On Y2K "Over" Preparation

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In a recent conversation (off forum), it was suggested my comments may have discouraged some people from preparation. Honestly, I am not sure anyone takes my occasional posts THAT seriously. This said, let me re-state a few points.

I support economic freedom. You don't have to justify how you spend your hard-earned money. We have endless debates on the forum about issues like investing (e.g. gold). In the end, I hope the reader will take our threads with a grain of salt. Do the research, make a decision and live with it. If I may twist Voltaire, I may disagree with what you buy, but I will defend to the death your right to buy it.

Extensive preparations are a pesonal economic decision... much like an investment. When discussing any investment, you are likely to find a wide range of opinions. These opinions are often influenced by exogenous factors. Simply, how you see the world effects how you see Y2K.

Your personal experience also influences your perspective. I may be more relaxed about Y2K because of my background. Someone who has not lived a hard-scrabble existence may be panicked by the idea of Y2K "breakdowns." Please understand, it is not my intent to dismiss or mock the fears of others. If I were an 80-year-old man, I imagine my take on the rollover would be different... I'd be worried about my 23-year-old wife. (laughter)

Every reader is going to see Y2K through a unique prism of experience. I acknowledge the distortion in my view of the world. In my short essays, I've tried to compensate for the inevitable blur of my own perspective. (And I've suggested other folks might have a fair bit of blur themselves.) (laughter)

The discussion is better served when we all admit we have no monopoly on the truth.

-- Ken Decker (kcdecker@worldnet.att.net), November 02, 1999


well,if I only buy enough insurance to cover a hangnail, and then find out I need open(of course)- heartsurgery....oh, well...

On The other hand, if I buy enough insurance to cover open-heart surgery, and only have a hangnail....

which is worse?

-- $.02 worth (laundrylist@in.pocket), November 02, 1999.

I have not based my advocacy of preparations on the statements of any single person, but rather upon a combination of research and 20 years of software development experience. It is not clear to me what will happen. Perhaps it is to you. Or perhaps not. But in light of my not knowing, at least some preparations were called for.

To directly answer your question, our personal preparations were guided by the following question "How does this preparatory action hurt us if nothing at all happens?" Thus, we did not 'bug out' or 'bet the farm' on a massive disaster. We did not quit our jobs -- although I did change employers early this year as a direct result.

We did spend some money that we would have spent in other ways. We also spent an enormous amount of time considering a full range of possibilities and working on contingencies. The majority of the money that we spent was for items that will be used even if nothing happens.

We are fully prepared for nothing at all to happen. Of course that would be the preferred outcome. I like my job, my home, and my life. I'm in no big hurry to see any of it change.

But I believe the risk is real. The glue that holds it all together is confidence. Confidence that the money we put in the bank yesterday will be there tomorrow. Confidence that the gas stations will have gas. Confidence that the grocery stores will be stocked. Confidence that medical care will be readily available. Confidence that the paycheck will be there. Confidence that the lights will stay on and the phones will work.

Local disasters? We survive those all the time. After all, those things always happen to someone else. Should Y2K result in a few localized disasters the size and scope of EgyptAir 990, United 232, Pan Am 103, or even a couple of incidents the magnitude of Bhopal, then life will go on pretty much as normal. Yes, it will be tragic for those caught up in such local disaters, but it will not impact the masses.

A global loss of confidence, however, would truly be catastrophic. I believe that this is a major factor driving our governments response to Y2K. And while I believe that the risk of this occurring is quite small, I do not believe it to be zero.

So we prepare to endure potential shortages with patience. If no such difficulties actually occur, well, I just can't imagine a better outcome.

-- Arnie Rimmer (Arnie_Rimmer@usa.net), November 02, 1999.

Two cents:

Preparing has costs. You seem (along with many others here) to be implying that it is not possible to overprepare. But clearly there is some point beyond which it's absurd, though that point might be different for each of us depending on our circumstances.

I have talked to some people whose preparations cost them their marriage. That's an incredibly high cost, but one partner wasn't willing to quit their job, sell everything they had, and spend it all moving to a "self sufficient community" to engage in subsistence farming, while the other partner simply couldn't sleep at night with anything short of that.

Some preparations I've read about are extremely likely to become white elephants. How much is your comfort level worth? Is it worth shortcircuiting your career? Moving to an unfamiliar and ordinarily undesirable location? Spending gobs of time learning survival skills rather than with your children? Draining your savings to buy tractors or drill wells? There is a limit somewhere for everyone.

In general, preparing to get through a wide variety of glitches comfortably is affordable for most. Preparing to rebuild society from the ashes (and survive the fire) is prohibitive. The latter also requires a major lifestyle change, burning a lot of bridges.

I've spent a lot of time on this forum trying to assess the most likely scenarios, so as to guide (at least) my own preparations for the worst likely case. Preparing for the worst imaginable case is expensive in many ways.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), November 02, 1999.


It's good to see you are open minded about this..

As far as over-preparation. I'd find it hard to believe that someone could spend more than 1500 bucks on three months worth of preps.. To many Americans, that's really change. The average car costs 20K, a house 150-250K.

The computer you are typing on probably cost more than your preps right?

People in America that missed the Depression and WWII have really never seen starvation.. I'd argue that the average household really only has three to seven days worth of food. It's just not in our psyche to understand a lack of basic supplies, that could be dangerous.

Preparation is more bother than cost, as far as I'm concerned. I'd take the harder stand and suggest to your friends, etc, to put up some kind of preparations for earthquakes, Y2K, etc..


-- Bryce (bryce@nospam.com), November 02, 1999.

Ken, Your comment about your 22 yr old wife reminded me of the Amish boy and his father who were visiting a mall. They were amazed by everything they saw...but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and back together again.

The boy asked his father, "What is this, father?" The father, never having seen an elevator, responded "Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life, I don't know what it is.

While the boy and his father were watching wide-eyed, an old lady in a wheelchair rolled up to the moving walls and pressed a button.

The walls opened and the lady rolled between them into a small room. The walls closed and the boy and his father watched small circles of lights with numbers above the walls light up. They continued to watch the circles light up in the reverse direction.

The walls opened up again and a beautiful 23 year old woman stepped out. The father, not taking his eyes off the young woman, said quietly to his son, " Go get your mother, boy".

-- Larry (Rampon@cyberramp.net), November 02, 1999.

Hi Flint -

No, actually I wasn't thinking about the worst case scenario; I was just using the analogy of simple insurance. Because heart surgery is not the worst case scenario in my opinion. In that particular instance, the worst case would be a heart attack, causing sudden death - something all the insurance in the world can't stop.

Yeah, we've all heard of The Baron, and we all wish we could have his money to put toward this thing-at least the ones who think it warrants it. Personally, I think The Baron has a pretty good set-up, and I would want to be there, regardless of Y2K, if I were him.

But I think you're Right in that preparing for WORST case is difficult. Worst case in My opinion would be nuclear problems that no levels of preps could off-set. I have to admit, though, that I am more comfortable than I was 10 months ago.

-- $.02 worth (laundrylist@in.pocket), November 02, 1999.

"As far as over-preparation. I'd find it hard to believe that someone could spend more than 1500 bucks on three months worth of preps.. To many Americans, that's really change".

Yep, it's real change all right. I'm not expecting y2k to turn into a "Mad-Max" type deal but don't think 3 months preps will cover it necessarily. I have a 10 year old son and I'm not going to take any chances with his well being hence I have more like 9-10 months worth of "necessities" type storage (what's a necessity to me and what it means to my boy are two different things). Over the past 15 months I've likely spent about $8k not counting some infrastructure stuff (more solar panels, new windplant, triple stage water filtration system, LED lighting, etc.) I'd be doing anyway, y2k or not.

I think 3 months WILL likely get most folks by...but I'm not sure so my preps are much more extensive. Can't take that chance...DCK

-- Don Kulha (dkulha@vom.com), November 02, 1999.

>> Extensive preparations are a personal economic decision...<<

I think that one of the primary benefits of this forum is that it encourages pople who come here to confront the need to *make* a decision. After reading this forum for a while people come to understand that they cannot avoid making a decision. They must excercise their judgement. They must think on the matter, rather let it slide without a moment's thought.

And in confronting this particular aspect of their unknown future, they must consult their values, apply their experience, and harmonize their eventual decision about Y2K with their vision of the world. This applies even to those who decide Y2K will be a non-event. Compare that to benefits of watching TV instead.

For some, it will be a revelation and an opportunity for rapid growth. For me, dealing with Y2K was just an extension of what I have been doing ever since I became an adult. My life and my way of thinking have been very little changed by it. But I've very much enjoyed the exchange of information and ideas to be found here. Your views and ideas included, Ken.

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), November 02, 1999.


My first response is to say that it is really not possible to "over prepare." But then, I can see that some have made ill-advised investments in an effort to prepare. Of course, destroying your marriage is way too high a price for preparation.

We will not be bugging out, since we live in the country, not far from a small city (10,000, which some of you will consider a village.) We have been trying to anticipate what might become difficult to get in the next year, and buying ahead. If family needs to come and stay with us, we will get by. Unless we had made some provision for that eventuality, we wouldn't be much help.

Our preps have mainly consisted of getting out of debt, and buying some extra staples, getting a back-up heat source, and source of light. For the most part, these are things we ought to have done anyway, but it just wasn't a priority. We haven't spent a great deal of money, but we have spent somewhat differently. If we have a BITR, we will not regret what we have done, and intend to make preparedness a permanent lifestyle.

BTW, this summer I lost my job, but because we had reduced debt and simplified our lives, it was really a BITR.



-- gene (ekbaker@essex1.com), November 02, 1999.


You may be right about confidence, but expressing confidence around here generally results in people accusing you of being someone who is going to make things worse (ie. a polly)

-- walt (walt@lcs.k12.ne.us), November 02, 1999.

Overpreparing makes sense. Underpreparing doesn't. I've made some mistakes in preparation (bought too cheap of a grain mill initially, etc.), but I don't have any regrets at all. And if Y2K miraculously becomes a BITR, I'm still better off having gone through the mental exercise of figuring out how to get buy without a modern economy for awhile.

-- Dog Gone (layinglow@rollover.now), November 02, 1999.

Your stance seems reasonable to me, Mr. Decker. You pays you money and you takes you chances. Y2K will catch all of us "as we are", and with whatever level of preparation that we have for it.

BTW, Flint, generally speaking a tractor is very much needed on a farm (though I am always amazed at some that don't have them). And a used tractor in good condition generally sells quite well, as does most farm equipment and tools; in fact, in many ways they can be consdered a good investment, regardless of Y2K.

59 days.

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.~net), November 02, 1999.

It is absolutely NOT possible to overprepare.

Jesus has revealed to me that TRIBULATION is coming and the Church is going through it. Sorry my pre-trib rapture brothers and sisters, the church is engaged in some extra-biblical fantasy if it thinks it will be exempt.

"Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him (the rapture), we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means, for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, AND THE MAN OF SIN (THE anti-christ) IS REVEALED, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all ....showing himself that he is God." 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4

Among other specific signs, the Anti-christ must assume his end-time role before the rapture. See also Matt. 24.

I have seen a broken down America where the crops are out of cultivation, and the living is hard. Nuclear war.

Prepare, prepare, prepare and then prepare. Then trust in Jesus, the King of kings. He's still in charge. For those cynical unbelievers who might be spinning out of control with these last comments, let me just say: Yes, I have seen and met the Lord Jesus. He's Alive and not a figment of imagination.

May the Lord shine blessings of joy upon you and your homes even in the midst of tribulation.

S. David Bays prophet

-- S. David Bays (SDBAYS@prodigy.net), November 02, 1999.

Jesus said 2000 years is enough. He has resigned and named Elvis as his successor

-- joe (prophet @ y2k.com), November 02, 1999.

Joe--ROTFLMAO! Thanks, I needed that!

-- BWAHAAAAA (BWAHAA@BWAHAAa.xcom), November 02, 1999.

Flint: you said "Spend time learning survival skills rather than with your children?" Why are the two mutually exclusive? When I taught myself to garden about a year ago, my daughter learned a lot right beside me. When I go to the grocery store and pick up yet another $100 of extra food, she is with me, helping me pick out stuff, too.

Also, I don't get what is so terrible and "prohibitive" about learning skills that are in very real danger of being lost in this world. In the past year, I have learned how to make soap, candles (and have done both), how to can to preserve foods, how to dehydrate foods in the sun (not using the Ronco Dehydrator that plugs into the wall), how to stock and revolve the stock of a very very well stocked pantry (which Mormons do all the time --I am not Mormon, btw), how to dig an outdoor latrine and get a fire going even in the wet and cold (had a lot of camping trips this year, which I had never done before then), how to perform CPR and lots of first aid, going beyond even the basic stuff(local community college course)....I could go on and on. Because of prepping for Y2K, my house for the first time has working fire extinguishers, battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors, and a great, huge first aid kit (more like a giant first aid storage container!). It caused us to get a new front door which we needed and did NOT skimp on, got a much better deadbolt this time, too. We finally got around to getting a safety ladder for the second floor (normally used in the case of a fire) and developing a fire plan. We have even had fire drills, using the ladder.

No, we did not move, we couldn't. But others have, I know. I just don't know how anyone can say that it is everyone's personal business how much they prepare and then say that there is such a thing as overpreparation.

BTW, preparation is not always about THINGS. I have said it before, but preparation should also be mental and spiritual. Possibly physical, if you think you need to say, get in better shape or give up caffeine or something.

The biggest benefit is that Y2K has been a constant reminder of just how fragile life can be and that we should live every day like it may be our last, or it will pass us by. I have been super-aware of the little things in the past year and a half b/c of Y2K. I can't see how that would be a disadvantage.

No matter what happens, I am glad that we can live off the grid if need be (for whatever reason) or if we CHOOSE to! My husband and I have learned more in the past 18 months than we have in a loooong time. Our total cost of prepping? A generous estimate is around $2500-3000. About what our extra-fancy computer/printer/scanner cost. Bout 5 payments on the minivan. Six months of preschool tuition. One half of one month's take home pay. Big deal. If we had not been aware of Y2K, it wouldn't be in the bank. We would have spent it on doo-dads, gizmos, toys, pizza, take-out Chinese, and movies.

-- preparing (preparing@home.com), November 02, 1999.

Surely, the way one decides how much to spend on preparations is to guestimate the expected loss of not preparing:

expected loss = (magnitude of loss)x(probability of loss).

For simplicity, let's only consider the worst case scenario, in which your family starves to death.

magintude of loss = amount you would pay to prevent your family from experiencing certain starvation. = $2 million (the most money I can raise)

probability of loss = 0.5% (an optimistic guess)

The expected loss is the product of these:

expected loss = ($2 million) x (0.5%) = $10,000.

Conclusion: spending more than $10K is "over preparing", given the above assumptions.

-- Amy Heins (amyheins@aol.com), November 03, 1999.

I "got it" about a year ago.Feeling that given the eficacy of american corporate stlye leadership,y2k disruptions had the potential do disrupt almost every facet of both my life and my family's life I decided to invest a year of my life to prepations for the rollover.Also I was excited to be able to tap into the energy of pre- melinial worldwide mania without the theological baggage.What fun to enter into the millenium part of a world-wide aversion to the unknown for the first time since man killed god with science and then later split the atom,our future's unknown.What an adventure. If y2k's a BITR I will have given up a year of my life learning;time management,organization skills,situational assesment,stress management skills,anger managemant skills,first aid skills,outdoor recreational skills,outdoor survival skills,canning skills,positive mental attitude development,cooking skills,edible and poisonous plant identification skills,oratory skills,animal training skills,sewing skills improved marksmanship skills,I have learned how to not be a spend thriftI have more discipline and a better attitude about work.I am less fatalistic. I now have a great assortment of camping equipment including cold weather.I have very nice hunting and fishing equipment.My wife has learned very effective gun safty habits as well as become quite well versed in handgun and shotgun home self defence technicgues with severl different calibres.She has come to love shooting sports and the freedom that firearms can give to women from criminals. I will be able to give a generous donation of staple food to a pantry. I will be prepaired for any of the common disasters the red cross tells me I always should have been prepaired for. Reguardless of the level of disruptions brought about by y2k my wife and I will be better peolple because life is no longer something that just happens to us.Now we make up our mind and we make our lives happen.

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoo.com), November 03, 1999.


Yes, it may be true that no optimist or pessimist, individually, has a monopoly on the truth. But I'm not sure how our agreement on how the variety of our individual experiences informs different perspectives on preparation... leads to questions and answers on over-preparation. One thing that you may be overlooking is that it becomes difficult to say what are preparations and what is the beginning or improvement of a new life style. As I see it, what is discussed as preparations in general is sometimes a blending of actual Y2K preparations and the improvements driven by the interest and/or renewal of interest in intentional life-styles and use of technology. In fact, where to draw the line between Y2K preps and improvements toward a smarter way of living may not be obvious in the mind of those making such efforts.

Sincerely, Stan Faryna

-- Stan Faryna (faryna@groupmail.com), November 03, 1999.


This is far and away your best post ever. And it has kicked off a really great thread. As we see from the responses, it's not about money or how much you spend, but more about attitude and ability. I don't believe anyone here has questioned your abilities, but it seems to me that your attitude has been shifting more toward the compassionate and understanding. I salute you.


You, also, seem to be mellowing. Your posts are becoming distinctly less argumentative with the passage of time. I am often surprised when I turn the page and find your moniker (not you're Monica) at the end of a post which I substantially agree with. Cheers!

Of course, there is a point, unique to each person's situation, beyond which preparation is imprudent. As Ken pointed out, it is a personal 'investment' decision. It's the main reason we all come here to this forum, to gather and assess the data to assist us in determining where that point lies for each of us. The worst 'imaginable' case is beyond the reach of all of us (if you have any sort of imagination at all).

Brian: Exactly. It has just placed a 'hard' deadline in our path, nearer than most would like.


Are you an actuary? Probability of loss = 0.5%? HUH? If you can raise $2 million, and you think $10,000 is adequate, I'd say you were definitely off in your assessment of the probability of loss. You are low by at least one order of magnitude. But, if that is where you are comfortable, Godspeed.


You're inside the ten ring, as usual. The whole situation is thouroghly exhilarating; electric with the sense of challenge and purpose. It has helped to bring the really important things into much sharper focus.

"In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his sense a dim rushlight, his future dark, his fortune doubtful ..." John Irving quoting Marcus Arelius in 'The World according to Garp'

God is not dead, Zoob, but He's not what most people thought, either.

Godspeed, all,

-- Pinkrock (aphotonboy@aol.com), November 03, 1999.

These are healthy discussions. It seems that one can certain prepare poorly which might be called over prepare. I recently told a bazillionaire friend at Goldman Sachs to send his nanny out to prepare. No skin off his ass -- money is not an issue. On the other hand, if you're on a shoe string budget buying lots of stuff that will not be of any value in the event of a non-event (rather than real basics) may be considered over preparing. I personally am preparing for the 1930's, not the 1830's.

-- Dave (aaa@aaa.com), November 03, 1999.

From: Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr (pic), near Monterey, California

expected loss = ($2 million) x (0.5%) = $10,000. Conclusion: spending more than $10K is "over preparing", given the above assumptions.

There was a mistake in this analysis. The $2 million constraint is not on the amount one would expend to prevent a certainty but on the expected loss. In the case of preparing to save one's own life, or in the case of a parent, all their children, the value would be infinite.

There are other factors to consider in this analysis, mainly, how much money (out of your entire lifetime earning power) you think you'll want to have to live on in case the 99.5% probability comes to pass.

One way to maximize the entire equasion is to be very sure to at least get all of those things that you're pretty sure you're going to want to eventually have in either situation: water, food, medications & first aid, blankets, clothing, fire detectors, extinguishers, CO2 detector, solar power, camping gear, car kits, shelter in place protection for NBC events (two weeks food, masks, tyvek, camping potty), sewing equipment & supplies, general purpose tools (viewing, woodworking, maintenance, measurement, construction, fishing, gardening, tying, treasure hunting), hunting equipment, bicycles...

Next, if you're a homeowner, add things that you might not otherwise do, but that could improve the value of your property.

Then, think about things that won't cost you a cent (or comparatively little), like encouraging your neighbors and extended family to get cracking.

There's also time. There's a limited amount of time available for learning what we need to know to survive. This time has to be carved out of currently available minutes. We can somewhat buy time, through the help of others, but secrecy commands that much of the work we must do for ourselves.

The same kinds of tactics can be used in spending time as in spending money. Spend time first on those things you'd like to do anyway. Spend time improving your home. Spend time on informing family and neighbors.

Don't spend all your money or time in one place. Appreciate what you have. Good luck.

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), November 03, 1999.

Wow, this is the kind of thread that originally brought me to this forum. Thank-you all for your reasoned, careful responses. I'd add my .02, but I think it's all been said.

-- Tricia the Canuck (tricia_canuck@hotmail.com), November 03, 1999.

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