How to Prepare for the Greater Depression?

Great depression cooking

charlie avatar“I believe we live in a great country – a country great enough to help a man when he’s in trouble.” – Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man

Last week I posted on how to invest in volatile times and the markets this week have people even more nervous as the market has lost more than 10% in the past month. With people thinking they might be headed for a double-dip recession or even worse the “greater depression”. With how things have played out over the past 10 years I can’t help but think of the movie – Cinderella Man. The guy was once a prized fighter and had everything. A nice house. Healthy kids. Nice car and clothes. Most importantly food on the table for his wife and kids. Here is a small clip from the movie to give you a point of reference if you haven’t seen the movie.

In the roaring 20’s people went from living with plenty of bread lines and unemployment of 25% in just a few years. I can’t help but wonder if we are going to go through a greater depression. Like many in the 1920’s, people didn’t see a great depression coming and if they had you know they would have been prepared. Here are a few tips on how to prepare if we go through another Great Depression.

  • Unemployment – in 1928 people thought that there would always be a steady stream of income and employment. Not many people thought our country could see 15 million people unemployed a few years later. Tip: Create a cushion of at least 3 months cash in a money market account – minimum. If you live in an area that has only one or two major employers then save at least 6 months cash because a recession or depression will hit these areas harder.
  • Food shortages – today many people have only enough food for surviving a week. Who would have thought that there would be bread lines and that we’d go through a “dust bowl” in the 1930’s. Hardly any of us have ever seen a food shortage and it’s been forever since we’ve gone through a major drought. Tip: Buy in bulk and large quantities when products are on sale. Store food in hand made storage closets and freeze products that can last one month to twelve months. This will help you save money and not be forced to buy food when it’s at a price peak.

  • Start a garden – related to food shortages, people during the depression had huge gardens. In the above video, my grandpa said he had over an acre plot of land just for gardening. People relied heavily on their gardens for providing their family year round food. Not only that, but they were heavily into canning their garden produce and really worked hard on preserving food.
  • Diversify your skillsets – during the depression people were searching for any kind of work to put food on the table for their wife and kids. Often times they’d be forced to do jobs they had never done before and many people would be forced out if they couldn’t do the job. Tip: Learn new skills and diversify your knowledge. Find skills that are needed in times of plenty and in desperate times. This could include basic skills like lawn care, carpentry, masonry, painting, trucking, digging, or hard physical labor. (As simple the last suggestion is many people today have desk jobs and haven’t ever done physical labor. Be prepared.)
  • Be a supportive spousemy grandparents who have 69 years of marriage under their belts are the greatest example to me of always sticking behind your spouse. I’m sure by going through the depression together that it only made them stick together more and rely on each other. Tip: Stick behind your spouse in the good times and bad. Working as a team will make survival easier if you’re working together. What husband doesn’t want to hear their spouse say, “I’m always behind you.” – Renee Zellweger in Cinderella Man
  • Payoff debt – the optimistic times we live in have a lot of people thinking that there won't ever be another downturn. With interest rates now at about 3.75% for a 30-year mortgage and the stock market at an all-time high, consider shoring up your debts. This will help you not be as stretched for when hard times come. In addition, when the stock market tanks and interest rates rise, then you'll be able to purchase more stock shares at a lower price and your ability to buy a house will increase.
  • Diversify assets that are working for you – consider how you can be less reliant on your sole source of income. Even as I write about my passive income streams, my primary income source still makes up 90% of my overall income. During the depression, people were expecting their primary job to be there. Once the floor went out from under the economy, then it had everyone scrambling for jobs! As a result, then employers were able to pay really low wages because there was 25% unemployment. Do you know what percentage of income your primary job makes up of your family's income? Consider Airbnb'ing your house. What about creating an eBook on some subject you are an expert in?
  • Don't be reliant on banks – my grandparents talked frequently about how they would hide money throughout the house. They never knew if their bank might get caught in a bank run, and wouldn't have enough money to pay their bills or buy food. Check out my article from 2014 on money hiding spots from the Great Depression that my grandparents gave me.

We sure do live in a great country where we have lots of opportunities and blessing and so much to be thankful for. Hope these tips help remember the past so we don’t repeat it in the future.

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  1. Excellent points. Food production is something in particular that I think we’re very removed from. It’s not until you see empty supermarket shelves that the panic sets in. I remember we were stationed abroad when my Dad was in the Army and there were food rations. I’ve never seen a grocery store so empty!

    This is partially why we’ve slowly but surely started growing our own food. Food seems like a given until you don’t have it.

  2. Charlie, I landed on your site by pure luck. You may think I’m crazy, however, I wanted to share things that we have been doing.
    1. we have about 20 people who live close enough to one another to get to one designated home. There is safety in numbers.
    2. We have and are stocking up on more weapons and ammo.
    3. We have made a list of food items (about 5 years worth) and each individual is responsible for their list. This includes flour, rice, beans, canned meats etc…
    4. We invested in a wood cook stove.
    5. We invested in a wood heating stove.
    6. We are stock piling wood(seasoned)
    7. We have bought extra fire bricks
    8. We have bought a double based non electric wringer washer
    9. We have had trouble finding oil lamps, wicks, and oil. We did finally find quite alot at K-mart and Magic Mart. We still need alot more.
    10. We have chickens and are working on pigs and 2 work horses along with a wagon.
    If there is no fuel you will need some form of transportation.
    11. Still need to buy non hybrid seeds
    12. we have built onto our existing home and lets just say we made it our antique area. Butter churns, meat grinders, wheat grinders etc… non electric
    We still have a long ways to go, but I dont want my children or their children (When they have them) to ever worry about not being able to sustain life.
    13. Buy old books with directions on everything from home remedies to woodworking without electric tools and buy them.
    14. In the last couple months non electric items are becoming hard to find. If you do find them they are costing triple of what they did 1 year ago.
    Stock-up on medicine. Antibotics is a must. You can get them but use your imagination or do some research and you will find out how to get them legally and not from a doctor or the internet.
    There is so much more I could type for days, all I can say is listen to your heart, GOD, or your gut instinct. Things are going to get alot worse.
    15. Oh if you are lucky enough to have a well for your water invest in a crank pump that is freeze proof and if that costs to much get a well bucket or both.
    I’m not crazy just wanting to be prepared so we can get on with life without living in fear. I refuse to live that way. GOD BLESS and goodluck to everyone.

  3. Great, I never knew this, thanks.

  4. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  5. Thanks for checking out our blog college loans. I’ve written a number of great depression posts, so use our search button for finding others. Thanks again for visiting.

  6. First off–I LOVE Cinderella Man. I understand too well his feelings of fighting for milk.

    There are a few things that I would add to your list:

    Plant a garden. Plant now, because trees and berry bushes take time to mature enough to produce food for your family. We are so grateful now for food from our garden.

    Store clothing and fabric, and shoes for the years ahead.It’s important to be able to keep your family clothed. With growing children, it helps to have clothing put aside in larger sizes for when your children have outgrown their old clothes and you don’t have money for new ones.

  7. Good points…Too bad a majority of people haven’t the faintest idea what’s on the horizon. Not only depression, which we’ve barreled headlong into, but look at the look at the state of the world with all the talk of war…nuclear war, Iran, N Korea…we could be thrust easily into world war 3!

    The prospect of a world war is made worse due to our current shaky relationship with every major ally we have. Both of these things combined should prompt us to save and stock up now. We’ve done this for a little over a year now for the first time in our 20 years of marriage and it is something that gives peace of mind. It’s certainly an investment. Our dollars are worth more now than they will be later so food & supplies are a good place to put those dollars while they are worth a little something.

    We just finished watching PBS special 1940s house (which I recommend) and, though it was a sped up timeline, you could see how quickly during a world war, things go downhill for the people who were entirely unprepared for higher prices and rationing. Had people been better prepared, life would have been a lot easier. All you have to do is read the Drudge report to see the great potential of war brewing and the lightening speed of our economy crashing.

  8. Anita – did you get a chance to watch Cinderella Man yet? If so, what did you think?

  9. BTW…Cinderella Man is a great movie…a must see!

  10. Thanks for the good advice, Charlie! We were just talking about something similar to this tonight at
    a bible study. It’s good to be prepared, however God does promise to take care of His own and He can be trusted.

  11. Great article! Great advice!
    I was just talking with someone
    the other day about how you
    can go from having everything
    to having nothing.

    Thanks for sharing the trailer
    for Ciderella Man.
    I’m getting ready to get the
    DVD from Blockbuster to
    watch with my family tonight!

  12. I discovered your homepage by coincidence.
    Very interesting posts and well written.
    I will put your site on my blogroll.

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