Monday, June 15, 2015

How to Prepare for Hyperinflation


If you understand hyperinflation and think your country is at risk, how should you prepare?

Bug-Out

If it is just the country you are in,  leaving that country and going somewhere else is a reasonable strategy.   However, I think that we could see all the reserve currencies get hyperinflation, the Yen, Euro, Pound, and the Dollar.  Since the reserve currencies are the backing for the other currencies, if they go, then all paper money is in trouble.  If a government had a balanced budget, the currency could just go down till it gets to where the total value of the currency is equal to the total value of the gold a central bank has.   However, since governments run deficits, we should expect continued money printing and continued devaluation.   There may not be anyplace that is immune from hyperinflation this time.  In past hyperinflations, Bug-Out was a reasonable strategy, but it may not work this time.

Security

Hyperinflation is not usually a Mad Max situation, but there usually is some increase in crime. So guns and general home security are more important.   There are books and websites on this topic. There are many things you can do to improve home security.  Good fences and gates, dogs, solid doors and windows, window bars, cameras, lights, alarms, etc.   If hyperinflation becomes world wide, the security problem could be much worse than in a normal hyperinflation.

Supplies of Food etc.

Governments usually put on price controls and make shortages of all sorts of things.  It is simple micro-economics.  If you have an artificial government legislated price, the supply does not equal demand.  Because of this, having some stuff stored up ahead of time can make a huge different.  Food and water are good things to have.   Life is better with toilette paper, laundry soap, etc.  Today you can probably afford to buy a "one year supply of food" and, if there is hyperinflation, it could be a lifesaver.   It is easy now to buy a big tank, fill it with water, and put in a bit of bleach so it can last a long time.  In the future, just getting water could be hard.

If your currency is dropping fast, then you are better off buying extra canned goods than holding the currency.  Eventually you will eat the food and by that time it would cost far more.    After years of hyperinflation in Argentina, people built far larger pantries.  It is good to be able to store a bunch of canned goods at home during hyperinflation.  It is better than money in the bank.

Farming

Under government price controls, farmers can often not sell their food for enough to buy supplies for the next crop.   It is often better for them and their family to just keep what food they grow, or only do direct trades for other food, labor, needed equipment, fuel,  gold, etc.   However, when the farmers don't bring their food to town to sell at artificially low prices, often the government, or the public and some police, will come and take the food.   The real problem is the worthless money and price controls, but the government can easily redirect public anger toward the farmers.   After the government passes a new law against "hording", it is easy to get people angry that while there is a shortage of food a farmer is "illegally hording food".  Note that there are no laws against hording before price controls mess things up.

Gold and Silver

Over time a hyperinflating currency is accepted less and less.  Gold and silver hold their value and are accepted more and more over time.   There is probably someone who would trade them for the local currency if you need local currency.   If there is hyperinflation, by the time you trade in your gold you will get far more local currency than if you had just saved some currency instead of gold.

Some people think things will be so bad that nobody would give up their food for gold that you can't eat.  This is not correct.  Trade still goes on, even if it has to be black market.  In a French hyperinflation people kept trading for gold even when the penalty was losing your head.  There will always be people who have more than enough of one thing and not enough of something else.  Imagine one person grows potatoes and someone else who raises chickens, they both could be interested in trading.  They may trade directly with each other or for gold and use gold to buy the other.


Bitcoin for Internet Purchases or Store of Value

Governments put on capital controls so money can no longer flow freely in and out of a country.   They also put on official government exchange rates, which you won't be able to get in the direction you want.   Because of this your credit card that used to be able to order anything on the Internet will no longer be able to buy things.  A nice way around this problem is to use Bitcoin.   You can use Bitcoin to buy things on the Internet even when their are capital controls stopping the normal methods for International payments.  You could have to pay substantial taxes to get your order through customs, but they seem to usually allow things in or nobody will be ordering anything.

As with gold and silver, where there is hyperinflation, there will probably be someone not too far away that is trading bitcoins to/from the local currency, even if it is against the law.  So getting some Bitcoin ahead of time, or during the hyperinflation, could work well both for Internet purchases and as a store of value that you can convert back to local currency as needed.

Investment Options

If hyperinflation comes, bonds are the worst thing to hold.  To get the present value of the bond, the future value is discounted by the projected inflation rate over the time till maturity.  If there is high inflation and many years, the bond can be discounted to almost nothing.  If in the first 6 months the currency is down 25%, a 20 year bond could be down by more than a factor of 1,000.

Cash is not good to hold as it is dropping, though not nearly as fast as long term bonds.  Governments may freeze bank accounts, so money in bank accounts could end up trapped for many months and worth far less by the time it can be taken out.

Stocks are not safe because governments usually make life very hard for companies, with price controls and other laws.  If all your costs are going up fast and the price you can sell at is fixed by law, your company will be in trouble.   Many companies will go under.

Rental properties are particularly bad during hyperinflation.  The government rent controls keep rents fixed.  At the same time the costs for running the property are going up fast.  People view the landlord as rich and so he gets little sympathy for his problem of costs going up faster than income.  It is not good to be a landlord during hyperinflation and rental properties can sell for crazy low real prices.

If it is just one country, then selling everything you own in that country and investing in another country is a good strategy, like leaving.  However, it may not be limited to one country this time.

If you can borrow at a really low fixed interest rate for a long period and buy some real estate, this could be a good move.  After hyperinflation destroys the value of money, you pay off the balance of the debt with worthless money.   You need to be sure you can keep the payments up till hyperinflation hits.    It does not seem possible to tell exactly when it will hit, so you need to be able to do this for some time.

Gold and silver have held their value for thousands of years and it is a safe bet they will continue to do so.


Backup Transportation

If there is hyperinflation and price controls, you may not be able to buy gas sometimes.   A sturdy bicycle with some big baskets could be very handy.

Solar Electricity

Utility electricity usually keeps working, most of the time.   This time may be worse.  Having solar to be able to run a fridge, lights, computers, or charge an electric scooter, electric car, or cellphone, could be very useful.  

Ocean Going Solar Home

If I had the money, I would make a solar/electric ocean safe house. With a  watermaker and food storage you could be fine for a long time no matter what happened anywhere.

8 comments:

  1. Not sure why you think that Euro will go into hyperinflation.

    Your stage 4 depends on govt being able to force the central bank to print money. That is just not possible with ECB. Also you require both GNP and current account to be bad. In Europe GNP is beyond 80% for several countries but current account is positive for several countries. ECB is a different animal, and the coming crisis will reveal this.

    I do understand that US and Japan will go into hyperinflation. Not sure about UK, as it has the option of moving under the Euro umbrella.

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    1. I agree that the Euro does not really fit my model. Theoretically the ECB is not allowed to fund government deficits. But they are ignoring the rules and funding the deficits. Once they are doing this, I don't think they can stop. If it does get hyperinflation it may be from countries leaving and then the debt seems to huge compared to the remaining countries. It will be different than a normal one. And I am less sure of the Euro.

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  2. What do you think will/would happen to variable rate mortgages?

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    1. It is not so easy to say. I am not sure of a hyperinflation with variable rate mortgages. As inflation rates go up interest rates go up, but at first not as fast as they should. It would depend on the fine print in the mortgage as to what exactly happens. If there is a clause that limits how much and how often the interest rate can go up, the home owner wins. If not, the payments might go up faster than the person's earnings. The real value of the principle is going down fast, so even with higher interest rates on this smaller amount, I would guess the real value of the payments is going down. I would also expect governments to put some sort of interest rate price controls to protect the debtors and destroy the savers.

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  4. The first actually useful article I've found on what to do. Thank you so very much. I've searched for a long time and found a lot of great well thought out interest as to what is actually happening in the economy and why but for some reason practical advice is in very short supply.

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