, both the kind that lock up resources to prevent access and the kind the shoots back. As the business builds, they could operate like a local bank and lend money.
Salvage and Recovery
In a world where there is little or no resupply, people who can find materials or equipment will provide a valuable service. When you can’t send off Amazon. com or run to Walmart for a new pair of shoes, you will be happy to buy a gently used pair someone recovered off a dead body and cleaned up. If you can’t buy a new extension cord to borrow electricity from your buddy’s generator, you’ll be happy to buy one the local salvage guy cobbled together from parts they tore out of that abandoned house. When something stops working and you need a solenoid, a chip, a battery, an engine part or some other component, you’ll need a salvage guy.
If you can look at junk and think, “I bet I could use that to make…” or the ability build and repair things without instructions, then this might be a good job for you post SHTF.
Own the Marketplace
The last gun show I went to, tables cost $75, and they charged $8 per attendee. That meant the gun show organizer made money from both the people buying guns and those selling them.
In an era where the grocery store has been looted, Walmart sits empty, and Costco is nothing but a fond memory, the person who organizes a flea market/swap meet with food stalls and a farmers market will have the opportunity to become wealthy. They just need to provide security and enforce some basic rules so attendees and exhibitors alike feel safe. Remember, even Barter Town had a leader and an enforcer.
Opportunities will Exist
When the recovery takes place, the elite are going to come out just fine, like the Russian oligarchs did. But this kind of reset will also create an opportunity for smart, hardworking people. When money ceases to have value, everyone will be equal and can start from scratch.
The key lesson here is that opportunities to make money or provide for your family will exist during and after an economic or societal collapse. In an economic collapse, opportunities might exist right away. In a global catastrophe, those opportunities might take a few years to emerge after things calm down. Either way, I can guarantee you it won’t be politicians who will help rebuild society.
It’s going to be the hard working welder who teams up with a salvage operator to repair old equipment and fabricate new security gates that come out ahead. The small homesteader who starts with three rabbits and in two years has 30 breeding does and produces 800 rabbits for the cooking pot will suddenly have a disposable income and employees for the first time in their life. It will be the woman who helps deliver most of the babies born in the area that will be respected and appreciated. It may even be the madam that treats her girls well and keeps the clients in line that makes a fortune.
Prohibition created fortunes, founded crime dynasties and funded power political families. Who is to say an economic collapse won’t provide similar opportunities?
It’s something to think about as you prepare. Prepare not just to survive, but to come out ahead of the game when society rebuilds.