Showing posts with label mayberry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mayberry. Show all posts

Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Just One Pistol" With Emphasis on Concealed Carry

Craig asked the question and I realized my response is going to be longer than a comment so it will be a post. First I asked what his budget is and the response was about $500 though $400 would be better. [As noted yesterday it is important to really be honest with yourself about what you can afford. If you are going to be able to pull together some cash, even $20-30 a shot within a reasonable period of time; then you can spend most of your wad on the gun and pick up more ammo, mags/ speed loaders/etc over a couple months or whatever. On the other hand if you know money is going to be tight for the foreseeable future then you need to look at a system (gun, holster(s), mags/ speed loaders/ speed strips, ammo) that fits within the budget.]

 I do hate  to go down the  "just one anything" rabbit hole. However if a person can only  afford one rifle/pistol/shotgun/22 for the foreseeable future that is sometimes that is where we find ourselves. Craig has a single action .22 revolver but those are really plinking/ small game guns. So we are at the one pistol question.

I think a few key things are important to talk before going into specific models:

Common calibers are common for a reason. Buy a 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45ACP in auto's or a .38 special/ .357 Magnum in revolvers, maybe .44 Special/ Mag if you need bear medicine. I don't plan to argue other calibers though I know some are almost as common as the ones I listed.

Use a caliber sufficient for your task at hand. For a primary defensive pistol (vs a hideout) I would not purchase a weapon smaller than 9mm or .38 special. Folks may look at this differently as is their right. Of course a dangerous game gun needs more power. However this is where you have to make choices. A .44mag or 10mm or whatever small enough and light enough for most people to regularly conceal is not one I would want to shoot more than once. Again people may look at things differently.

Common  models and calibers are common for a reason. There are oddballs still but that is mostly about personal preference and use. On the other hand some no name one year run guns are great, however some of them are not. This also runs into parts, magazine and accessory availability.

Of course what you are going to do (as well as your build and budget) matters. A pistol that is going to live in the house or truck can be as big as you want. A pistol carried for bear protection should have a round sufficient for those tasks. That being said I think that once a few really rural folks are factored out the answers are pretty similar for most people.

That being said I think it is important for a single pistol scenario to keep an eye toward concealed carry. A pistol you can't reasonably conceal fails at its primary job, being the gun you can have all the time. Maybe you do not want to carry today but there could be a crime wave or a disaster or whatever that changes your mind.

Now onto specific models.

Personally I recommend the Glock 19 to Craig or pretty much anybody looking for a good all around pistol. In my opinion (and a lot of other much smarter people's) it strikes a great compromise between the shootability and round count of a service sized handgun and the conceal ability of a smaller pistol. Personally I can conceal one easily wearing cargo shorts and a polo or light short sleeved button up shirt. Also they are as (or more) reliable than any competitor and are one of the most common pistols out there which means parts/ mags/ accessories are more available than most if not all competitors. Any place that sells ammo has 9mm and any place that has gun stuff has Glock stuff. Also the Glock offers a lot of gun for your money. You can buy the service pistol which is arguably the standard all others are judged by for somewhere between $400-500 bucks. That being said I can see how reasonable people may differ.

It is worth noting that everything I said about the Glock could be said about the Springfield XD or Smith and Wesson MP series. The only exception is that they are slightly less common than Glocks if just because they are fairly new to the market. Due to this they have fewer mags/ parts/ accessories floating around though maybe not enough to matter,.

If you want more power .40 S&W is a good answer. Not necessary but if it makes you happy then rock on. It is a darn good round though a bit more expensive to shoot than 9mm. Also it is snappy or maybe even unpleasant in smaller/ lighter pistols.

Personally I would be inclined to stick with a double stack magazine. Yeah they are thicker but the trade off is a whole bunch more bullets. For reference a Glock 19 holds 15 plus 1 in the pipe while single stack compact 9mm's will usually hold 6 or 7 plus 1. Personally I am not so sure it is a trade off I would be willing to make. Then again you could argue these new subcompact/ compact single stack 9's (and .40's) like the Keltech, S&W Shield, Ruger LC9 and (though not new really) various Kahr's are in competition not with double stack compact 9mm's but with subcompact single stack .380's I would say a 9 beats a .380 any day, especially if the size and weight are close.

As to revolvers for an all around gun I would get a 3" .357 magnum like a Ruger SP 101 or whatever model S&W is comparable. Snubby revolvers are difficult to shoot well and as such IMO not a good all around choice. On the other end of the spectrum a large framed .357 Magnum like a S&W Model 19 or Ruger GP 100 is a great pistol but probably too big for concealed carry without a coat. While a snubby .357 to carry and a 4 or 6 inch wheel gun for the house/ field is a good combo neither stand alone all that well so we are left with the 3".

For Craigs specific situation:

Do not get a pocket pistol for your only pistol. A tiny .380 is a great little carry piece to have as part of your battery if you have other pistol(s) to use as a house gun or for other defensive purposes.  As a

If a Glock 19 is not a viable option I would look at the Keltech PF 9. Personally I do not have any experience with this pistol but NutnFancy seems to like them which is a pretty solid endorsement. Also since the cost is around $250-300 that really helps in the cash area. You could probably get a PF 9, a holster, an extra set of magazines, a couple boxes of 9mm defensive ammo and a few boxes or maybe even 500 rounds of 9mm FMJ to stash away for around $500.

The PF 9 is certainly small enough to carry regularly in fairly light summer clothing. They are single stack so the round count is low but there is the trade off to thinness/ concealability. Sure there are probably some downsides but for a new $250-300 semi automatic pistol that is to be expected, you can't have everything.

To be honest I am pondering a potential role one might have in my battery. Though I have to see one side by side with a Glock 19 to really compare them. 

Regardless of the specific pistol I would recommend a corrosion resistant finish for those who will be in and around water, doubly so if it is salt water. This means stainless steel or a tough finish like Tenifer or something comparable. I would not purchase a blued gun, it is just asking for problems.

Anyway those are my thoughts on that. Simply put buy a Glock 19 and everything will be alright. If for whatever foolish reason you decide not to buy a Glock  19 I hope we have hit on some things for you to consider. I think the comments section could get fun.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Help a Blog Buddy Out

Our longtime blog buddy Mayberry/ Craig's side gig fell apart when the partner decided to sell off the boat and gear. One of his readers who goes by Wonderdog came onto the net with the offer of a replacement boat. Some guy dropped a comment and often nothing ever comes of it. Then it seems that the two of them talked and it seemed legit. Yes the dude offered to give Mayberry a boat. This means that he just needs some traps and I suspect other ancillary stuff to get going. Wonderdog challenged other readers/ invisible friends/ blog buddies to each donate the cost of a trap which is aproximately $35.

I thought this whole thing was pretty crazy to be honest. That some dude is giving another dude a boat is pretty crazy and cool. Personally I could use a Harley but any sort of motorcycle would be good. In any case I got to thinking about donating.

Mayberry has been in a situation of fairly low wages and a rising cost of living. It has been a slow downward spiral for awhile now and (IMO) slowly grinding him down mentally and emotionally. Like most problems in life this was at least partially of his own making. Over the last year or so he has (IMO) really turned a corner. He has gotten out of the dreaded problem admiration phase and started doing stuff hustling and working side gigs to bring in some more cash. The dude seems to be doing a lot of the right things but nothing has quite clicked yet.

Thinking about donating lead to thinking about what $35 would buy. Wifey and I could order take out for dinner if we watched the tab. Kiddo could get toys #192 and #193 which uncharacteristically came from the store. I could get a silver round or another Buck 110. If I tossed in another 5er it would get me a bottle of Glenlivet. It would get me 3 AK mags and a 6 pack of light beer or 2 PMAG's or almost a 33rd Glockamole mag. The list goes on I guess but you get the point. I realized pretty quickly that I don't really need any of that stuff. It would be another thing to toss into a bag or pile of like items. Sure I can always use these kinds of things but I am not filling any critical shortages.

Donating was a simple decision for me. At the end of the day I realized that Mayberry could benefit from this a lot more than I could. I don't do it very often but it is a good thing to be able to help a friend when you are able. Not getting a good bottle of scotch really isn't much of a sacrifice anyway.

It is noteworthy that A) Mayberry didn't ask for any of this, it sort of came together on it's own and B) this will help him improve his situation over the long term instead of buying a tank of gas or whatever and kicking the proverbial can down the road another couple weeks.

There are times when somebody gets the right help at the right time and is really able to make it turn into into something long lasting and meaningful. I think this may be one of them. Not much would make me happier than seeing Mayberry be able to get some good things going on. The guy could really use a break and this seems like it. To be honest that is probably what got me to donate (to some blogger type for the first time ever). The idea of helping somebody to really improve their situation appeals to me. It is pretty unusual and cool that a bunch of folks are coming together to help towards a significant goal that will benefit a member of their group. Also I figured if Wonderdog could kick in a frickin boat I can reach into my wallet for a measley 35 bucks.

Anyway I am not going to put on a hard sell or a guilt trip. I passed the information which was my goal. Donate if you want or not if you don't. It goes without saying that you should not donate unless you can afford it without shorting yourself. If you kick in $35 it will buy the guy a trap to put into the water to catch little fish to sell. It is a reasonable amount for a lot of folks. Of course less is fine and more is great too.  

Happy Friday!

Edited to include: I tried to send the donate links directly to his paypal account but it didn't seem to work. All links will now send you to his blog. On the left side there is a donate button that will take you there.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Craig and I agree on about 85% of things and argue like old women about the other 15%. We remind me of my friends Ryan and Chad that way. In any case I have got to thank him for something. I recently made a comment to a post on his blog. In his response he asked if I had read anything by Dimitri Orlov. I had heard of him but hadn’t really read anything. I got to thinking. Right before I came here I loaded my Kindle with a bunch of books; one of which was written by some dude with a Russian sounding name and was about the Soviet collapse. I checked and it was written by the fellow in question.

My friend Craig spurred me to get back to reading. I was really busy for the first months here but since we have collectively stopped trying to go 24/7 and slipped into a more maintainable pace and we have also became more efficient in things my spare time situation has gotten better. No real reason I haven’t been reading lately. I just kind of got out of the habit of it I guess. Well I am getting back into it and enjoying it. Reading will go a long way toward me doing the utmost I can to prepare while here. A lot of PT, a few purchases now and then and some financial preps aside that is about all I can do.

On the bright side that is worthwhile stuff to do. Some reading will really help round things out for me. I started the Orlov book and it is pretty interesting. There will be more to come on that later. Anyway I want to thank Craig for getting me back to reading.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The concept of boats has come up recently. Both the teaser for Matthew Brackens upcoming book and our good friend Mayberry's Blovel have involved them. Before I go any further there will be one significant disclaimer. I do not have a lot of experience with boats. Thus I will stay away from all but general thoughts on prices/ sizes and specs for boats.

I will start by saying that this idea is sexy as can be. I mean on a preparedness sexiness level where 1 is doing a household budget and a sweet new M1A with an EBR stock and a great optic is a 6 this is a 9.5. The world goes to heck in a hand basket and you just cruise the world in your awesome boat. Catch and eat some fresh seafood most nights of the week and regularly have fruity drinks with little straw hats. I like the idea of lobster for dinner while watching the sunset a lot better than fighting the neighbors to keep my cereal. Seriously stop for a minute to think just how awesome that would be. OK, now that your minute has passed lets get a bit more practical.

The massive and continual need for fuel narrows our discussion to sail boats for all but the shortest GOOD/ cross the river when the bridges are down type of discussion which would be another topic all together. Basically we are talking about sail boats. Also we are probably talking about people who live in reasonable proximity to open water (though maybe the Great Lakes are an exception) because a sail boat doesn't do somebody in a landlocked state much good for anything but a great Saturday at the lake/ reservoir. Boats have a good combination of being transportation and something you can live in. A comparable role to RV's or Travel Trailers but obviously in the water.

We do need to narrow down exactly the sort of scenario where living in or out of a boat would be a decent option. Boat living would be very bad in almost every possible situation for a full on Mad Max scenario. A lack of space would be a real issue first and foremost. That alone puts you at a major disadvantage over anybody with a house and a garage or shop. Other issues such as weather, security and maintenance are area specific and beyond my depth of knowledge but to varying degrees would probably make a land based plan more realistic. However as we note from time to time a Mad Max scenario is by far the least likely scenario you would face. As FerFal so eloquently points out often countries go down the tubes in relative isolation. When one country really starts to suck you just go to another one. This is a niche where a sailboat could come in handy.

A sailboat would work well on the southern and gulf coast of the US. If a personal (crazy stuff can happen), social or economic trigger point is reached then pack a couple duffel bags, top off of fuel, water and food then cast off. The Caribbean and Central/ South America are chock full of quiet countries that are often very discrete. Also the South Pacific has some darn nice spots. If you get bored or want to seek other opportunities just go somewhere else. For the right person in the right situation with a pinch of luck this could work out well.

The biggest roadblock is that boats are expensive. A boat you could potentially use for a long term residence is going to be significantly more than a little day sailor. Being able to cook and sleep in the cabin would be essential. I hesitate to say you would need a boat of X length because the amount of occupants and the scenario you are talking about would be factors. That being said Wifey and I lived in a 40" RV and it got pretty claustrophobic for just us and 2 cats. While the RV didn't have a deck as a second story we also did not need to store a lot of fresh water and food. Size and features would drive cost significantly. Figuring somewhere between the price of nice used car (say 10k) and an average house (150k) is probably reasonable. Of course like anything else the sky is the limit. A family of 8 that planned to live self contained (infrequent trips to shore for resupply) on a boat long term would need a lot more space and amenities than a single guy who planned to sail down to a friendly country and use his boat more or less as a studio apartment. We are definitely not talking chump change here.

The next reality check is that in any situation where a boat would be a valid option you are going to need money.You will need money, in some form or another when you get to the quiet and relatively unaffected port of your choice.Slip rental, fuel, food, repairs and other costs of living are not something I have the experience to estimate but are probably higher than most would like to admit. Even for somebody who had a wad of cash or a tube of gold coins if this is something beyond a temporary trip you will need to earn continual income. Having some plan to earn a continual income would be essential. After all as much as we would like it is not practical to choose bits and pieces of different scenarios to make our ideal one. A scenario where you don't really need money but the security situation isn't horrible is a wonderful idea but not realistic.

Having a skill that can earn money in a discrete manner anywhere would be helpful. Then again that sort of skill would be helpful anyway.

It is also worth noting that even the lovely Caribbean has some dangers. Now and again a nice couple with a boat vanish and not in the happily ever after sort of way. Also for various reasons people can get into real trouble by running afoul of the local law enforcement. Personally unless you have stuff you like drugs or guns [Guns could get tricky for this one. In fact if the you choose to not declare firearms they could become a real serious problem. Almost every country you could visit will have laws (on the books if not consistently enforced) that are far more stringent than the US. Some have serious (3rd world jail time) penalties for breaking these laws. Having a couple of relatively politically correct guns could be a reasonable answer.] or other things you are not supposed to have I wouldn't be too worried about local law enforcement. In general countries worth visiting try not to bother tourists who spend money.

If serious about this sort of plan you probably want to learn Spanish.

If we ever have the cash I would love to own a nice sailboat that we could take out for the weekend or potentially longer. However a sail boat is at the low end of a long list.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's 4:56 In The Morning And This Is Perspectives

Does anyone else remember that SNL skit? It has nothing to do with anything except that it is a shade before 5 and I am awake with nothing to do. I was tired yesterday and had nothing to do so I went to bed at 9pm which is an hour to an hour and a half earlier than usual. Figured I would get a great nights sleep. Doom on me as I woke up at 3:45 and couldn't get back to sleep. Best of all since I am in Germany there isn't even news on. So I am watching Cops and writing, at least I have coffee. It's 4:59 in the morning and this is Perspectives.

Mayberry talked recently about bloggers dropping off the radar. The liberterian/ preparedness/ survivalism blogisphere is definitely a semi transient population. There seems to be a sort of cycle. Folks get burned out of all the doomage, run out of new material then get writers block or stagnate or get busy with their actual lives. It seems like a few months and one year marks are the times where it happens the most. I've stopped even bothering to adjust my blog roll till folks have a bit of a track record. On the bright side new bloggers pop up. While one doesn't replace another and I get to missing a regular read it does help. New folks bring new energy, thoughts and experiences.  I have really been enjoying Arctic Patriot, Garden Serf and American Mercenary lately.

Wifey has gotten home safely and is in the process of getting settled in. We decided for her to leave before I do so I could make sure she got off OK and while separating (geographically, not divorce) earlier than necessary kinda sucks it was the right call. Kids have a truly massive logistical trail and when that is combined with toting them around doing normal stuff is hard. There just isn't a way to move 3 bags and push a stroller. I miss her and kiddo a lot. By the way he is well. Happy, busy and a bit beefy (in the 98% range for his length).

My recent post on 10mm's got an interesting comment "Maybe! But which is more important post SHTF: Being able to kill an elephant with one shot (if you had ammo). OR owning a gun that is so ubiquitous that ammo for it is everywhere?"  I addressed it briefly in the comments section but wanted to come back to it again.

Some stuff is pretty general purpose and other stuff is more purpose specific. In terms of tools a generic hammer or an adjustable wrench are quite general purpose. You can use them for all sorts of tasks and they are something pretty much everyone has. On the other hand a shake ax or a 12mm box end wrench are very nitche tools. It should go without saying that you want to get general use stuff before looking to more nitche stuff. In terms of guns you want to have a core of general purpose common caliber guns first and then maybe move to nitche items. You wouldn't want a 10mm to be your only pistol because it is expensive to shoot and ammo is not common. The same way you would not want your only rifle to be a 15 pound .308 bolt gun with a 12-24 power optic. However if you have a .45acp or two (or a 9, .38/.357, etc) lying around, a few bucks to spare and think a 10mm will be useful then get one.

The good thing is that most stuff useful for preparedness/ survivalism is pretty general purpose. Under pretty much any circumstances you are going to want food and water, cash and PM's to trade for stuff you need, some medicine in case you get sick or hurt, guns and ammo for defense as well as backup plans for lighting, cooking and shelter. Gathering and learning to use this stuff in amounts and capabilities sufficient to survive say a moderate length serious regional disaster like Hurricane Katrina will take a lot of time and energy.  Spending money and energy in areas that are most likely to have the biggest pay off makes sense in investing, preparedness and most things in life. Somewhere along that process you would want to think about nitche items. A bit of common sense about ones individual situation is a good guide. A guy who lives near a tropical beach can use some gill net's and maybe a spearfishing setup and a guy who lives in North Dakota or Minnessota might want a sleeping bag good to -40F. Needless to say there isn't a lot of spearfishing on the frozen prairie and the odds of the Gulf Coast or Hawaii going far below freezing are slim to nil.

Monday, January 31, 2011

RE: Retirement Fun-for Boomers and Beyond

Mayberry said:

Ryan, Yep, the division/diversion campaigns have worked very well. You are still in bed with the system, therefore you lash out at those who've done nothing more than start to collect on that which they paid into their entire career. Your diatribe is best directed at the criminals who 1) created the Ponzi scheme to begin with, and 2) stole from the "trust fund" for decades, and 3) made promises to pay ever increasing "benefits" from that fund, knowing full well there was not enough money to cover those promises. For no other reason than selfish political gain...

But those truths seem to be lost on the right wing crowd, who have no problem forking billions into illegal wars of imperial aggression, while screaming for SS beneficiaries to have their funds cut.

SS is not "welfare". It WAS a retirement program, which, by the way, was (is) FORCED upon us working stiffs by, and has been aborted beyond it's original intent by criminal politicians. Do I like it? No. Do I want it? No. But I've been forced to pay into it for 20 years now, and like all the others who've paid, I damn sure expect to get back what I've put in, with INTEREST.

Will it be my sole retirement income? No. Hell, I doubt I'll ever be able to retire. But do I want to see my 80 year old Grandmother's SS go away? Hell NO! That, and a small pension from my Grandpa is all she's got.

Now to address you on your Dave Ramsey high horse: MAYBE if SS was not extracted from our pay by the barrel of a gun, folks could have planned better for their retirement. But they suck a hell of a big chunk of cash from our pay, reducing our ability to plan and save for ourselves. So maybe you want to rethink your "welfare" position. Maybe you want to open your eyes and SEE that the government WANTS people dependent on them. It's a self preservation thing you know. Most people, yourself included, refuse to recognize that little fact. Chew on that for a while...

TOR here:

Mayberry, You've got it twisted. Maybe I wasn't as clear as I could have been anyway moving on.

First and most importantly I am not looking at what I want to happen but what I see happening. The combination of impossible numbers/ demographics and changing political power situations will make drastic changes unavoidable. I know old ladies who rely on SS to live also and don't think it would be desirable in any way to change the income they depend on.

If I was the King of America (a hypothetical situation where I had wide sweeping powers to fix entitlements and such) here is what I would do. I would sit down with a bunch of economists and actuaries and such. We would figure out how much money is needed to pay for those collecting or about to collect SS benefits. The unfunded obligation would have to come from somewhere, really a whole bunch of places. Foreign aid, agricultural subsidies, and defense (foreign wars, bases and cushy defense contracts) are likely candidates.

As for figuring where exactly to draw the line for who would get SS benefits that is a toughy. We would have to look at what we could actually afford and balance that with an individuals ability to adjust their retirement plans (ie a 55 year old doesn't have a lot of time while a 30 year old does). I would like to say we could offer some sort of benefit to those in their early to mid 40's but imagine the numbers will actually support SS benefits for those in their  late 40's or even early 50's. Maybe some sort of individual retirement fund type thing with some money could be done for people who we can't fund SS for but will be seriously affected by this move.
As for if entitlements are welfare. I tend to classify entitlements as welfare because, despite forced contributions, the money that comes in (even if you factor out the money pulled into the general fund) doesn't equal the money going out. I don't think anyone can actually believe the money they pay into medicare covers the free market cost of insuring them through the most expensive years of their life. SSI paying widows and children vastly beyond what a wage earner may have made, let alone contributed is IMO welfare. Social Security minus SSI is a bit more  complicated. We would have to do some research and look at all kinds of tables, charts, etc. However lets say we had all that stuff and were sitting around in a nice quiet bar. I would wager the next round of drinks that some people, most likely low income ones who just made the required number of quarters, receive a payout that is dispurportionately generous when compared to what others receive. Maybe welfare is a poor word because it has a lot of stigma attached to it. Anyway lets focus less on one word and more on the big picture.
As for blame. There is so much to go around that most everybody can take a nice big bite. I blame the politicians who created the stupid program as well as the people who voted them in. Most of the folks meaningfully involved in that stuff are long dead. I don't blame individuals collecting Social Security because they are just doing what normal reasonable people would do. That would be like blaming a bank teller because a bunch of CEO's got the bank into mortgage backed security madness.

I am young enough that I've been paying in my whole working life knowing I will never get benefits. Seriously lighting a bunch of 20's on fire every payday would be way more entertaining. I could light a cigar with a hundred dollar bill somewhat regularly which would be kinda cool too.

I know you would like to receive benefits that reflect what you have put in. However lets be realistic here. As a guy in his 30's do you actually see that happening?

I agree that our government likes people being dependent on it. However the government is simply not going to be able to make it work. Right now the subject is essentially toxic. Expecting politicians to commit job security suicide is just not realistic. Sooner or later a radical change in entitlement benefits is inevitable.

Lastly I want to talk about why I wrote the original post. I am sure somewhere in the last few years you have heard the phrase "stress test". Basically a stress test is, at least in theory, a way to see how a corporation, bank or person would do in different scenarios. I wrote this to be thought provoking and to lead people to do their own personal stress tests on what I see as plausible scenarios. If it was a bit gloomy that is meant to be a warning. Sort of how you would warn your buddy if the 300 pound gorilla sitting at the bar slamming shots started angrilly glaring at them. My intent was not so much to talk about the ethics of entitlements or even entitlements in general but to provoke some thought and get folks to consider how these events would affect them.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The American Dream Revisited

Mayberry mentioned the American Dream (read my old thoughts here) in passing recently. While we don't agree on everything and do frag eachother from time to time I really enjoy his blog. Anyway I got to thinking about the American Dream today.

The real question in my mind is a) if the American Dream is still realistic b) and if so for who then c) under what conditions. Before getting into this too deeply I think it is worth noting that in the roughly decade or so before the 2008 housing bubble and the subsequent Great Recession this dream was seriously amped up. Homes got bigger, the huge increase in home prices lead to paper gains people borrowed against to buy all sorts of stuff and generally a lot of folks went into a consumer spending frenzy. A more traditional post WWII American Dream of buying a solidly decent home, having a conmfortable life, helping the kids through college and retiring comfortably is what I will base the rest of this on.

To question a) if the American Dream is still realistic, yes I would say that it is still realistic. I can say this confidently because plenty of people are still doing it. Don't buy into all of the doomer stuff. People are currently buying homes, putting kids through college and retiring which is clear proof that it can be done. Also I dare say that recent events should be a serious caution about getting too far into debt and buying a home you just can't afford.

To question b) and if so for who, the answer is a lot more complicated and a lot less optomistic. The sad fact is that for a variety of factors a lot of people are getting squeezed out of the middle class. Low skill manufacturing jobs are going away or becoming crap jobs, cost of living and (broadly speaking) housing are going up and American Dream is slipping out of these people's reach. If you look at what a lot of folks earn, a reasonable % of income that can be allocated to housing and average home prices in a lot of areas and for a lot of people the numbers don't work. America is facing some demographic shifts and the middle class as a broad group are losing. These folks are losing much more than most. Unfortunately they are coming to face the choice between figuring out how to earn more money or accepting a new normal. That new normal is going to mean a lot of things but most noticeably moving to areas with lower housing costs or some sort of alternate housing.

To question c) under what conditions I think the answer is multi part. We are going to have to make more good decisions and choices then the Greatest Generation or the Boomers did to get comparable outcomes. In particular we are going to have to put a lot more energy and effort into positioning ourselves to earn a decent living, not just at one particular job but over our working lifetimes. The good paying jobs with minimal prerequisites are largely gone and the ones that are left aren't very secure. We are also going to have to start earlier and do better with our financial planning. Homes and educational expenses (middle class/ American Dream staples) are a lot more expensive than they used to be. More significantly almost all of the responsability for retirement has shifted to the individual.

What can we do to be in the best position possible. Making the choices to get a degree or truly skilled trade that can earn a good living is so important to this. The difference in 20 or 30% income will separate a comfortable middle class type existence and something less comfortable. Buying homes a lot more like the Greatest Generation than the boomers will help us get into a good spot. In other words buy a modest (for your income and situation) home, pay it off and LIVE THERE. If you need to move don't upgrade substantially and certainly don't keep upgrading.

We can also take a lesson from the Greatest Generation when it comes to saving. Those folks did a lot of it and so should we. Surely hard learned experiences from the Great Depression were a factor in this but so was their lifestyle. Since they bought a modest home, paid it off and kept it there was plenty left over to save. As some Boomers are about to start learning if you keep trading up homes, live right up to or beyond your means and finance all sorts of stuff that doesn't leave much to save for the proverbial rainy day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Debt That Binds

I work with a guy who doesn't like his job much. He would like to do something else with his life but he can't. The reason he can't is that he is in debt which combined with a relatively high lifestyle means they couldn't afford the drop in income. His debt is binding them to a job he doesn't want to do any more.

The thing is that debt is a promise against your future earnings. You are literally promising to pay someone money you have not earned yet. Of course there is the matter of interest. That there is a whole industry based around people borrowing money should indicate to you that it isn't a sound fiscal move. However we can almost think of that secondly.

Also as Mayberry noted there is a certain amount of gamble present in that you are betting you will still be in a situation where you can make X payment in a couple months/ years/ decades. Every unique situation is different so for some folks that gamble is almost a sure thing as your income is quite secure. However for others it is a real craps shoot.

An implied part of promising money you have not earned yet is that you will make choices that will continue to make that money available. This limits your options. You might want to quit doing what you do now and would face at least a short term income disruption. Maybe you want to get out of the rat race and into a slower paced job or a different area. Maybe you want to live in a van down by the river or join a cult. By taking on debt you drastically limit your future options. From a certain perspective a nice car (of course on a 90 month loan), in a nice house full of nice stuff is a fancy cage.

I am not saying that you should take a vow of poverty or simplicity or anything. I am a pretty hard core capitalist and truly believe that greed is good. I want you to have nice stuff and a wonderful life. It is just that I want you to know what the non economic cost of debt (doubly so to a high % of what you earn) will be so you can make an informed choice. You might offset doing it a bit slower and less fancy by being rewarded with a heck of a lot more freedom.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Rules For Your Money And Debt

I stumbled onto an article today and when I went to post the thing I saw it was already up here. It brought on some thoughts. I think these coming years may not significantly reward good behavior (saving, etc) but will absolutely punish bad behavior. As Mayberry put it when you borrow money you are gambling that you will be able to pay it back. In bad times like this income disruptions are more common than normal. That means debt is a really bad gamble. It will seriously punish folks whose obligated expenses are too high. I wrote about this over at Keep It Simple Survival. Here is what I said One thing I've seen with different folks I know is that if an individual or family hits a bump in the road (job loss, etc) the ones with the fewest obligations fare best. They have the maximum ability to adjust their lifestyle to living with their new (if just temporary) reality. They have a few lean months then when a job is replaced are quickly back to normal.

A family with modest housing costs (rent or mortgage) and the usual food, fuel, etc but no debts can circle the wagons and live real cheap. However a family with big housing costs, two car payments, personal loans, a home depot credit card, a visa, etc can't. These folks usually get some stuff repossessed and have their credit trashed, possibly even losing their home. While their income is down they often get so far behind it is difficult to get caught back when they do replace the income.

It isn't popular or flashy but living well below your means should be the rule of these times. Lets say you make 40k and can live decently on 25k. That gives your family 15k to save, invest and prep with when things are good. It also means that if things get rough you can find a job earning a lot less and still make it, if just for awhile.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Good Stuff I've Read Lately

Mayberry wrote a good post yesterday.
For a teaser here is part of it "Lead by example. Lead by leading yourself. Live and let live..."

Also a teaser of my comment. "Until we are willing to give up our pay offs in order to end the screwing Peter to buy Paul's vote AND deal with our neighbors annoying stuff; we are going to continue to be screwed by a lot of people and also have others mess with our lifestyle." 

Also something Ferfal wrote today was pretty awesome.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The American Dream

My recent post on Savings and Debt plus the follow up lead us down an interesting path. I have gotten my mind stuck on this topic for a few days. In order to fully grasp my thoughts you might want to skim through these past posts (1, 2). Now that I have referenced myself a lot lets get to semi new thoughts.

I think most of us grew up on more or less the same American Dream. Do the right thing and study hard then get a good job. By doing this you will be able to do a bit better than your parents did, assuming equitable career choices. Somewhere along the line you get married and buy a nice house with a white picket fence. Get a lovable dog and a good (not necessarily flashy but not shabby either) family vehicle. Join the local Rotary club or the Kiwanis or Lions or Moose lodge (in order depending on how much you actually want to help people and how much you like to party:) have 1.8-2.4 kids who also do the right thing and study hard. Maybe get a water ski boat or a  hunting cabin or a time share in Hawaii. A few more years down the road and then a gold watch and a comfortable pension. Now you have time to make ships in bottles or spend winters in Arizona and of course enjoy the grand kids.

So where are we now? Some folks would say that the American Dream is dead. I would not say that it is dead but I would say that it is realistic for fewer people than it was 40 years ago and far less realistic than 60 years ago. What were some factors that let then, well be then.

If we look at 60 years ago we see 1950. Things were pretty darn good. A lot of this was because the rest of the world was basically blown to bits and missing a big chunk of two generations of workers, under the iron grip of Communism or both and the rest of the world was still largely undeveloped.

40 years ago the nations largest employer was General Motors and wages started at the equivalent of  $17.50. Someone could graduate from high school or get out of the Army and walk into a good job with the kind of wage where you can afford the American Dream. Most jobs also had pretty good stability in addition to health care and pension plans.

 So why are things not going so well now? I think it is a combination of a lot of different factors. Lets look at some of them:

First as noted pretty much everywhere real wages are going down for a lot of jobs. Most notably manufacturing which used to be the ticket for a minimally educated and skilled person to have a solidly middle class American Dream life has taken a real hit. A nice young man can't graduate from high school and get a job at the plant with a secure future for him and a family anymore. The same sorts of folks are often getting the same sort of jobs; those jobs are just buying less.

Also what we consider to be "normal" has gradually trickled up. Homes are bigger and not surprisingly more expensive. We also fill our homes with all manner of expensive gadgets and electronics. People in 1970 did not have $150 a month IPhone and Blackberry packages or tv's that cost as much as a decent used car. As with anything else when the cost rises it means fewer people can afford it.

The above two reasons are the biggest issues at hand but a couple others are in my opinion notable.

Interesting credit and debt have also been factors, if smaller ones.  I am under 30 and I distinctly remember a time when many stores and shops did not accept credit cards. Debit cards were still a dream for some time after that. It is pretty hard to rack up debt when you can't buy stuff on credit. Of course stores have had payment plans and such but not too long ago most people only borrowed money for homes and cars.

Along with the long period of Greenspanian artificially low interest rates, an explosion in home prices, Fanny, Freddie (and eventually derivatives) home mortgages as well as other debt started becoming more and more available to less and less qualified people. I guess when it started bankers were confident that the long and reliable increase in home prices made them getting their money back a sure deal. Later on bankers made their quick money and sold the loans off anyway.

Somewhere along the lines it became more socially acceptable to be further and further in debt. Home prices were a huge factor in this. Getting that 3 bedroom 2 bath with a decent yard got a lot more expensive, but it was still the dream.  People used to have to wait until they could buy something or a reasonable person who was concerned about getting their money back (from them, not in general) would give a loan. For the reasons listed above the grip on reality in our economy loosened a bit and then just plain took a vacation for a couple years. Also to make matters even worse as it got more acceptable to be in debt the American Dream got even bigger.

So people were having a harder time and trying to reach bigger goals to boot. Also folks were were getting further into debt trying to get the American Dream. Somewhere along the line maybe a nice slightly idealistic idea turned into an unrealistic, unsustainable and warped vision of its former self, at least for some.

As Mayberry noted "EVERYONE is force fed the "American Dream" virtually from birth." Our parents, family, teachers and friends as well as the ever present media say this is a good thing and we should want it. I certainly would not say that (at least in the slightly more retro interpretation) it's not a nice idea. However sometimes the dream isn't for everyone, at least not today.

Tomorrow I will talk about defying the norms.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Listening To My Buddy

Mayberry did a podcast a little bit ago. Very interesting and enjoyable to listen to. At a bit over 20 minutes it is right for drinking a cup of coffee (or tea if you gave joe up for lent) or getting started on a beer. Hopefully more podcasts will follow.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Deborah Medina Fail

I got an email about this one before I even heard about it and it is sort of moving through the blogosphere. I have been banking a lot of posts recently for times when I will not be around so I kinda take what I can get in terms of ideas.

Just a couple minutes ago I listened to the part of the interview in question. It was definitely not good. Lets even skip the whole '9/11 truther' thing. The real issue to me was that she seemed to try answering a yes or no question with a bunch of mmmming and maybe's. It is dodging the point and being evasive which are not things I like in a candidate. Also that what she said does not seem to mesh with her later press statement on the matter concerns me greatly. I know lots of folks here like Debora Medina and she does certainly have some beliefs that I share. This interview is probably to Deborah Medina what the Katy Couric interview was to Sarah Palin. It might not be the last we see of her as a candidate but it is certainly not good.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

quote of the day

"I've learned a valuable lesson with this cold snap. First, I've learned that Al Gore is a complete $*#@ing moron, and second, I've learned that I should triple the amount of firewood I think I might need."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Prepper Myth Busters: Dropping Out To Your Land

Mayberry wrote a great post today. I enjoy his blog a lot, enough so in fact that I read it daily. However today's post had me thinking all day long. So here we go. The whole dropping out of society idea (to your little piece of land to grow stuff) is probably second only to Batman in the Boondocks in terms of ideas which need to be examined. I don't think any sane people consider Batman in the Boondocks a good plan so that one is already taken care of.

I do not think this idea so much needs to be busted as tempered to reality. It is often followed by a series of what are IMO unrealistic ideas. Some of them are just a touch foolhardy and others are slightly dangerous.

The idea goes something like this. Quit your job, buy a trailer and a chunk of land and live there to grow stuff happily ever after. Since you can grow your own food you need almost no money and thus can just do whatever suits your fancy and be left alone by the government and out of the system.

Well the first problem is that you will still need money. At a minimum you need to pay property taxes. For a couple acres of junk land this isn't generally a huge issue but it just goes to show very clearly that you are going to have to earn at least some cash. Also you will probably want a vehicle for getting around. In order to be legal and not get hastled by the cops you will need insurance which costs something also.

The price, quality and water access of land is a big wild card here. Often the 'junk land' that we speak of in this context is well, pretty junky. If it was nice prime land with water people would probably be growing something there. This of course depends so wildly on region and can vary significantly even well below the county level. The cost of a few acres of productive land is often going to be higher than for an acre of unproductive land without water.

It is worth noting that zoning varies widely throughout the country and even in individual states. In some places you can do a lot without any permits or restrictions but there are still almost always some rules. Sorry. 

So I don't think anyone would argue that they will need to have some income. I think if you make less than 5k a year there is no need to pay taxes. Going 'underground' [I pay my taxes and suggest you do the same:] also goes with the whole unplugging from the system vibe. The first thing to consider is "the wedge" but also consider what going underground will do for your situation. How would you imagine your take home will change, sort of a personal wedge. For example quitting your job as an ER Doc because you pay too much in taxes to make 10 bucks an hour driving fence posts would be false economics. Yeah you avoid taxes but your take home income dropped 85%, talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Some jobs and skill sets transfer to the underground economy far better than others do. I can't go into work tomorrow and say I want them to pay me cash instead of direct deposit. As noted above quitting a good paying job to take a huge cut in pay and save a few bucks on taxes doesn't pass the smell test as a strategy. I can note that in my observations the skilled trades go to the underground quite smoothly. Many contractors, plumbers and electricians are basically one man shows anyway. Also the people they deal with tend to often be other one man shows (hiring help when they need it) and for a variety of reasons often deal in cash or are at least open to doing so. These folks tend to be either somewhat involved in the underground economy, or at least sympathetic to it. I once knew some guys who worked for a tree service and their boss was nice enough to loan them tools (mainly stump grinders) to do small size jobs on the weekend for cash.

For many people going completely underground isn't an option. However the one foot in one foot out approach could work and in many ways is more desirable anyway. Unless you live really dirt cheap being able to say you make no money will not stand up to any IRS scrutiny. Though if you report 30 and take home 40 by forgetting to report that you work for cash on the weekends it would be hard to notice without serious investigation. Maybe your spouses stable over the table job stays but your business goes all or partially underground.

My other big concern is that people think they can almost eliminate the need to bring money in. They thing, I have a rifle and a truck and the trailer/ land are paid for so I just need a few bucks for propane and taxes. In reality they have cut their housing costs dramatically and may have eliminated some bills by going off grid. The smart money folks say that housing should cost 25-33% of your take home which is a lot but doesn't eliminate the need for income. Of course you can cut in other areas but will still need income above and beyond that super low subsistence level. The need to have savings (cash and in the bank) and a fundamental surplus in income are not escaped by getting an acre and a travel trailer. Of course living gentile poverty style does mean it doesn't take a lot to get by. Maybe you need $400 a month to live, so you need to earn $600. Stuff is going to break and you will need to fix or replace that stuff. In most of these super bare bone budgets there isn't much slack (preps could cover this here or there but that's not a long term solution) and I wouldn't want to have to choose between not getting enough propane to cook and not freeze at night or getting fewer beans. 

I guess in closing you can drastically seperate yourself from 'the system' by having a paid off residence where you can grow your own food and earning your income partway or totally underground. Following this train of thought will let you get by earning at least 1/3rd less money and not worrying about food. You can not however completely drop out of 'the system' because of the inescapable need to earn at least some income and local zoning regulations. So you can't escape the system but you can sure visit it less often.


Monday, November 30, 2009

quote of the day

"You don't "own" shit anymore, even if your mortgage is paid off. Don't believe me? Skip your property taxes this year."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mayberry Wrote A Great Post

Read it here

And my comment got too long for blogger to post it so I will post it up here:
Mayberry, Amazing post. It is interesting, covers lots of ground and is insightful. Haven't ever really considered how this prospective depression will stack up the the Great Depression. As for the whole thing I will just give thoughts and friendly dissent one point at a time.

I don't think bankers or the federal government are going to make most peoples Christmas card lists, let alone get a fruit cake.

AS for your analysis on 'The American Dream" spending and homes. I will look at the macro first. I think that recently the American dream has gotten sort of amplified to a beyond reality sort of thing, out of proportion if you will. Lots of people living beyond their means or right up to them and never getting ahead. My Grandparents did pretty well money wise but they have a normal sized house in a nice but normalish neighborhood. Two fairly new Black Fords in the driveway but not a Mercedes and an Audi.

As for the micro picture people made stupid choices. Buying a 500,000 dollar house when you make 30k a year is insane. Ditto for people who got ARM's. Tony 'the banker' Soprano didn't knock on anybodies apartment door with a contract and a gun to force them to buy a McMansion with an adjustable rate mortgage. Sure some people lost a job or whatever and are now having money trouble which is sad but they either need to figure out how to make it work or take the short sale/ foreclosure/ jingle mail. Bankers didn't force anyone to do anything and we all need to have some personal responsibility about these individual choices.

As for the upcoming (?) depression being worse. I would say yes and no. For the worse indicators are that most people are not involved in their food production. My bigger concern is that back then the dollar was sound (in fact it did awesome) so there were no issues of currency stability. We do not have that now. Also property taxes are higher now so having a few acres with a garden some chicken and a milk cow and just needing to earn enough cash to buy store bought stuff is less realistic.

As for the positives. We have a far better social safety net with unemployment, food stamps, WIC, etc.

As for families being more spread in the direct 'Cousin Bob with a garden brings over a big basket o veggies' sort of way that is a negative. Then again if the family is still emotionally close and willing to lend aid being far apart could actually help. If the whole Clan lives in a small town and the mill closes they are all hosed. They either work for it or are directly relying on it for their living. Conversely Jim loosing his job at the plant doesn't affect his brother who is a Pharmacist 500 miles away.

I do think that this depression will bring a lot of 3 generation households back.

As for skills or a lack their of that could be big in a TEOTWAWKI but won't for a depression. Lets say that you are a mill wright at the local lumber plant and you loose your job. Maybe you can pick up an odd job here or there but unless a similar job opens somewhere he is hosed. Is he in a better or worse situation if he is a CPA or an English teacher? I don't think so.

It is the market economy which has changed the way people gain skills and work far more than a push for people to go to college. Capable smart people choose the careers which they think are going to turn out best for them.

As for self sufficiency it is impossible in our era. No one person has all the skills necessary to make a simple #2 Pencil. Now self sufficiency in say food production is realistically possible.

I think you need to look at what are valuable marketable skills vs primative living sort of skills. You NEED marketable skills to make money to live. It is easier to make more money with valued marketable skills. Those are the skills which will let you make enough money to buy land. After you have those skills locked down then looking to gain primitive (19th century) skills would be prudent.

As for the last part about "intellectual value" going away I completely disagree. Look at the way the world is going. You need MORE EDUCATION (the key is education in what) and the valuable marketable skills that come from them to thrive in today's world. Some of these are concrete like plumbing or such. Craftsmen will certainly never go away but semi skilled laborers making very high union wages are sure on the down slope.

Getting some productive land is sure a desirable thing. As are those 19th century skills. Just keep in mind that none of us are really going to make a living with them so we need a money job of some sort.

I like TV.

Having reasonable expectations is the key to happiness for sure.

Again great post.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Man's Got To Know His Limitations

On a non preparadness orriented note Wifey and I are degenerate movie renters. We habitually return movies several days or even a week and a half late. Or course we pay the fees but still it is pretty lame. At our last place the movie rental store would have been in easy rifle range if the line of sight was clear but we still could not seem to consistently get them back on time. We have decided that renting movies in the conventional way just is not for us. We are probably going to get Netflix in the near future. It is only about $16 a month for 3 movies and since we are rather short on chill evening entertainment here it will be money well spent.

The most common limitations in our area are probably money, space, mobility, health and time in no real order.

Though they aren't really in order money is number one simply because without having some to spend you can't get anything done. I write a bit on this topic and some of my bestie blogger friends Mayberry, Dakin and Creekmore write regularly on this matter. For me currently money is currently not a particular issue. Of course we have a budget and I can't pick up an M1A this month and a couple Krugerrands next month but between what we can put toward this and the adsense revenues it is going fine.

You've got to be realistic here. If you make 20k a year a productive 100 acre farm with a big brick house, several outbuildings, a spring and a nice wood lot just isn't going to happen. However if you are able to move and really search 5 acres with a little fixer upper or a mobile home could be doable. 

Space is a somewhat common issue, especially for those who live in alternate housing like a travel trailer or an RV. Commander Zero wrote recently on this topic; their plan of mans land and no mans land is pretty hilarious and the part about border skirmishes made me laugh my ass off. For awhile I lived in a single 12x10ish bedroom and had enough arms to start a civil war, 3 weeks worth of water for two people and a couple months of food in there. It can be done if you make it a priority.

Mobility is an issue if you are attached economically, socially or culturaly to an area that is not ideal from a preparadness perspective. If your skills allow you to make a good living in a larger area but you would be working minimum wage out in the sticks then you're not going to move to the sticks. On this specific issue I would encourage people to avoid an all or nothing perspective. Just because you aren't going to move to a rural farm in the inland mountain west or a cabin in the woods in Maine doesn't mean you can't improve your situation. Maybe there is a little town 45 minutes away from work where you could move to. Worst case if communing isn't practical getting a little camping site and building a "hunting cabin" on it is an option. If your position isn't to your liking look to better it.

In the area of mobility I find myself traveling all over the place to areas where I would otherwise not choose to live. The military certainly has its challenges in this area. Don't have any amazing answers here and much more would be its own post.

Health is a truly limiting factor. For those with real physical limitations and or specialized medical needs it is going to limit what you are able to do and where you are able to live. Of course if you are just a discusting fat body and or have medical issues stemming from said fat bodyness that can be fixed but otherwise this just has to be accepted.

Time is the limiting factor that I have been having the biggest issue with. My normal work week (no ranges and no field time) seems to be right about 60 hours a week. I haven't been getting the stuff I wanted to get done completed over the past couple weeks. Getting everything done on the weekend isn't a long term plan as I want to relax and stuff plus also sometimes we will travel. Then again I get home from the gym at almost 6 and go to bed around 9 so not a ton of stuff happens then either. I know that I am going to trim back my daily reading some. Going from more like 12 to more like 7 will help. Also I will think about taking some of the stuff which comes into my head and throwing it into posts for other days and taking that time to get stuff done. Still not sure how it will play out and maybe I need to temper my expectations to my schedule a bit better.

Anyway I think it is just unrealistic to ignore your limitations. 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

quote of the day

"Honestly, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figger out that gub'mint spending has far surpassed drunken sailor levels, and can't go on forever."

TOR says: Drunken sailors can spend like they are reputed to because after months of being on ship and spending practically nothing they would come into port for a short period of time. Also as Neil Cavuto noted drunken sailors are spending their own money.
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