Preparation For Real Disasters

container ship breakupWe often hear the idea we are going down the chute, the end is near, prepare for disaster, something has to be done, create a new law, impose a ban. It’s easy to fall into the trap of everything is getting worse, prepare for something awful to happen.

I’ve read and heard this for at least 40 years, however can we become deaf to real problems or disasters? Do we choose to tune out the more likely in favor of the least problematic?

Many of us will face serious challenges, illness, crime, natural disaster or serious personal setback. Human characteristics being what they are, tend to drive us away from risk that may serve to harm us. It’s the natural flight or fight instinct. As we often visualize or operate from our perceptions, some of these potential problems aren’t as probable as others. None the less, the things which concern us the most tend to consume our available thinking time.

beware water buffalo signMight I suggest that some level of proportionality be used to gauge our level of concern. If after all, you’re not likely to be hit by a rampaging water buffalo while swimming at the community pool, then perhaps it doesn’t make sense to either spend a lot of time concerning one’s self with water buffalos in swimming pools or creating a ban on them anywhere near your favorite exercise facility.

Using this extreme example sounds ridiculous, but let’s apply this idea of proportion to everyday living on a more practical level. I have known people who have spent their entire adult life with concerns over the United States descending into some apocalyptic anarchy whereby the only thing between themselves and total disaster is their long-term food supply, gold &  silver along with guns & ammo. Is this scenario possible? Well, yes it is possible but when you spend 40+ years of your life with attention and planning for this situation, what about events which are absolutely certain?

gold stock piledLet’s talk about absolute certainty and those with high probability. We can conclude with absolute certainty each one of us are going to die. This isn’t something we should spend a lot of waking hours ruminating over this fact, but what type of planning have you completed in order for your eventual demise? First things that come to my mind are, do you have a will? If you die without one and you have any assets, the government steps in and makes sure they get as much as they can, as well as probably distributing the remainder in ways you don’t wish to happen. A will is a method to prevent such an eventuality or negative consequence. Next thing to think about is life insurance. When you pass, someone is likely going to be stuck with some big bills, do you want that to happen without a means of paying those expenses? Funerals aren’t cheap and further more, if you have dependents left, how well will they live if you are the major income source?

Above and beyond the certainty of death, many of us will become ill or disabled for a period of time. Accidents and illness aren’t scheduled and can come at the least convenient time. I know they have for me. Do you have a means to provide income during this extended period without work? It’s agonizing to be laid up with illness or injury and have financial problems to mull over besides your recovery. A little up front financial planning, even if you don’t see how to accomplish it yourself, goes a long way to save you stress and needless struggle. Get good advice from a professional. (I’m not in that business.)

Of course all of these seem to be so obvious but frequently they’re ignored because we deceive ourselves into believing none of this will happen to us. We won’t ever be in a car accident or have a long-term illness. That only happens to other people. On top of that, we’re in good health, eat well, exercise and act in a safe manner, so we’re not going to die prematurely and leave others with a financial burden. Meanwhile, we have to buy that car, bike, board, stereo, vacation, shoes, jewelry or clothing because we have to own or do that. Yes, now that does seem foolish on paper, doesn’t it?

beware dog signThen we have the knee jerk reaction to a safety threat, completely out of proportion to it’s likely occurrence. We often hear about a catastrophic disaster affecting an individual or family in which they say, “this could happen to you!” Therefore we need to impose a ban, make another law, alter a code, impose a new requirement, create a new tax, etc. In Atlanta, after more than one incident of a dog attacking and in one case killing a child, there was a call by parents and concerned citizens to ban a breed of dogs in the city. Undoubtedly, anyone who has lost a child due to attack or preventable accident, is going to be distraught. Dogs considered for bans in other municipalities include Rottweiler and Pit bull. The grieving family of course doesn’t want other people to suffer as they have, but reacting with a ban is out of proportion to the problem. Fatal attacks by dogs in the United States are a small percentage of the relatively common occurrences of dog bites. While 2% of Americans are bitten by dogs every year, only about 0.0002%, of these (less than 0.00001% of the U.S. population) result in death. To me this is the water buffalo in the swimming pool, I used in earlier example. Yes, there are attacks and some fatalities but should we ban an animal or specific breed because of it? Will that solve the problem, or are there things we should be doing to prevent this through our own behavior?

Statistics can be misused to make a point, however there are circumstances which are more likely to enhance a problem, with unforeseen results greater than the original problem. I see and listen to debate on a wide variety of topics, some old and some new. We hear disastrous predictions on how our earth is changing, creating adverse climate based on the influences of humans. Again we’re to believe that drastic action must be taken to avert disaster. Government officials and the media practically beat us over the head with the message of global warming, carbon emissions, greenhouse gases and it will be the end of us unless these officials are allowed to act on our behalf. Of course the politicians favorite solution is to control and tax more. This increases their power base and expands their significance in a world of mixed messages on the topic.

Then we have gun control advocates who would like to see a ban on private firearms ownership, ceding all control and possession to their respective government agencies. For almost 50 years we’ve heard a message of impending doom on over-population and the potential ticking time bomb it initiates for global disaster.

world population map

There are many more messages of doom and gloom in circulation. I’m not suggesting there aren’t genuine concerns for the topics I mentioned. I just wish we would understand the true nature of people, those that wish to control, those that wish to blindly follow and the actual likelihood of a problem these dooms day predictors wish to raise an alarm and fuss over. What we should be concerned about are the most predictable life changes and accommodation. Things like a living will, disability, health coverage, life insurance may seem mundane, but they’re everyday realities in which we should prepare.

gender pay gap