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?
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.
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.
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?).
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.
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!