Prepper FI – Can this anxious millennial get there fast enough?

Do you want me to tell you a secret? Out of all the blog posts I’ve read in the personal finance blogosphere – I actually have a favorite! It is titled Prepper FI and is a guest post by That Frugal Pharmacist over at Tread Lightly Retire Early (PS: Her son was diagnosed with cancer in December 2018, if you want to help, here’s a link).

I loved that post because she somehow managed to merge an anxiety for the future with actionable steps and a positive outlook. An impressive feat when you consider that part of their preparedness strategy was to buy their land far enough away from major cities in case of a nuclear attack and subsequent fallout.

I also loved it because That Frugal Pharmacist was already doing so many of the things I want to do in the future, and for many of the same reasons too! I kept thinking I hoped I would be able to write a similar post to hers a handful of years ago.

But will it be soon enough?

Millennial anxiety

It is not just me who is feeling anxious about pretty much everything, including my future. Millennials are diagnosed with more anxiety disorders and report little hope for the future. Not just our own future, but the future of the planet in a term coined ecoanxiety.

We are nervous for the future, nervous for the climate, nervous for our jobs… is it any wonder we turn into rather anxious critters a lot of the time?

I know for my own part, my anxiety also stems from the risk that climate change will lead to economic unrest. If interest rates skyrocket and we can’t sell our house – how can we pay our mortgage? Will I need to keep chasing one temporary position after another, just like I was hoping to avoid through savings, frugality and sidehustling?

What if we can’t find or afford our dream homestead before the political and economical climate change? For someone who is prepper FI at heart, those thoughts take up a small but not inconsiderable amount of my time.

I admit those are pretty far-fetched fears to be having, especially since we hope to have found our forever home/homestead within the next five to six years. How much could possibly change in that time?

Probably not that much. Unless, of course, we hit another recession similar or worse than the 2008 one. Norway has a reasonably stable housing market and some pretty strict rules compared to what I’ve seen from some US bloggers (you cannot borrow more than 5 times your annual net income for a mortgage, for instance). Even so, we are not immune to market changes. If our house is suddenly worth half what we bought it for, we would find it difficult to afford buying a new homestead, even if we managed to sell at a loss.

What can we do about it?

If you worry about the future, but can’t get the future that you want right now, there are generally two ways of dealing with it.

The first is assuming everything will go to hell no matter what you do, and so just not save for retirement or anything else. AKA the “you only live once” or FOMO approach.

The second is to admit you don’t know when or how things will change, but you want to be as prepared as possible for whatever change comes your way.

If it weren’t already blindingly obvious, I am heavily in favour of the latter option.

Prepper FI

I think prepping gets a bad reputation. A lot of people I know imagine someone stashing away hundreds of cans of canned food and guns when you say the word prepper, but there is a lot more to being a prepper than canned food.

It is simply being prepared for what the future might bring, both in your finances and outside. You can’t buy a full belly with your stock dividends if our global food distribution system starts struggling for instance.

PS: Learning to grow your own food are skills that will last you a whole lot longer than any stash of canned food ever could, no matter how massive.

If you think we will see more floods and natural disasters, prepping could be as simple as taking that into consideration when you buy a home. Or making improvements that make your home more resistant to floods. In the pure financial side of things, it could be having 6 months of expenses saved up because many millennials are statistically more likely to have temporary contracts and freelance gigs instead of stable, full-time positions (and even if you do, having that saved up can remove a lot of money-related anxiety).

It can be learning to cook and can the abundance in your backyard, if you have one, and saving it for winter. It can be in learning skills or making sure you have firewood for those cold nights and high electric bills (anyone else have to pay twice as much for wattage in winter, or is that just Norway?).

Reducing the noise

I am still anxious about the future. At this point I accept that this might just be a permanent feature of my personality.

But what I have found is that trying to lean some of the skills I want to put to use when we have our forever home greatly reduces my anxiety. Even if we aren’t there yet, I feel like we are doing something.

Even if we don’t have solar panels, we are conscious of our power usage and save money at the same time. Even though I don’t grow most of our food, we are trying to grow tomatoes in the windowsill and hope to get a few berry bushes this year and maybe even a tiny vegetable garden started.

And you know what? I’ve found this works for a lot of other things I am anxious about too! My general anxiety reduced significantly when I gradually went from being an apathetic teenager who looked bleakly upon my future – to one who tried, one babystep at a time, to make the world an ever-so-slightly better place. Even if that was something as simple as bringing my own bag when I went shopping.

For my specific type of anxiety, taking action reduced the noise. Working towards prepper FI is reducing some of the noise and worry I carry about the future. At least I am a little more prepared than I wold be if I just sat down and gave up.

After all, what we worry about might never happen at all. And then we’ll be doubly glad be built the skills we wanted all along.

Are you prepping?

I know there are several other people in the financial independence sphere who also work on being prepared for things outside finances. Are you taking any specific steps towards being more prepared and resilient towards change? Any specific skills you are especially working on? Perhaps you are trying to create a community in your neighborhood, so you know you can rely on each other in case of an emergency? Social capital is a powerful tool.

I will say that even though we don’t have our dream home, we did still add a lot to our resiliency by moving here. Our garden is a lot bigger here and the land is facing south-east instead of west. Plus we have a small river just down the hill (that feeds into a much larger river a few minutes down the road) if freshwater is ever an issue. We can also heat our home with wood, which was impossible in our apartment.

Do you have a plan for a future of prepper FI? Is it a part of your plans? Or do you just take the future as it comes?

And if you’re not an anxious climate critter – teach me your secrets!

11 Comments on “Prepper FI – Can this anxious millennial get there fast enough?

  1. Well…. I definitely can’t teach you anything about not being an anxious climate critter ?? But small, steady steps in the right direction (plus now having a platform where I am influencing some people’s decisions) helps a lot.

    On the flip side, the #1 reason why I’m at my job for the long haul is exactly that same anxiety. Sometimes I’d love to just escape to my tiny piece of homestead and throw in the towel, but I realize my career is where I can ultimately make the biggest impact for the most people and our planet.

    Wow, okay. Maybe I should write a blog post about this topic too ?

    • Seconding having a platform for sure!

      And climate anxiety is a lot of the reason I’m trying for this career change too, even if we reach financial independence early. ^^

      Definitely want you to write a blog post about this too! 😀

  2. I have found my people!
    I work in the environmental and climate field, but in my
    Personal life I oscillate between doing my best and sometimes denial (I.e. it’s too scary, I can’t bear to think about it).

    However as you have wisely noted Kristine, we feel a lot more empowered and less anxious about this and other things when we take what small actions we can to be more resilient. I also realised this sometime in the last couple of years, and it feels good. On that note, our recently installed solar panels make me happy!

    For me the trick is to remember to focus my energies on what I can affect, rather than what I can’t (Mr Money Moustache talks about our circle of control).
    PS Angela a post on this would be very welcome.

    • I hear you on the doing your best but not being able to think about it all the time!

      I get so happy when I see people installing solar panels! I know there are issues related to them too, but I hope we will find a balance in the future. We probably won’t on this house, just because we don’t intent to stay here for 10+ years.

      And I agree (again!), the circle of control has been a powerful tool for me too when I found it. If it’s outside my circle of control, I can’t waste too much time fretting about it!

  3. I think a good bit about creating a resilient and regenerative life for myself. I believe keeping this line of thought at the forefront of my financial independence journey makes it a more sustainable and joy-filled pursuit and allows me to live like I’m already FI even though dollar wise I haven’t reached that number yet by most people’s standards. (I consider myself lean FI or as you once wrote entrepreneur FI.) My ideal day is one spent outside in a lush, productive garden tending to it, harvesting produce and flowers, or eating good food in it with friends. I am now able to experience that ideal day most days of the week. Much of that work done in a setting I so enjoy contributes to the income my boyfriend and I earn from our plant nursery and the products we make and sell from things grown or raised on our property.

    We have a well on our property and are considering building a ferrocement rainwater catchment system. We aren’t storehousing large amounts of food, but we can and dehydrate frequently and are well versed in food growing and preservation. Our social capital is exceptionally high and it’s probably one of our favorite sources of capital to cultivate.

    I don’t consider myself a prepper, though. My approach is guided by my permaculture training. I believe there is a good bit of overlap between preppers and permaculturalists, but I think broadly speaking the big difference is mindset – and your post reinforced this for me given what you wrote about anxiety being such a motivating factor for you. To my mind permaculture is steeped in optimism and abundace, a belief that all of the solutions for meeting human needs while maintaining a healthy ecosystem are out there if we look to nature and its closed loop system as the model. From what I’ve seen, Preppers seem to be motivated by fear and anxiety and think more in terms of scarcity. This of course is a generalization. And there is even someone on YouTube calling her/himself the Permaculture Prepper. There’s definitely crossover – Jack Spirko is another great example of that.

    That doesn’t mean I think climate change isn’t a serious threat or that I have complete faith the economy won’t collapse (although, given my views on the corporate capitalist system in which we currently operate in the US, I don’t fear the collapse as much as others do because I think it could be an opportunity for a better economic system to emerge). I just don’t want fear to be the guiding factor in my life. So I balance a realistic pragmatism with an optimistic faith in my ability to work with nature and others to provide for my own and other people’s needs should a disaster strike. Permaculture offers a terrific tool kit for this approach.

    • A thoughtful and well-thought-out comment as always!

      For me, prepping is mostly about being prepared, but you are right that there is a fair bit of anxiety involved. I just don’t want to be stuck with this house if things go bad.

      Then again, as Angela referred me to a post on twitter the other day – change doesn’t usually happen overnight (thinking like the economic collapse in Venezuela), but rather like the death by a thousand cuts, which is part of why many people aren’t noticing the many insidious ways climate change is already affecting us. It will *probably* all work out in the end. And even if we get stuck here there is some land for growing food if a collapse should occur.

      I agree that better economic systems could emerge from a collapse. But like the crash in 2008, I’m afraid many people will suffer a lot if that happens. Definitely on board with your permaculture approach though, it is something I try to learn a little more about as often as I can! 🙂

  4. Alas, I’m at least as anxious as you. I increasingly suspect I have an anxiety disorder, but there aren’t a lot of good medications on the market right now so I don’t bother getting diagnosed.

    I’m not doing much to prep exception for bulking up my emergency fund because it’s a little below where I determined it ought to be. Well, that and I’m starting to get more serious about saving for retirement. It’s a little late (I’m 40) but better late than never, eh?

    • We do what we can, where we can! Even if a more bulked-up emergency fund does nothing but relive anxiety, that is still an admirable goal in my eyes.

  5. One of the motivators for us to buy real estate outside the US was to have an alternative option in terms of geographic, economic, climate and political variety. For us that meant Costa Rica b/c it’s a different continent but still close, solid economy, biodiverse and focused on sustainability, and no military for 75 years. It also made financial sense but the best financial decisions take into account other factors — whether for prepper reasons or simply that there are multiple factors behind a decision.

    • Sounds like a solid plan! It might not be that much fun to have to consider all the political, environmental, etc, factors, but it sure is worth it! 🙂

  6. Pingback: Permaculture FI Part 1: A Survey of the Online Landscape - Triple Bottom Line FI

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