Daisy Luther at The Organic Prepper writes about the SHTF caused by economic problems in The SHTF Is Happening Right Now.
We’ve posted articles before on this website about the slow-burning SHTF that we’re witnessing here and here. Years ago, in 2016, I wrote about the economic crisis like this:
The bottom line is, income will remain the same, decrease, or even disappear entirely for many of us. Meanwhile, the price of darn near everything will go up. Expect to pay more for things like keeping your utilities on, feeding and clothing your family, and keeping a roof over your heads.
Aside from that, those dollars you are carefully saving? They are only providing you with the illusion of security. The economic collapse will hit nearly everyone, and they’ll feel like they did something wrong with their finances. It will be hard to see that the flaw is not with their money management but the management of the country itself.
I wish I’d been wrong.
Here are some of the situations people are finding themselves in right now. Do any of them look familiar? Do all of them look like your current experiences? Be aware that if it hasn’t happened to you yet, that doesn’t mean it won’t. Don’t be smug because we all know that pride comes before a fall. Be humble and know that while different decisions could have been made, this economic disaster is creeping across nearly all socioeconomic groups, and it may only be a matter of time before it happens to you, too.
Wages are staying the same, and it isn’t easy to find work.
A lot of folks think that jobs are easy to find right now. They cite the signs that are up everywhere, announcing that businesses are hiring. As the mom of someone in her early 20s who is out there looking for a second job to increase her household income, I can tell you that just because there’s a sign out doesn’t mean the business is actually hiring.
A lot of places are required by their corporate headquarters to put these signs out to make it look like they’re thriving, but they aren’t actually hiring. Go in with a resume, and you’ll soon find out this is true. Obviously, it’s not the case with all businesses posting such signs, but it’s very much the situation in urban North Carolina right now.
Places that hire minimum wage workers are operating with skeleton crews, leaving too few frazzled employees to handle long lines and unhappy patrons. Have you been someplace like Walmart or Target lately? At least at our local stores, there’s generally one register with a human operating, and quite often, the line winds down the front aisle with dozens of customers.
Wages haven’t matched the increase of inflation. If you’re still making what you made a year or two or three years ago, you’re able to pay for far less with it. This leads me to the next situation.
Inflation means you are paying more for essentials like food, utilities, gasoline, and rent.
Our esteemed leader, President Biden, managed to read the teleprompter and tell us that inflation is all in our heads and doesn’t actually exist. He claimed proudly that in July, inflation was at 0%.
Speaking from the White House, Biden said:
“I want to say a word about news that came out today relative to the economy. Actually, I just want to say a number: zero.” He continued, “Today we received news that our economy had zero percent inflation in the month of July.” (source)
While that is the official statistic for July, it doesn’t reveal the true economic suffering. Over the past year, the official numbers for inflation are at 8.5%. And in the real world, we know that there’s actually more to the picture than the statistics show.
People are skipping a lot of things that they used to be able to pay for with ease due to the high prices. For example, a friend pointed out to me that on her last trip to the grocery store, a jar of mayonnaise was $5 on sale. A pot roast that used to be around 12 bucks is now more than $20.
A gallon of milk that was $3.04 in 2019 is now $3.55 (if you’re lucky.) At my local Publix, a gallon of generic milk is actually $4.41 as of the writing of this article. If you’re still making the same thing you were in 2019, things like that certainly belie the 8.5% bandied about.
And don’t even get me started on the high price of gasoline. My Jeep now takes almost $100 to fill up, whereas it took $60 just a year ago. Rent is out of control. The official numbers for the year are .5%, but around the country, people are reporting increases of anywhere from 25% to a whopping 70%. (See this article from the AP and this one from ABC.) Electricity costs are also skyrocketing. In Pennsylvania, the Public Utilities Commission reports increases of as much as 19%.
How on earth are you supposed to pay for food, gas, accommodations, and power on the same pay you got a few years ago, especially if things were tight then? People are getting evicted, getting their power shut off, and losing vehicles to repossession because they are unable to make ends meet.
Credit cards are maxed.
Speaking of being unable to make ends meet, Americans’ credit card debt has leaped from 846 billion to $887 billion between the first and second quarter of this year. In August, that number was reported to be $930 billion.
You may be saying, “Just don’t use your credit cards.” And that’s easy to say when you can pay your bills, purchase fuel to get back and forth to work, and have a paid-off mortgage.
But if you are a person who was living paycheck to paycheck before all this, what choice do you have? You can’t get to work without gas for your vehicle. You have to pay your rent. You need to keep your power on. If you’ve got an empty credit card sitting there, you’re probably going to use it for gas and food while you use your paycheck to cover rent and utilities.
And then, there will come a time, particularly if prices keep going up, that you can’t even make your minimum payment. There’s simply not enough income to meet the necessary output. So the first thing you’ll stop paying is your credit card bill as you struggle to keep a roof over your head and food in your refrigerator. And on and on it goes until you feel like you’ve completely made a disaster of your finances.
But was that disaster really one of your own making? If you’re in a lease, in a car loan agreement, and have this bizarre urge to…you know…eat food? The whole situation spiraled out of control before you knew it.
And then it gets worse.
Fees are piling up.
As I wrote in America’s Poverty Trap: How A Small Financial Setback Can Spiral Into an Inescapable Disaster:
If you bounce a payment by so much as a penny, then you are hit with a charge from your bank and, most times, a charge from the business that was taking the payment from your account. Most banks charge anywhere from $25-$38.50 when you have non-sufficient funds for a payment. Businesses charge in the same range, so that means that if one payment goes awry, you can lose $50-$77 in the blink of an eye.
Banks love NSF and overdraft fees. Why? Because in 2017, Americans paid $34 billion in fees for not having enough money to cover a payment.
But that’s not all. Some folks are paying literally 17,000% in overdraft fees annually.
Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report that raises concerns about the impact of opting into overdraft services for debit card and ATM transactions. The study found that the majority of debit card overdraft fees are incurred on transactions of $24 or less and that the majority of overdrafts are repaid within three days. Put in lending terms, if a consumer borrowed $24 for three days and paid the median overdraft fee of $34, such a loan would carry a 17,000 percent annual percentage rate (APR).
“Today’s report shows that consumers who opt into overdraft coverage put themselves at serious risk when they use their debit card,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Despite recent regulatory and industry changes, overdrafts continue to impose heavy costs on consumers who have low account balances and no cushion for error. Overdraft fees should not be ‘gotchas’ when people use their debit cards.” (source)
And then there are the other late fees.
If one of the payments that went awry in your overdraft avalanche happens to be a utility bill, things get even worse for a person who is struggling. Particularly if you aren’t able to cover the bill in sufficient time to keep your utilities from getting shut off. How much you’ll be charged varies by company, but if they really feel like you’ll have trouble paying in the future, they stick it to you, making it nearly impossible to get your power or heat turned back on. Here are some examples
- PG&E: “To restore service, you must pay the full amount due. You may also be required to pay a deposit twice your average monthly bill to re-establish credit.”
- Coast Electric: $35-50 fee to reconnect service, $6.50 late fee, $35 NSF fee, and potentially even a $35 collection fee
- Talgov: $28.50 each for gas, water, and electric
They can be charged late fees by all sorts of businesses. Now they’re really in trouble.
How in the world can you bail yourself out when every payment you make to catch up comes with an extra $12 “convenience fee,” a reconnect fee, and a late fee, along with an overdraft fee from the bank itself? It just takes one overdraft to unleash financial quicksand from which there’s no escape.
The SHTF is NOW.
How on earth are people in this situation going to survive?
That’s a great question with no easy or socially acceptable answers. There isn’t anything you can do about decisions you made in the past. You can’t undo the lease you signed on a place that skyrocketed in price, and then you couldn’t afford to move. If you’ve already used your credit card to buy groceries until you maxed it out, what’s done is done. You can’t change the price of gas, groceries, and utilities.
In retrospect, it may seem like you made a host of terrible decisions. But when you made them, the situation wasn’t like it is now. Your bills hadn’t skyrocketed. You hadn’t lost your job or had your hours cut. Beating yourself up for those decisions will not help you survive this.
If you feel isolated and completely at fault, of course, you do. That’s part of the insidious racket. Those responsible for this disaster don’t want to be held accountable for just how bad things have gotten for so many. So like an abusive spouse, they make you feel alone, like everything is terrible only because of your personal mistakes or stupidity.
You cannot see yourself as a victim of the economy – that mentality doesn’t help anyone. But you should quite clearly know that you are not alone and some of these things were out of your hands. This is what a financial collapse looks like in many cases. Millions of people suffering from humiliation when they can’t pay their bills, embarrassed, bruised, and feeling isolated.
You can’t control the economy, but you can adapt, even now, when things seem beyond repair.
What can you do if you’re in the midst of your own personal financial collapse?
The situation may not be completely “fixable” if you are one of the millions of people struggling financially. You may emerge with your credit razed, your self-respect beaten and bruised, and a brand new ulcer from worrying about it all. But please remember that people have faced extreme financial hardship many times in the past, and while they may not have come out unscathed, they did come out.
Some of these tips may help.
Talk to your creditors.
If you owe money that you cannot pay to credit card companies, call them. They won’t be able to waive it completely, but many companies will close your credit account, thus halting any additional fees and interest, and set you up with a payment plan. It won’t do your personal credit rating any favors, but then again, neither will defaulting, and that’s where you’re headed. Here’s more advice on contacting your creditors.
Cut your expenses radically.
Making radical changes to your monthly expenses may help you get through this difficult time and pay off your debt. Getting a roommate, cutting down to just one car for the family, and other strategies could be enough to get you through it. Check out this article.
Learn new ways to feed your family.
Check out our new product, a PDF of more than 500 pages that will provide you with strategies to feed your family, no matter what your situation is like. It’s currently listed as a “name your price” item, so you can pay very little to get this valuable book if money is tight. How to Feed Your Family No Matter What is a guide to producing, acquiring, preserving, and preparing food when it isn’t as easy as just going to the store to get more.
You may have to walk away.
If things are really bad, the advice above may not be enough to save you financially. There comes a time at which you simply cannot pay your bills. You may have to default, get evicted or foreclosed on, hand back your vehicle, and start over again. You can’t make money come from thin air. If you’ve done everything possible and you still can’t catch up, then read this article.
This may sound ridiculous when you are in the midst of losing everything, but finding a way to be grateful for some blessing will help you dramatically. Here’s a look at radical gratitude, a practice that has personally helped me beyond belief in improving my attitude, which in turn helps me to be more creative and more determined to overcome my difficulties.
Only people who have experienced true hardship can understand.
Sometimes it seems like nobody gets it when you find yourself in utter financial destitution. Others seem to think it’s your fault, and they often make this very obvious. Those people clearly haven’t had the same experiences. If they had, they would have more empathy.
We’re in a situation right now in our country – and actually the western world – where more and more people are finding out just what it’s like to hit financial rock bottom. It’s a horrible feeling, but it will not last forever. Please keep putting one foot in front of the other. Be willing to accept a hand up. One day you may be able to help another person going through this.
And if things are still looking good in your world, please be kind. Not everyone who is struggling “deserves” it. Remember that, except for grace, it could be your family who is struggling right now. If you can, help someone without strings. You cannot attach yourself to the outcome of what happens with the assistance you have given. Just know that you have done a good and kind thing, and let go of your attachment to it.
Has the economic SHTF hit your household?
Have you been affected by the increase in prices or other economic struggles? Are you on the verge of losing the lifestyle you have worked for to the economic collapse? Do you have advice for others facing the same problems? Share your stories and thoughts in the comments section. And please, be kind.