For most Americans, retirement is one of the biggest worries they have. Giving yourself enough of an income when you don’t work anymore is a challenge. Building up the funds to last you through the rest of your life takes money that a lot of us just can’t spare. In fact that raises an important point – considering how important it is to prepare for retirement, can you afford to divert any money into more general preparedness? Or is this the wrong question?
Personally I think it’s the wrong question. I don’t see a choice between retirement planning and prepping, because there’s a lot of overlap between the two. Prepping is actually a major part of your retirement planning, because the steps you take to be ready for a crisis are also going to help when the time comes for you to put down your working tools for the last time.
The truth is, retirement and the S hitting the F have a lot in common. Sure, they have a lot of differences too. One is predictable and, done right, can be an enjoyable and fulfilling part of your life.
The other is unexpected, a crisis, a disaster – that’s why we don’t talk about the cake hitting the fan. At their core, though, both are major changes in your life that you have to adapt to and overcome, and the same skills and ways of thinking can be applied to each of them. Let’s look at some of the ways prepping can double as retirement planning.
Preppers hate throwing anything away. Canned food that’s still safe to eat, but has lost its flavor? Throw it into a soup or stew. Bought a new generator? Hang on to the old one as a backup. Broken a chair? Keep it in the shed; you can maybe fix it up, and at worst it’s extra firewood.
That same habit of avoiding waste will also come in useful in retirement. Most of us are going to see our incomes drop when we retire, and that makes avoiding waste essential. Why throw something out if it can be repaired, repurposed or stored in case it’s useful in the future?
We’re not talking about becoming a hoarder and living in a house full of junk, but a sensible prepper takes a good look at things before throwing them out. If it still has some use in it, why not keep it?
If you’re retired and on a fixed income, fairly small expenses can be a blow. Say you tear a pair of pants so badly they can’t be repaired. Buying a new pair could put a hole in your weekly budget – but if you can dig in the back of the closet, and pull out an old pair that still have some wear in them, you’re good.
How many people do you know that, as soon as they retired, just seemed to run out of energy? We all know the stereotype – the older couple that just sit on the couch all day, never doing anything more active that arguing over the TV remote.
It’s easy to sink into that sort of lethargy when you retire. For forty years or more you’ve been used to a busy routine, then suddenly it’s gone. You don’t have to get up early anymore. You don’t have to plan your day, manage your time, get tasks done to a fixed schedule. Why not just sit there for a few hours and channel surf?
Prepping will keep you out of that mindset. When you’re looking ahead and working out how to get through a potential crisis, your mind stays active. The fact is there are so many potential crises that you’ll never do everything you can to be fully prepared for all of them.
We just do our best to be as prepared as possible for as many as we can, and rely on our initiative to get us through anything unexpected. That means you’ll always have something useful you can be doing. And wouldn’t you rather be doing something useful than sitting there staring idly at the idiot box?
If your preparations involve a bugout location, that can open up some interesting options for retirement. We all have different ideas on what a BOL should be, from fortified retreats to greenfield sites we can build on after a crisis hits. For many prepper it’s a cabin or old farmhouse in a remote area, and these people often get double use out of their BOL – as well as the refuge they plan to use in a crisis, it’s a vacation home right now.
Once you’re done with work, your vacation home can double as a retirement home. That lets you release more money by renting out or selling your main home, and it also gets maximum value from the investment you made in your BOL.
The next big crisis might be an EMP attack, civil unrest, a disease pandemic or the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano – but it’s more likely to be another financial crisis. That’s why most preppers focus on reducing their debts, with the aim of completely eliminating them.
If a financial crisis hits, the last thing you want is a lot of debt. It opens up a range of vulnerabilities that can turn a bad situation into a personal disaster. That’s why preppers should always be aiming to cut borrowing to essentials, and pay off existing debts as fast as possible.
It’s just the same when you retire. Debt payments that are manageable when you’re earning become a lot more of a burden when you’re on a reduced, fixed income.
If you can manage to be debt-free on the day you retire, the rest of your life is going to be a lot less stressful – and, with none of your income being sucked up by creditors, a lot more comfortable too.
Prepping might involve a lot of stockpiling food and setting up backups to things we’ll lose when society collapses around our ears, but what it’s really about is confidence. That root cellar full of food gives you the confidence that when the grocery stores are looted, empty shells, you and your family won’t go hungry. Your generator gives you the confidence that with the national power grid destroyed by an EMP, your lights will stay on.
Retirement is a blow to many people’s confidence. After a lifetime of work, and being able to value yourself for your skills and achievements, you’re suddenly faced with the big question: Now what?
If you’re focused on being ready for anything, you still have a goal in life. There are still things you want to achieve, and new knowledge you want to gain. Retirement isn’t the start of an inevitable decline towards senility and death; it’s an opportunity to spend more time getting ready for the worst life can throw at you, so face it with confidence!
At the end of the day, retirement and TEOTWAWKI are both things we should all be preparing for. It’s no surprise that many of the same attitudes, habits and skills help us be ready for both. If you’re an older prepper you can be happy with the thought that you’re not just hedging your bets against something that might happen; you’re setting yourself up for something that will happen.