Have you ever wondered how the super-rich prepare for the SHTF? The multimillionaires and billionaires from all walks of life, the powerful politicians and diplomats, the aristocrats and members of royalties – in short, the one-percenters? We had a glimpse of how different sectors of society reacted to the lockdowns and crazy policies that followed the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m not laying any judgment here, just stating the facts.
They’re still humans, so it’s safe to assume they too fear it hitting the fan just as much as anyone else. In fact, as I’ll argue, they dread the masses too, perhaps on the same level as the other way around. Anyway, the elites live a very different lifestyle to 99% of the population. It makes sense their preparations might differ substantially from the average Joe and Jane’s, too.
But how does that work, and why does it matter? More importantly, do we have something to learn from their actions, strategies, or preparations?
Prepping is for EVERYONE
As structured disciplines, prepping and survivalism have strong ties to practical activities, stemming from the military, frontier land/rural and self-reliant lifestyles, and straight-up survival (including financial survival). Many of the techniques taken from outdoor activities, like buschcrafting, hunting, backpacking, and wild camping, can be found in the Preppersphere.
The rich and super-rich live a lifestyle of utter comfort, safety, and convenience. The super-wealthy have armies of people taking care of everything mundane for them while they focus on:
a)Building and preserving their wealth
b)Caring for their families
(I’m generalizing for the sake of simplicity.)
That doesn’t mean they’re ignorant, alienated, or incapable. No one gets to the top being like that. Most know how to live in this world and defend themselves pretty well. Especially the self-made bunch, those who had to rely on determination, discipline, focus, hard work, commitment, self-sacrifice, not to mention a good dose of ruthlessness (many for sure). It’s a winner mentality in many ways relatable to survival, really.
With what’s happening in the world, the elites take on the title of “The Evil”
Anyone with wealth is considered evil when things get difficult, although I personally disagree with that affirmation. However, it is typical of periods like the one we’re living. Some say the wealth gap has never been so extreme. And a quick look at history shows, it has increased to such a level that hostility towards the rich may indeed reach a boiling point.
The Rich Are Evil mentality is certainly more widespread and deeper-running than usual, that’s for sure. The elites are being viewed either as the cause of the problems or the problem itself. Some of that is true: with the concentration of power, wealth, and control, the levels of manipulation, corruption, and fraud have hit record highs.
A lot is due to the confusion and revolt that are common during such turnings. Things got to this point, and what we have is a complex topic. So, I’ll stop right here so as not to go off on a tangent (and also not to stir moods and sensitivities – even more, I mean). What matters for us are the facts and what lessons we can learn from them.
Eat the rich?
Perhaps one of the biggest fears of the rich is becoming the target of a revolt from the masses. It’s never good to be poor. Most of the time, and for the most part, it’s good to be wealthy. But there are precise moments in history when being rich has also proven to be bad or riskier. Perhaps for everyone, but especially for the rich and powerful, that is.
Even though the abbreviation of the phrase attributed to the French Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) is frequently associated with left-leaning agendas (which are back en vogue, I might add), it means when the population gets desperate, they look to the outliers as privileged.
Thus, “When the people shall have no more to eat, they will eat the rich.”
Each has their own fears and their own ways to deal with it
Given the examples from history, then, is this a legitimate concern today? Is that fear justifiable? Hard to say. The few people I know in that position are well aware that we live in very volatile times. Extreme inequalities cause considerable instabilities. So there may be some truth to that, indeed.
I’ve previously worked as an engineer and designer on two bunker projects here, and I’m currently developing two more (one in the city and one in the country), precisely for folks like these. They’re now worried that something more serious may occur worldwide, or at least in a more significant part of the western world.
“We’ve never been this close to torches and pitchforks taking to the streets.”
In crisis past, the wealthy could relocate to other safer or more prosperous places, which remains an alternative, of course. Many nations are still in relatively good shape compared to others, at least for the time being (even though many have their issues). And unlike the poor, the rich and their money are always welcome anywhere.
But the pandemic and other events brought new concerns and uncertainty and on a global level.
Now, besides the fear of E.M.P.s, nuclear or world wars, civil conflicts, climate changes, or even more immediate threats such as crime, violence, or terrorism, everyone knows (consciously or not) we’ve never been this close to torches and pitchforks taking to the streets. (I heard this exact phrase from one of my clients recently.)
Are we seeing it happening already?
I’d argue we are, in some ways, or perhaps in an early phase. Crime and violence are but forms of such revolt. Homelessness, drug abuse, unemployment: it’s a slow-burning SHTF. The protests taking place everywhere have a strong bottom-up component, too. At one point, the have-nots may start to target the elites more directly and violently.
People in a position of privilege likely do not think about this 24/7. The elite probably don’t lose sleep over the fact many people out there, already in hell, are without anything to eat or a roof over their heads. I’m not trying to whip up anyone by saying these things. It’s just how things are.
Can we honestly say we’d act differently if we were in their position?
Anyway, with social tensions arising and the extreme inequalities and their effects getting splashed in the news all the time, people know it’s not a good signal. Therefore, they want to prepare for that and all the other threats looming.
I’ve already written about ways the rich live in non-collapsed places. For one reason or another, it presents limitations or a higher degree of threat to their lifestyle, to them personally, and their families. It’s a lot worse to be rich surrounded by poverty and inequality (and more expensive, too).
Either way, there are survival lessons to be learned from the wealthy.
Big money can buy a lot in the way of a safe and rather good life
In all but actual, real collapse scenarios (and maybe even then), big money can provide fundamental safety and comfort. If any semblance of the grid is still up and present, wealth can provide freedom (in the form of protection or mobility) and allow a decent existence even when everything around us is breaking down.
Take the example of the former C.E.O. of the Nissan-Renault group. In December 2019, Carlos Ghosn famously escaped prison and evaded trial in Japan to his home country, Lebanon. His fantastic escape from a personal SHTF had all the elements of a Hollywood spy movie. It has come to light that it cost upwards of $1 million. (I suspect it came out for twice that amount or more.)
As we know, Lebanon is facing a severe economic and social disaster. Ghosn can’t leave to some paradise, though, for risk of being arrested and deported. Regardless, and thanks to his fortune, he’s safe and leading a decent life with his family amidst a true SHTF. Such spectacular bug-out and the (relatively) positive outcome is something for very, very few. Much more common are all the tragic stories of refugees we see all the time in the news.
Are the different spheres of the Preppersphere coming together?
As I said in the beginning, most strategies traditionally focus on the practical aspects of prepping and survival: food, water, energy, defense, community, skills, etc. That’s what can be called “common folk’s prepping.” Even when we prepare to bug out, this usually means a plan to move somewhere just to get out of Dodge and into safety.
But the upper echelons of society get prepared (and ultimately, survive) in ways not usually addressed in traditional prepping books and blogs. For example, if we listen to the “investopreppers,” their bits of advice are a far cry from tips on foraging, gardening, bug-out bags, and rain collecting strategies.
However, it’s not that they and their wealthy audiences and clients don’t care for stockpiling food, water, or guns and ammo. Lots of them do, and I’ve been noticing a lot more of these experts crossing over and talking about the importance of staying prepared in those traditional ways in their podcasts, live streams, interviews, and shows.
Many “investopreppers” were featured in the Endgame series alongside Daisy, Selco, Toby, and other preppers and survivalists. I take that as another sign that all this is coming together. Still, it’s hard to imagine the likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, or Warren Buffet dealing with mylar bags, water filters, or getting their hands dirty with gardening!
(Disclaimer: the term “investopreppers” doesn’t exist. I made it just to characterize the group of folks that analyze the market and give guidance on how to preserve wealth and thrive financially).
Various eggs, different baskets
For work purposes and as a prepper, I was able to focus on the mentality of the super-rich when it comes to their prepping. I did a lot of research on it, too. In essence, their core strategy is not too different: diversification is the name of the game.
Essentially, they’re trying (just like every other prepper) to have various options to soften the blow, remain safe, and preserve their lifestyle. They do this in various manners, but the main difference is really in the scale.
As mentioned before, big money can afford much more sophisticated strategies and setups. They can keep mobile by having multiple escaping options (e.g., private jets and boats, fancy R.V.s, etc.) and various passports. The other part of that strategy is owning investments, real estate, and cash in other countries, usually more than one or two. Doing so lowers the political risks and offers options to run to safety if things go bust in their homeland.
Bunkers are typical, too, in case bugging out to another country or island becomes impossible. People can move to a bunker in the event of a climate disaster, an E.M.P. or C.M.E. event, a nuclear or chemical strike, etc. These can vary a lot, and some are incredibly sophisticated and complex.
When you have lots of eggs, you can split them among lots of baskets.
What the elites do can be a telltale sign of things to come
Why and how the super-rich prepare isn’t, in essence, that different from most other preppers. Except, perhaps, for the scale of the solutions. Now it’s time to look at something that has more practical interest for us: don’t listen to the elites, instead pay close attention to what they’re doing.
I’m currently interviewing a friend who survived the Lebanon civil war of 1975 and emigrated to Brazil right after it ended in 1990 for a future article here on The OP. He mentions one of the early signs that a country is about to face a collapse or a societal meltdown is the movements made by the upper classes. They’re usually the first to leave, which goes along with what’s seen in other SHTFs throughout history, from World Wars to ethnic cleansings, economic collapses, and civil conflicts. In that sense, one can consider the super-rich and powerful to be the canary in the coal mine.
The wealthy, the politicians, and intellectuals have many resources: contacts in the higher spheres, access to privileged and upfront information. When those with means start to take action, this usually indicates that something more serious is brewing, and there might be serious trouble ahead. For example, when the military took power in the 1964 coup in Brazil, many fled in advance in the early moments. The same happened in Argentina, Chile, and other dictatorships of South America. It happens like that everywhere.
How to follow the trail of the wealthy
It’s not that the elites are going about advertising their moves and preparations. The ultra-wealthy know the importance of OPSEC. Building a bunker or turning an island or boat into a bug-out-location requires secrecy. Sometimes it will make it into the news. But just as we try to keep our preparations as secret as possible, they also make efforts.
Knowing what Mark Zuckerberg is doing in his 600-acre property in Hawaii, or if Bill Gates is building yet another super bunker somewhere, is unimportant. What is essential is their reasons to keep a low profile. They, and those in any position of power, know that their survival (actually the survival of everyone) depends on avoiding panic among the population.
Henry Ford famously said that if the people knew how the system works, the world would wake up in flames the very next morning. He was referring to the banking system specifically, but it applies all the same. No one at the top will tell the truth, so we have to figure it out for ourselves.
Pay even closer attention now as there are still lessons ongoing
We saw a significant migration in the U.S. and other nations during 2020, and it’s still ongoing. It might take some time and distance for anyone to understand that shift.
It certainly has some apparent motives: the pandemic, the lockdowns, the crazy policies, the remote work revolution. However, there are other more practical reasons. For example, the fear, anticipation (or the effective) rises in crime, consumer prices, public taxes, asset crashes, imminent threats to freedom, and direct attacks to liberty, among others.
Do those movements indicate that the situation in some states might turn bad? I guess we can agree that things are already terrible, at least in some places. Are these migrational movements an indication that the situation will worsen in these and other states, or even the entire U.S. (as well as in other countries)?
These things can happen at the drop of a hat, but they can also take years to unfold. We’ll have to figure it out as it happens.
Are there any signs that you watch for with regard to the superwealthy? Are there any survival lessons you’ve learned through your observations? If you had plenty of extra money for preparedness, how would you go about it? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Fabian Ommar is a middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.
Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City, is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times.
You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor