One Hundred Trillion Dollars?

Have you ever seen a $1,000 bill?  The United States used to print $1,000 bills picturing our 22nd and 24th president, Grove Cleveland.  It would be very rare if you had seen the actual note as the U.S. stopped printing them by 1946 in an attempt to help thwart illegal activity and the laundering of money.  Even far more rare were the $5,000, $10,000 and $100,000 notes that were used primarily for large real estate transactions or by banks or other financial institutions to transfer large amounts of money.  Remember, this was way before the digital currency era had even been dreamed about and there needed to be a way to transfer funds for large transactions.

Since the largest bill most of us have ever held in our hands in a $100 bill, it seems inconceivable that a $100,000,000,000,000 (one hundred trillion) Zimbabwe dollar note was a common denomination in 2008.  What is even harder to grasp is that the one hundred trillion dollar note was worth only 40 cents in US currency, enough to purchase three eggs.  How is this possible?  Well, it’s all a result of hyperinflation.  In June 2008, the annual rate of price growth in Zimbabwe was 11.2 million percent. The worst of the inflation occurred in 2008, leading to the abandonment of the currency. The peak month of hyperinflation occurred in mid-November 2008 with a rate estimated at 79,600,000,000% per month.

There have been 57 episodes of hyperinflation throughout the world in the last 100 years including countries such as Hungary, Germany, Taiwan, France, China, Argentina and many others.  It’s hard to imagine prices doubling every 15 hours as experienced in Hungary in 1946.  How could people cope?  The moment families would receive their paychecks, they would race to the stores in an attempt to spend it all by purchasing essential needs before prices went up again.

We are currently seeing the devastating effects of hyperinflation repeat in Venezuela where the inflation rate is expected to hit 13,000% this year.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “prices are doubling in Venezuela every few weeks, confounding cash-strapped Venezuelans who are scrambling to find a way to pay for basic transactions.”

“The problem is that in a country as broke as Venezuela, the government can’t print enough bills or pay the hefty fees for commercial printers to supply them. Paying with plastic? Credit-card readers seldom work.”

“That leaves ordinary Venezuelans ingeniously searching for solutions.”

“Yorli Uzcategui, who sells vegetables from a streetside stall, keeps notebooks with handwritten IOUs and spends his off-hours chasing customers through chat groups on WhatsApp to get repaid via bank transfers.”

“‘If I don’t do this, I’ll sell nothing,’ the vendor said as he bagged lettuce on a recent day.”

“Things are expected to get only worse this year. The International Monetary Fund estimates an economic contraction of 15%, which means that by the end of 2018 the economy will be half of what it was in 2013. And inflation will hit 13,000%.”

“Following in the footsteps of Brazil, a slew of post-Soviet countries, Venezuela has become the 57th recorded case of hyperinflation, according to Steve Hanke, a Johns Hopkins University economics professor.”

How is it possible for a typical family to cope with the run-away pricing hyperinflation causes?  In today’s society, it’s almost impossible to transact business or purchase the essentials of life without money.  Even with the recent explosion and popularity of cryptocurrencies, one must initially purchase these digital currencies with conventional money.  As these fiat currencies lose their value, less and less cryptocurrency can be purchased, if one makes the assumption these digital currencies are indeed a solution to hyperinflation.

In the meanwhile, families in Venezuela have to rely on a more time tested method on survival – bartering.  The Wall Street Journal also addressed this issue.

“One U.S. dollar now fetches around 236,000 bolivars on the street, around 80 times what it bought at the start of last year. Five years ago, that could buy a small apartment; now it barely covers an appetizer at lunch.”

“’The authorities have lost control, they can’t stop creating bolivars even if they wanted to,’ said Omar Zambrano, a former economist for the Inter-American Development Bank. ‘This ends in two ways: Either we adopt the dollar or we go back to bartering.’”

“That’s what Marina Fernandez, a professor of architecture at a Caracas university, has done, finding out that some people will take, yes, the humble egg. When she didn’t have enough cash to pay for parking, she handed over two eggs. Her university department, short of cash, paid a computer programmer with a carton of eggs.”

“Ms. Fernandez said onions or bananas, for some reason, just won’t do. ‘If you’re going to receive food as payment, the people want it to at least be a protein,’ she said. ‘The egg is perfect.’”

Whether it is through a severe recession, a depression or some form of hyperinflation, as an economy begins to implode, there are typically three types of currency that can be relied upon, at least for a period of time.

FIRST – CASH.  I’m talking about actual greenbacks in your possession.  A minimum of $1,000 in small bills with the goal of several months’ worth to cover all your needs during that period should be on your priority list.  In the event of a banking holiday, grid down scenario or rapid onset hyperinflation, you will need cash to transact any typical business.  Without cash, gas for your car, food for your family, payment for utilities or any other essentials simply won’t be possible, regardless of how much money you may have in the bank.  Under these circumstances, cash may only have value for a few weeks or maybe a few months before it becomes basically worthless paper.  You can’t eat it, you can’t wear it and you can’t get enough of it together to burn to keep you warm.

SECOND – PRECIOUS METALS.  Once again, in your possession.  You see, the primary cause of hyperinflation is tied to any given government issuing a fiat currency that is backed by nothing other than the government stating it’s worth and value.  If there is no anchor to some form of asset with intrinsic value, the worth and value of such a fiat currency can drift off course just like a ship without an anchor and the outcome is never favorable.   Just take a look at this chart of what happened during the early twenties in the German Weimar Republic.  Keep in mind, the price of silver and gold did not go up, it was the value of the German Mark that decreased significantly.  Over the last century, the value of gold and silver has remained relative constant as compared to the fiat currencies that are extremely volatile.  This is why precious metals are an excellent form of currency, especially in times of hyperinflation.  This form of currency may also only be valid for a number of months until things deteriorate enough that one realizes most people will not trade food for gold or silver.

THIRD – FOOD.  This is the most important of them all.  If push comes to shove, there will be nothing more valuable than food.  All of the greenbacks and precious metals in the world will do you no good if you can’t exchange them for food.  In fact, think of it this way – Is there anything you currently own or anything you could own, that you would not be willing to trade for food if it meant the survival of your family?  The obvious answer is NO, in fact we would trade all the wealth in the world if that’s what it took. Due to its great value, it will be the ultimate bartering currency.  If one has prepared with extra food storage, not only will they be able to feed their family, but they will have access to all other goods and services they may need – simply by bartering with their excess food.

Even if the only reason one purchases food storage today is to hedge against future inflation where the cost of the same amount of food may be ten-times as much, you just can’t go wrong by storing long-term food storage for your family.  Remember the value of an egg.


More than 35 years experience in the Preparedness Industry

Understanding the Normalcy Bias Could Save Your Life

I had a discussion with my son-in-law the other day about human behavior during times of extreme emotional stress and tragedy.  He works for a local police department where he also is on the SWAT team as well as serving in the Army Reserve.  Over the years, he has seen and experienced far too many tragic and stressful situations, each of which seems to teach a new lesson on human behavior.  I truly sympathize with and fully support our military and law enforcement as they are constantly putting their well-being and lives on the line to protect us and help maintain the freedoms we often take for granted.

My son-in-law was explaining to me the very rigorous training he is required to constantly participate in, much of which is psychological training on how to handle stressful situations and act or react in a well thought out manner.  When one’s life is on the line, and the adrenaline is pumping, our bodies naturally act in a manner that under some circumstances can cause more potential danger.

For example, in a situation where a weapon is drawn in an attempt to defend one’s life or the life of another, it is very common for tunnel vision to set in and one can become unaware of their surroundings – not a good thing if you’re looking for the bad guy.  Keeping totally aware and constantly scanning your surroundings can in certain circumstances mean the difference between life and death.

There is another naturally occurring phenomenon that is very common during stressful situations and you don’t have to be a police officer to experience it.  It’s called the Normalcy Bias.  This bias can place us in grave danger when we’re faced with something traumatic.  Simply put, it causes our brains to insist that all is okay.  Everything will return to normal.  For most of us who have never faced true peril, Normalcy Bias tells us that nothing bad will ever happen. “This is America!,” some people insist when told about the possibility of a deeper Depression or hyperinflation.  Incredibly, the most obvious warning signs are ignored.

This explains why so many Jews continued living in Germany, even after they were forced to wear identifying yellow stars and discriminatory laws were passed against Jewish people.  Life had been so good for so long that, surely, things would get better.  Jews who could have easily afforded to move out of the country stayed, and perished.

Oncoming hurricanes and other disasters elicit similar reactions.  We simply expect life to go on as it always has, and our brains are wired to accept that and nothing else.  A driver attempts to cross a flooded river.  Thousands of New Orleans residents faced with Hurricane Katrina refuse to leave the city, and city officials don’t even make an attempt to evacuate them.  One survivor from 9/11 tells of going blind as she saw dozens of human bodies hitting the ground outside the Twin Towers.  Our brains can accommodate billions of bits of information each day, but apparently there are some things too terrible to comprehend.

Those of us who believe in preparedness, whether beginners or veterans, know the frustration of trying to convince loved ones that the future is not at all secure, but the Normalcy Bias isn’t something we can debate.  It’s not based on logic or rational thought.  It’s the brain, doing its best to help its human owner deal with terrifying events and possibilities, as well as with escalating situations whose logical, final outcomes can’t be accepted.

Let me share with you a story of a woman who almost lost her life as she allowed the Normalcy Bias to dictate her behavior.

“I am going to tell you a true story of personal tragedy.  It was one of the most valuable learning experiences of my life.  I have one regret…I wish I would have understood a strange phenomenon called the Normalcy Bias.”

“The formal definition is the phenomenon of disbelieving one’s situation when faced with grave and imminent danger and/or catastrophe.  One tends to over focus on the actual phenomenon instead of taking evasive action and enters a state of paralysis.”

“On October 27th, 1993, my home, along with 350 others in Laguna Beach, California burned to the ground.  It was our first house.  My husband and I hadn’t even unpacked all our wedding gifts.”

“Early that afternoon, I went home to evacuate.  My husband was out of town.  As I made the long drive to the top of the hill where my house overlooked the ocean, the scene was surreal.  Most of my neighbors were on their roof tops, watching the fire burn along the north side of the 133.”

“The fire was raging less than one thousand feet across the gorge, yet no one was packing their cars or preparing to evacuate.  They were standing, like deer in the headlights, facing their inevitable doom.  I hit the accelerator, pushing my old car to the limits of its capabilities, desperate to get to my home so I could get my important things.  I promised myself to be out in 30 minutes or less.”

“But something strange happened.  I went from being focused on an efficient evacuation, to a complete state of disbelief.  For the next three hours, I paced frantically back and forth, glued to the TV.  I was biting my nails while wondering if it was really worth the trouble to pack up my car since the chances of something like this actually happening to me were so slim.  Hello!”

“That, my friends, is the normalcy bias in action.  I was paralyzed with indecision even though the facts of my situation were indisputable.  I learned many life lessons with that experience.  I no longer hesitate to evacuate immediately when we are threatened with a natural disaster, which is about once every other year in California.”

“In some ways, I feel like Americans are under the influence of the normalcy bias as it relates to the state of our economy, our currency and the security of our nation.  Convincing facts are piling up like fire across the gorge.  All it will take is one little shift in the wind to send us into a tailspin that is incomprehensible.  Yet, most people I speak with don’t seem the least bit concerned.  Could this be the normalcy bias at work?”

“My story didn’t end well.  I was jolted back to reality when I literally felt the heat from the fire.  During the last 10 minutes in our home, I was too flustered to function.  In the end, I left with only the dogs and my life, trying to escape the 100 foot high wall of flame that was swallowing homes.”

“I have always questioned my behavior that day.  Why did I ignore my initial instinct to get out?  Why did I go into such a powerful state of denial?  Now, I know—it was a textbook case of the normalcy bias.”

“I could be completely wrong about the state of our nation.  I am no expert.  But I see signs everywhere and I can’t shake the feeling that we are in for a big shakedown.  I have vowed to engage far more aggressively to get prepared for an emergency, whatever it may be.  Maybe next time, I won’t be caught with my proverbial pants down.”

“The normalcy bias is alive and well during every crisis and natural disaster.  Just look at the events of hurricane Katrina and the BP oil crisis or any atrocity.  Now, I realize that the normalcy bias played a huge role in individual behavior, corporate behavior and the behavior of our government.”

“Things would have been much different for me Oct. 27, 1993 if I had known about the normalcy bias.  If you haven’t been through a major disaster or crisis, it’s difficult to comprehend.  Understanding this phenomenon could save your life.  Use it as a resource to get prepared and to overcome the denial that happens when faced with crisis, so you can act with a clear head and possibly save your life.”

None of us want to think we’re in a state of denial, assuming we’re thinking with a clear head and making the best decisions for our families.   Nevertheless, stories like this are far too common to dismiss.  The first step in preventing normalcy bias causing undesired consequences in our lives to recognize it exists and talking about it as families so together we can make the right decisions with the right information that could literally save our lives.


More than 35 years experience in the Preparedness Industry

Will Your Food Storage Really Keep You from Starving?

Have you ever heard of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment?  Most people have not and it’s a shame because there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained in the findings of this very interesting experiment.  Here’s how it all came about.

One of the greatest killers of World War II wasn’t bombs or bullets, but hunger. As the conflict raged on, destroying crops and disrupting supply lines, millions starved. During the Siege of Leningrad alone, over a thousand people a day died from lack of food. But starvation also occurred in a more unlikely place: Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was here that, in 1945, thirty-six men participated in a starvation experiment conducted by Dr. Ancel Keys.

The basic design of Keys’ study was simple: to starve some subjects (or, at least, bring them to near starvation) and then refeed them. To achieve this in a controlled, scientific fashion, Keys envisioned a year-long study divided into three parts: an initial three-month control period during which the food intake of the participants would be standardized, followed by six months of starvation, and then three months of rehabilitation.

To find subjects willing to put themselves through such prolonged deprivation, Keys recruited volunteers from among the ranks of conscientious objectors — young men who had chosen to join the Civilian Public Service as an alternative to military service. Many of these conscientious objectors, though not all, were members of the historic peace churches (Brethren, Quakers, and Mennonites).

Keys’ staff prepared a brochure designed specifically to appeal to the idealism of these young men. Its cover showed three young children staring at empty bowls, above the words: “Will you starve that they be better fed?”

Keys carefully screened these applications before finally selecting thirty-six young men who he felt would be tough enough, physically and mentally, to endure what would be demanded of them during the experiment.

On February 12, 1945, Keys abruptly cut the food intake of the men down to 1,570 calories per day. The starvation phase of the experiment had begun. He carefully controlled the amount they ate by serving them two meals a day prepared and weighed by the cook he had on staff. He designed the meals to be carbohydrate rich and protein poor, simulating what people in Europe might be eating, with an emphasis on potatoes, cabbage, macaroni, and whole wheat bread (all in meager amounts). Despite the reduction in food, Keys insisted the men maintain their active lifestyle, including 22-miles of walking each week.

Effects of the reduced food intake quickly became apparent. The men very soon showed a remarkable decline in strength and energy. Keys charted a 21-percent reduction in their strength, as measured by their performance on a back lift dynamometer. The men complained that they felt old and constantly tired.

Next a kind of mental apathy took hold of the subjects. The men all had strong political opinions, but as the grip of hunger tightened, political affairs and world events faded into irrelevance for them. Even sex and romance lost their appeal. Food became their overwhelming priority. Some of the men obsessively read cookbooks, staring at pictures of food with an almost pornographic obsession.

Meal times became the high point of their day. They grew irritable if they weren’t served their food exactly on time, or if they had to wait too long in line. Although the food was quite bland, to the men it tasted delicious. They lingered over the food, savoring every bite. Often they “souped” their meals — mixing everything with water to make it seem as if there was more.

In between the two meals, Keys allowed them unlimited chewing gum, water, and black coffee, and the men took full advantage of these privileges, chewing as many as 40 packs of gum a day and downing up to 15 cups of coffee.

The depth of the psychological strain experienced by the subjects astonished Keys. Although they had all seemed fully committed to the experiment before it began — Keys had screened for this specifically — cheating became a major issue as an almost uncontrollable urge to seek out food gripped them.

None of the men had been overweight to begin with, their average weight during the control period being only 152.7 pounds. So as they shed pounds they rapidly grew skeletally thin, their bones protruding from their skin at sharp angles. Keys carefully analyzed and recorded the other physiological changes they experienced.

He found that the heart rates of the men slowed dramatically, from an average of 55 beats per minute to 35. This was their metabolism slowing down, attempting to conserve calories. The frequency of their bowel movements fell to about one per week. Their blood volume dropped ten percent, and their hearts shrank in size.

Perhaps because of the amount of water they were drinking, the men developed edema (retention of water). Their ankles, knees, and faces swelled — an odd physical symptom given their otherwise skeletal appearance.

The skin of some of the men developed a coarse, rough appearance, as a result of the hardening of their hair follicles. Other effects included dizziness, muscle soreness, reduced coordination, and ringing in their ears. But the creepiest change, which occurred in all of the men, was a whitening of their eyeballs as the blood vessels in their eyes shrank. Their eyes eventually appeared brilliantly, unnaturally white, as if made out of porcelain.

From the men’s point of view, the most uncomfortable change was the lack of body fat. It became difficult for them to sit down for long periods of time because their bones would grind against the seats. They also felt cold all the time.

After six months of starvation, the men had lost almost a quarter of their weight, dropping from an average of 152.7 pounds down to 115.6 pounds.

Why is this information relevant to us today?  Primarily because of the vast amount of misinformation that exists as to what constitutes an adequate food supply.  The majority of food storage plans available today provide around 1,100 calories per day with some as low as 800 per day.  Emphasis is placed on number of meals, or servings with no real focus on total food value measured by calories.

Keep in mind, these men were fed 1,570 calories per day and consider what happened to them.  When the time comes for us to use our food storage, chances are it will be a stressful time and that’s the worst time to add to that stress by not having enough food on hand to properly feed your family.  Something we should all consider as we make plans to provide for our families in times of need and to insure our food storage plan will provide enough food value to keep our families from starving.


  • Kalm, L.M. & R.D. Semba (June 1, 2005) “They starved so that others be better fed: remembering Ancel Keys and the Minnesota experiment.” The Journal of Nutrition 135(6): 1347-1352.
  • Tucker, T. (2006). The Great Starvation Experiment: The Heroic Men Who Starved So That Millions Could Live. Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York.
  • Keys, A., Brozek, J., Henschel, A., Mickelsen, O. & Taylor, H.L. (1950) The Biology of Human Starvation, Vols. I-II. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN.
  • “Men Starve in Minnesota” (July 30, 1945). Life 19(5): 43-46.

More than 35 years experience in the Preparedness Industry

Are We Running Out of Time?

According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, we just got closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock.  In fact very close – It’s now just two minutes to midnight – the closest the Clock has ever been to Doomsday, and as close as it was in 1953, at the height of the Cold War.  This may be a wakeup call for many of us who may have slipped into the comfort of complacency.  Therefore, it behooves all of us to look a little closer at why these world experts feel we are ever closer to a major meltdown of some type that would affect all our lives in a very real way.  Hopefully, this will provide the catalyst for us to take an even closer look at how well we are prepared to provide for our loved ones in such a scenario.

As stated on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website, this organization was “first established by Albert Einstein, with Robert Oppenheimer as the first chair, the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors are recruited by their peers from among the world’s most accomplished science and security leaders to reinforce the importance of the Bulletin’s activities and publications. Members of the Board of Sponsors are consulted on key issues, including the setting of the Bulletin’s Doomsday Clock.”

Although the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists focuses on nuclear risk, climate change, and emerging technologies, the threat of nuclear acceleration took center stage in this year’s Clock statement. The greatest risks recently arose in the threat of nuclear war. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program made remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks to other countries in the region, and the United States.

So what does all this really mean?  How are we to interpret “two minutes before midnight”?  With the assumption that “doomsday” is an all-encompassing, devastating event where it all hits the fan, I don’t know about you but I’d really like to know when it going to happen.  I don’t necessarily need to know all the details of how and where, but “when” would be at the top of my list of knowledge I’d love to have.

So does two minutes translate to two months?  Two years? Twenty years?  Without more specifics, it’s easy to ignore such warnings simply because we don’t know what it means.  It sound close and ominous, but things have appeared close and ominous in the past with nothing “doomsdayish” ever transpiring.  Many have the attitude that things may get tough someday, but as for today, it’s not an issue.  When they open their refrigerator, there’s food there.  When they go to the grocery store, there’s food there as well.  So what’s the urgency?

The urgency lies in the fact that once the need arises, it’s too late to prepare.  Better 10 years early than 1 day too late.  I wish I had a crystal ball that told me when things would hit the fan, but since I don’t, I’m not willing to risk the wellbeing and safety of my family by putting my preparedness needs off till a later date using the excuse, “I know nothing’s going to happen this week, or this month, or this year.  And as soon as I get the car fixed and finish the basement and get some of my medical bills paid off, then I’ll get serious about preparing for the future.”  Unfortunately, those with such an attitude will most likely not be prepared for a major event; they also will be unprepared for smaller, personal doomsday events in their own lives.

Even though the risk of a catastrophic worldwide event is indeed increasing as every day passes, there may be an even a greater likelihood of personal doomsday events unfolding in our day to day lives that we can certainly prepare for to help offset the often traumatic natural series of events that follow.  Here are just a few possible, or should I say probable scenarios that could create your own doomsday event.

Natural Disasters: I consider natural disasters personal doomsdays because of how localized they are. Properly preparing for such will depend largely on the likelihood of a specific event in your geographic area, i.e., earthquake, tornado, hurricane, flood, etc.

Job Loss: Losing expected monthly income can put a real strain on you and your family. When times are tight, having a little food stored away ease the burden.

Family Structure: Your family structure changing can be caused by a number of different things. The loss (or addition) to the family, divorce, a contributor moving out, or an accident can all change your priorities.

Severe Sickness: At one point or another in life all of us will have to handle situations like these. Injury, disease, or disability could affect us or our family members and loved ones.

Issues at Home: There are many issues around the house that could cause unwanted stress. There are constant repairs that need to be done around the home, and some are bigger than others. Unless you own your home outright, eviction and foreclosure might need to be considered as well.

Unexpected Expenses: This could fall into all the personal doomsday categories. Injuries at home, job loss, car accidents, and changes in the family could change our ability to pay the bills.

Personal Trauma: Situations like robbery, assault or mental trauma may or may not change our physical ability to get things done, but they could affect us mentally.

In order to be completely prepared, we need to pay attention to the small stuff. These “small” disaster scenarios will become big disaster scenarios if we are not properly prepared for such events.  While these personal doomsdays may not be life threatening, they can dramatically affect the future of our families and loved ones.  Let’s face it, life happens, and it happens more often than we would like. Personal doomsday scenarios like these shouldn’t define us.  What should define us is how we react and recover from them.

As we are exposed more and more to such possible doomsday scenarios, we can become desensitized and begin to lose interest in preparedness, or lose our motivation. This is completely natural, and we all go through it at one point or another. The goal should be to avoid extended periods of stagnation. While we might have a little time to prepare for some disaster scenarios, some can spring on us at a moment’s notice.

It may be easier said than done depending on the situation, but there are ways to get back into prepping. If it’s the lack of money that is causing you to lose interest in preparedness, there are quite a few things you can do that don’t cost a dime. Prepping is not all about what supplies you have, prepping is also about learning new skills and learning to survive when those supplies aren’t available.

When it comes to the loss of a family member, or personal trauma, prepping can (for good reason) fall down on your list of priorities. While it’s important to take the time to grieve, or work through these issues, we can’t afford to let prepping sit on the back burner for too long.  The fact of the matter is – we really are running out of time.


More than 35 years experience in the Preparedness Industry