When "systems" fall, what's your Plan B? Now is the time to prepare!

How to Trade Goods and Services in a Post-Disaster Economy

Imagine waking up one day and discovering that the cash in your wallet is nothing but paper. It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Yet, history shows us this can happen, and it’s crucial to be prepared. Let’s dive into what could lead to such a situation and how to navigate a post-disaster economy where bartering becomes essential for survival.

Cynthia Jordan

5/20/20244 min read

Handshake for exchange agreement
Handshake for exchange agreement

Imagine waking up one day and discovering that the cash in your wallet is nothing but paper. It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Yet, history shows us this can happen, and it’s crucial to be prepared. Let’s dive into what could lead to such a situation and how to navigate a post-disaster economy where bartering becomes essential for survival.

When Money Loses Its Value

First, let’s talk about how money can lose its value. This can happen for several reasons, such as hyperinflation, economic collapse, or a loss of confidence in the currency. Two notable examples from American history demonstrate how the value of the dollar can plummet.

  1. The Great Depression (1929-1939): During this period, the American economy faced a severe downturn, leading to massive unemployment and a banking crisis. The value of the dollar didn’t necessarily plummet in terms of inflation, but the economy’s deflation meant that people had less money to spend, and those who did have money saw their savings wiped out by bank failures.

  2. The 2008 Financial Crisis: While not as dramatic as the Great Depression, the 2008 crisis saw significant devaluation of investments and savings. Banks were failing or on the brink of collapse, and the Federal Reserve had to step in with massive bailouts and quantitative easing, which some argue devalued the dollar over time.

When Banks Close Their Doors

Bank closures add another layer of complexity. Here are two real instances when American banks shut down or merged due to financial instability.

  1. Washington Mutual (2008): Known as WaMu, it was the largest bank failure in U.S. history. WaMu’s collapse was due to its heavy exposure to subprime mortgages, which led to massive losses and a loss of confidence from depositors.

  2. Lehman Brothers (2008): Although not a traditional bank, its bankruptcy is pivotal. Lehman’s failure was due to its massive exposure to subprime mortgage-backed securities, which turned toxic, leading to its insolvency. This event triggered a global financial crisis.

  3. Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) (2023): SVB, a significant player in the tech startup ecosystem, collapsed in March 2023. The bank faced severe liquidity issues after a rapid increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve, aimed at controlling inflation, significantly devalued its bond holdings. The devaluation created a substantial capital shortfall, leading to a loss of depositor confidence and a run on the bank. This situation forced SVB to sell assets at a loss, ultimately leading to its closure​ (ABA Banking Journal)​​ (The Street)​.

  4. Signature Bank (2023): Shortly after SVB's failure, Signature Bank was also shut down in March 2023. This New York-based bank, known for its real estate lending and cryptocurrency business services, faced a similar fate. The rapid increase in interest rates increased the cost of deposits and devalued the bank's bond investments, straining its liquidity. Concerns about its stability led to a loss of depositor confidence and a significant withdrawal of funds, prompting regulators to intervene and close the bank to prevent further instability in the banking sector​ (ABA Banking Journal)​​ (The Street).

What Happens When the Dollar is No Longer Valuable?

So, what happens if the dollar becomes worthless? The immediate consequence is that people will no longer be able to use money to buy goods and services. A financial system collapse means banks will close, savings will evaporate, and the credit system will freeze. Without a medium of exchange, people will turn to bartering to meet their daily needs.

Bartering: The New Normal

In a post-disaster scenario, bartering becomes the lifeline. Trading goods and services directly can ensure you get what you need to survive. Here’s a casual guide on how to navigate this new economy using key bartering skills.

  1. Identifying Needs and Wants: First, determine what you need versus what you want. Essentials like food, water, shelter, and medical supplies are top priorities. Wants, while nice, should be secondary.

  2. Assessing Your Assets: Look at what you have to offer. This could be physical goods (canned food, water purifiers, tools) or skills (medical knowledge, carpentry, mechanical repair). Your value in a barter system is determined by how useful your assets are to others.

  3. Negotiation: Bartering is all about negotiation. Be fair but firm. Understand the value of what you’re offering and what you’re receiving. It’s a give-and-take process, so both parties should feel they’re getting a fair deal.

  4. Building Trust: Trust is crucial. Establishing a reputation for fairness and reliability will make others more willing to trade with you. In small communities, this trust can be the difference between thriving and struggling.

What to Barter and When

  1. Food and Water: Always in high demand, non-perishable foods and water purification tools will be gold in a bartering economy. Trade these only for equally essential items or services.

  2. Medical Supplies and Skills: If you have a stash of medical supplies or medical training, these are incredibly valuable. Trade them for food, protection, or other vital needs.

  3. Tools and Maintenance Skills: Tools and the know-how to use them can help others fix or build what they need. Offering repair services for homes, vehicles, or tools can get you essential items in return.

  4. Protection and Security: In a lawless, post-disaster world, safety becomes a top priority. If you have the means to provide protection, either through skills or equipment, this can be a critical bargaining chip.

How to Barter

  1. Face-to-Face Exchanges: Initially, most bartering will happen directly. Find a common, safe meeting place to conduct trades. Always be cautious and bring a friend for added security.

  2. Community Barter Networks: As bartering becomes more common, communities might set up barter markets or networks. Participating in these can give you access to a wider range of goods and services.

  3. Skills Sharing: Beyond physical goods, offering to teach a skill can be a valuable trade. For example, teaching someone how to purify water or grow food can be exchanged for immediate needs.

The Social Aspect of Bartering

One thing to remember is that bartering is as much a social activity as it is an economic one. Building relationships within your community will be essential. People are more likely to trade with those they know and trust. Get involved in your community, attend local gatherings, and contribute positively.

Final Thoughts

The idea of money losing its value and banks closing is daunting, but not insurmountable. By understanding the basics of bartering, you can ensure that you and your loved ones have what you need to survive. Remember, in a post-disaster economy, your most valuable assets are your skills, your goods, and your ability to connect with others.

Stay safe, stay prepared, and remember that together, we can navigate even the toughest of times.