Every year, I put together a report that I share with friends, providing my thoughts on what's happening around us and what the preparedness community should be thinking about for the next year. Now with this blog, I'd like to share my thoughts with you. I do so in the hope that you will find something useful in it for planning purposes or just food for thought for the coming year.
"The Year Nothing Worked: Stocks, Bonds, Cash Go Nowhere"
We start with the economy, as President Bill Clinton once famously (and aptly) said during his 1992 presidential campaign: "It's the economy, stupid."
From none other than financial media stalwart Bloomberg Business:
"After embracing everything from Treasuries to high-yield bonds and technology shares amid seven years of zero-percent interest rates, investors found themselves with nowhere to run at a time when the Federal Reserve’s campaign of stimulus drew to an end. Normally it isn’t like this. Since 1995, practically every year has seen some asset deliver returns exceeding 10 percent."
Do yourself a favor - watch the video in the Bloomberg link referenced above. It's not a gloom and doom prediction, but it does highlight how we are in interesting ("We have never been here before; we have no roadmap") times.
Contrast this to President Obama's State of The Union speech in January of this year. From MSNBC:
"A confident, often feisty President Barack Obama claimed credit for the improving economy in his State of the Union address Tuesday, chiding Republicans – who won sweeping victories in the 2014 midterm elections – to follow his lead in enacting policies to help the middle class."
There's no doubt that some of the traditional metrics of economic conditions support the President's claim. The official unemployment rate is at five percent, a rate not seen since April 2008. Even U6 unemployment - measuring not only those in the official unemployment number but also those marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons - is below ten percent for the first time since May 2008. GDP growth remains positive. Official inflation numbers remain modest.
Such numbers belie what's happening beneath the surface, however. The labor force participation rate - measuring the number of people in the workforce - is at lows not seen since 1977. Many have claimed such a drop in the participation rate is predictably due to a large number of baby boomers retiring. Yet we see the Federal Reserve's conclusions do not support such claims:
"A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis took on the notion that the drop is all about demographics and not a sign that the labor market is sicker than we think. The study looked at the labor force participation rate not just in the U.S. but in eight major developed countries, including Sweden, Japan, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Nearly all of those countries are facing the same demographic trends as the U.S. And Japan is currently dealing with an even more severe case of aging population. And yet, out of the eight nations, the U.S. is the only one where the participation in the labor force is declining."
The bet/hope people are making when confronted with this data?
"There are far more people in the freelance economy than there used to be, and there are soon to be more, given the rise of sharing economy startups like Uber and AirBnb. If you work for yourself, you are supposed to be captured in the government’s surveys. But if you are being paid in cash and not paying taxes, you may not report yourself as part of the workforce when a government surveyor calls to see if you are currently seeking work. So it could be that the underground economy, which some have measured as growing, makes up for the drop in the labor force participation."
In essence, we're counting on off the books work to make up the difference. Draw whatever conclusion from that you wish - many believe such disruptive technologies and industries are good for the economy.
The reality is that we continue to witness a divergence in the data. My question to my fellow Americans, as a layperson with a modicum of education in economics and public policy, is how can there be:
The good news? People sense this divergence. The bad news? People sense this divergence.
"Battered, bruised and jumpy - the whole world is on edge."
Perhaps, then, we can understand what led the Financial Times to run this article on December 28 with that headline. From the article:
"If you judge by the economic figures, the US should be an exception to all this gloom. The country is in the sixth year of an economic expansion. Unemployment is about 5 per cent. The US dominates the internet economy. And yet the public mood is sour. The prospect that the Republicans, one of America’s two great political parties, might genuinely nominate Donald Trump, a boorish demagogue, as its candidate for the presidency, does not suggest that the US is at ease with itself. Indeed, Mr Trump’s entire campaign — and that of his main rivals for the GOP nomination — is based around the idea that America is in dangerous decline. Beyond these local factors, are there common elements behind this global unease? Clearly, the world economy has not fully recovered from the financial crisis. There is also a widespread fear that, after years of highly unorthodox monetary policy, another financial or economic crisis might be building.
"The global gloom makes the international political system feel like a patient that is still struggling to recover from a severe illness which began with the financial crisis of 2008. If there are no further bad shocks, recovery should proceed gradually and the worst political symptoms may fade. The patient is vulnerable, however. Another severe shock, such as a major terrorist attack or a serious economic downturn, could spell real trouble."
No doubt driven in part by the growing risk of terrorism in the United States.
The shootings in San Bernardino earlier this month and larger attacks in Paris a month earlier reminded Americans how terrorism can manifest itself here in the United States. Much coverage has been devoted to these events over the last few weeks, making Americans more cautious about taking trips to highly populated and high traffic areas.
Truth be told, far more people are killed every year by the flu or car accidents than are killed in mass shootings. From Stratfor:
"However, in the big picture, an attack that results in 14 deaths is terrible and tragic, but it is not an existential threat to our national security or survival, especially when compared with the 589,430 cancer deaths, more than 23,000 flu deaths and more than 32,000 traffic fatalities expected in the United States in 2015.
"Some will argue that the 14 deaths in San Bernardino came all at once and not as separate cases as with cancer and the flu, and are therefore more significant, but this argument does not hold water with me. More than 227,000 people died in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and fewer than 3,000 people died on 9/11. Yet the 9/11 attacks spawned a global sense of terror and a geopolitical reaction that had a profound and unparalleled impact upon world events over the past decade; the tsunami did not have the same type of impact. Clearly terrorism is having its desired effect and is causing people to fear it in a manner that is hugely disproportionate to the destruction it can actually cause."
Terrorism is a low frequency, high severity event. It rarely happens, but when it does, it creates a lasting impact. That impact is felt by both the families directly affected as well as the rest of America watching it unfold in real time on their cable news outlet of choice.
And this renewed fear in terrorism is driving gun sales and Americans' changing attitudes about guns.
Support for that proposition comes from the Today show. In a piece entitled "Guns topping Christmas lists thanks to terrorism concerns, fear over restrictions," Scott Stump reports:
"Last month, the FBI ran more than 2.2 million firearm background checks on potential buyers, a 24 percent increase from November 2014. On Black Friday, a record 185,345 background checks were processed by the FBI.
"That increase coincided with the coordinated terrorist attacks at multiple sites in Paris by ISIS gunmen on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people and wounded 368.
"Weeks later, on Dec. 2, an attack on a holiday party in San Bernardino, California, killed 14 and injured 17 others."
And in what represents a sea change in public opinion, ABC News reported earlier this month that more Americans now oppose a ban on assault weapons than support it:
Further, the article goes on to say:
"Indeed, while the division is a close one, Americans by 47-42 percent think that encouraging more people to carry guns legally is a better response to terrorism than enacting stricter gun control laws."
El Niño está aquí.
What can we expect from the strongest El Niño in 18 years? It really depends on where you live. Above average temps and below average precipitation this winter for the northern half of the U.S. and below average temps and above average precip for the southern half. We've already seen significant weather here in Texas and in much of the southeastern U.S. the past 10 days, with over 40 deaths reported due to severe weather.
Stratfor's Annual Forecast for 2016 isn't rosy.
Their summary of the coming year:
"2016 is shaping up to be an unsettling year for much of the world. The United States and Russia are still locked in an intractable standoff. Nationalism is resurfacing in Europe. The price of oil and other commodities are low. Chinese consumption is falling. And countries around the world are more resolved than ever before to intensify their military campaigns against the Islamic State. But it is important to remember that all these trends are connected, and the way they play out this year could determine how tumultuous the world will be next year."
The organization concludes their report by stating:
"The defining events of 2016 will raise apprehension around the world, leading into what will likely be an even more tumultuous 2017 as an array of developing conflicts comes into sharper focus. The essential thing to bear in mind is that all these trends are connected. The U.S.-Russia standoff, surging nationalism in Europe, Turkey's re-emergence and other geopolitical currents will tie in to and feed off of one another."
Many in the preparedness community have feared the so called "coming collapse" - a dystopian worst case scenario in which multiple failures of the grid, financial and food delivery systems result in certain chaos and doom for the nation if not the world.
Yet lessons in crises from Venezuela, Chile, Greece, and all of Europe for that matter have taught us that collapse is a) not certain and b) when it does happen, it tends to happen asymmetrically - not everything implodes around us in a predictable, orderly fashion.
Blogger Sarah A. Hoyt touched on this earlier this week in her blog entitled "The Myths of Collapse." She writes:
"Collapses are messy things; often leave no clear records. In addition, collapses are chaotic and almost impossible to teach unless you go on the micro level, which even when available is the province of serious researchers, not popular histories OR schoolrooms. So one gets “French society collapsed, and then Napoleon–”
"This generates several myths, which are actually hurting the decision making people are doing RIGHT NOW."
She concludes with this statement, which resembles the central theme of Pivot Points:
"Put down those matches and take up your hammer and nails. The only solution is to build under, build around, to teach, to learn, to change minds and hearts. The future must be built piecemeal. So… that’s what we’ll do.
"It’s not fun. It’s not glamorous. It’s the only thing that can save us.
"Screw your courage to the sticking place, and possess your soul in patience. And work.
"Be not afraid."
Despite the various pieces of data I have shared above, I do not believe this is a time for panic or even worry. It is a time for getting your affairs squared away, increasing your preparedness, and readying yourself and your families to be leaders in the event of a crisis.
The 2016 election cycle will bring with it a fair amount of uncertainty. For only the second time in my lifetime, we will have a presidential election in which neither candidate of the two main political parties is a sitting president or vice president. There will be no continuation of the Obama administration - even if Secretary Clinton is nominated and elected. This uncertainty will no doubt manifest itself in the financial markets over the next year. And given the Federal Reserve's willingness to begin raising interest rates, it "could be the start of a series of interest rate hikes, and the cumulative effect of those could be significant over the course of the next couple of years."
President Obama's plans for use of executive orders (EOs) to impose additional gun control will likely be another driver in firearm sales in the coming months. Coupled with the perceived risk of terrorism mentioned above, we can expect firearms and ammunition sales to remain strong in the coming months as well. I can attest from my own observation that the Paris terror attacks in November have greatly increased demand for License To Carry classes as well.
Meanwhile, Ted Koppel's recent book, Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath received critical acclaim for its sobering assessment on the state of the electric grid. (I highly recommend you read the book, by the way.) Perhaps the most surprising feature of his book for me was his decision to devote three chapters to the preparedness culture found within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - the Mormons. I don't know anything about Koppel's religious leanings, but when a mainstream journalist of his tenure and reputation is writing books talking about how great it is that these people have such a strong element of preparedness in their culture, it's evidence that attitudes towards preparedness continue to shift and change.
My main areas of concern for 2016 are:
I've blogged previously about what I'm doing to prepare for such risks. Understand there's not much we can do, on an individual level, to fix many of these things. We can simply be ready to deal with them as they come up and to be the leaders in our communities when things are bad.
I hope you'll take a moment and share your thoughts and outlook on 2016 in the comment section below. I'd love to hear what's on your mind.
Many believe there's not much you and I can do in the event of an active shooter.
I beg to differ. As do a number of experts. I commend to your reading this report from Stratfor entitled "How to Counter Armed Assaults."
First, some good news:
To sum up the article:
I would add:
Where Is El Nino?
I can hear it now: “Paul, you said El Nino was coming, and that it was going to be big, and that we needed to get ready for colder, wetter weather. Check the thermo-meter, bro. It’s hot outside.”
It’s coming. Get ready. It’s just running a little late.The Climatic Data Center issued updated forecast for this winter just yesterday. In short, here’s the deal:
Colder and wetter is the forecast for Texas…meaning more chances for winter precip this winter.
So what should you do?
Get signed up for the Preparedness Conference of course. And if El Nino doesn’t convince you to do so, take a look at today’s stock market action, where the Dow fell over 350 points. Per CNBC: “With Friday's late afternoon decline in stocks, the major U.S. averages wiped out gains for the week. Trade volume Friday was the second-highest of the year.” Spend five minutes this weekend watching the video embedded in the link.
If you think El Nino is just a name of a lousy boy band and that the economy is doing just fine, then the Preparedness Conference is probably not for you. But if you’re concerned about what’s going on in the world and want to learn what you should be doing right now, get signed up. Only a few spots remain.
More On Preparedness In The Workplace
Check out this fantastic video on the workplace preparedness efforts of Texas Children's Hospital in Houston:
You may be tempted to say, "Well, that's a hospital. Of course they need to be prepared. My business or employer isn't that critical."
Newsflash: your business or employer is critical to you getting a paycheck.
In Pivot Points, I wrote:
"Will your business or employer be up and running immediately after an emergency? Some industries have an obligation to be back online and running after a catastrophe....Has your company determined how it will maintain a competitive advantage after a crisis? Has it determined how it will serve existing customers? These are conversations that you can have with your company’s leadership that could put you on a trajectory to be a magnificent Champion of Change in your workplace."
Every employee and business owner owes it to themselves to develop a disaster plan to ensure the business is able to remain functioning after a disaster. Be that advocate in your workplace and take the initiative to drive the necessary changes.
I suspect many of you men read "The Art of Manliness" on their website or on social media from time to time. I find their guidance and suggestions quite helpful.
I came across this article on their site entitled "How to Make A Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Emergency Evacuation Survival Kit." The advice in the article is solid; I encourage you to take a look. But I want to spend a moment discussing their rationale behind suggesting that modern men make the effort to have such a bag.
From the article:
"The thought of having to evacuate your home due to a sudden and imminent threat is not at all unrealistic. The reality is that sudden and uncontrollable events of nature and man do happen. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, storms, earthquakes, floods and volcanic explosions can strike fast and hard–wreaking havoc on homes, vehicles, roads, medical facilities and resource supply chains such as food, water, fuel, and electricity..... In our unstable and unpredictable world economy, we would be foolish to think there is also no chance of a terrorist or military attack from forces domestic or foreign that could possibly force us to evacuate our own home. An act of war is not the only threat from man. Dams burst, power plants go down, pipelines explode, oil spills occur, and other man-made structures and facilities can fail, resulting in disaster. Outbreaks of sickness and disease could also warrant an evacuation."
This is from a site that offers men fashion tips and suggestions for giving the woman in your life the perfect Christmas gift.
Creating a culture of preparedness will require that well rounded people - not just preppers - take the lead in setting an example by doing. We need more articles like this in traditional non-prepper forums.
Even Oprah's website has preparedness suggestions.
When we're encouraging others to get prepared, sometimes using an article or resource from a non-prepper site will be better received than something from some doomer prepper source.
My boss gave me my annual performance review today over the phone, which ended in a conversation about what sort of supplies a prepared person should keep in the workplace. (As you might have guessed, my review went well enough to allow me to work there for another year.)
We talked about the various risks and reasons we might want to keep a set of supplies at work. Some include:
Back before I worked out of the house, I kept a plethora of items in a drawer of a file cabinet at my old office. My plan was to have enough supplies so I could spend the night at the office in reasonable comfort. My collection of items was rather haphazard and didn't really reflect a method to ensure everything was accounted for. After all, my Get Home Bag was always out in the parking lot inside my truck. But if I had to do it all over again and didn't have a huge Get Home Bag, I'd want....
What do you keep at work for emergencies?
Perusing social media tonight, I read an article a friend posted, along with his own comments, regarding tensions between Russia and Turkey - specifically, the story of where the Russian navy fired warning shots at a vessel operated by fellow NATO member Turkey. Someone else commented on the article and my friend's comments by saying "When you put it like that, those disaster preppers are not looking so silly."
This comment gives us a tremendous amount of insight.
First, it reminds us that there are people who see the preparedness community as being silly in our perceptions and precautions. I harbor no ill will towards anyone who thinks this; it would be futile to do so. We need to be mindful that our efforts will not be well received or appreciated by everyone. But that same guidance applies to any worthwhile cause or activity - spay/neuter campaigns for pets, helping the homeless, "Adopt a Road" programs - this is not a phenomenon limited to preparedness.
Second, it demonstrates even our skeptics have Pivot Points...and I don't mean the book. When I talk about "Pivot Points" when it comes to preparedness, what I mean is
Everyone is going to have a different pivot point, at which they will begin to make preparedness a priority in their lives. Some will pivot towards preparedness because of their parental instincts. Some will do so because the tenets of their faith will call them to be prepared. Others will do so in order to be in a better position to help people in need. Our job is to become apostles in the movement and help people find their own pivot points.
(From Pivot Points, pg. XIII)
Everyone has something within them - a pivot point - which, once pressed, will cause people to become more motivated to become better prepared. For some folks, it may be the threat of large scale global conflict.
Finally, it demonstrates that we can move the needle with those outside the movement to encourage them to get better prepared. Judicious posts on social media, conversations with friends, and simply demonstrating a rational preparedness lifestyle on a daily basis may very well help motivate others to rethink their attitudes towards preparedness.
Dear Gun Control Advocates:
Relax. I am not going to debate you on the merits of gun control. I know you have your statistics and data points you claim support your position; you know that I have mine. I won't try to convince you that my position makes more sense (although if I could take you to the gun range for an hour and let you shoot some of the guns in my collection, I suspect I could debunk many of the things you've been told about guns over the years.)
Instead, I want to talk with you about something other than guns.
I know some in the gun rights movement may not always be the most charming when it comes to making their point. I even dedicated a chapter touching on that very thing in Pivot Points. Specifically, I wrote:
"For preppers who are strong supporters of the Second Amendment, we need to make sure we do not inadvertently dissuade someone from joining our preparedness efforts because they disagree with us on the need for an armed citizenry. We need those who may not share our position on firearm ownership to join our efforts to build a culture of readiness; we cannot afford to alienate them.
"Remember that everyone has a different pivot point that will cause them to plot a course towards better readiness. Your pivot point will likely be different than theirs. As long as we are getting to the same destination – a better prepared community, ready to meet a variety of perils – it’s not that important as to how we get there or why we’re motivated to do so."
Many in the preparedness movement believe guns are simply a tool - a tool by which we can be better prepared for a variety of problems that might come our way. Note that it's not imperative that you agree with the logic or wisdom that statement, although I think it is helpful for you to know that belief system permeates the preparedness culture. Personally, I don't believe you have to be a "gun person" to be a prepper - being prepared for a local or regional emergency involves far more than owning guns and ammo.
But enough about guns. Let's talk about preparedness.
I read your websites and blogs quite often. And for a moment, I am going to assume your data regarding the number of Americans who want more gun control laws are correct. Here are a couple of things I've learned that your organizations claim:
Given the stated priority of safety in our communities, I was surprised to learn that the Brady Campaign's website search results for the term "first aid" yielded zero results. Meanwhile, the Everytown for Gun Safety page entitled "Act" has a number of suggestions to "build safer communities" and "fight for the changes that we know will save lives," yet none of them suggest making any effort to learn first aid or CPR.
I can hear your groans from here. "Oh come on, Paul - do you really expect gun control advocates to spend their time telling people to take first aid classes?"
Actually, yeah, I do expect any organization urging safety to urge its members to be ready to provide help to others and help make things safer.
Permit me some latitude in making my case. According to the American Heart Association,
And as it often urged from the gun control community, we should model our "safety" laws and culture after European nations. Speaking of learning lessons from our European colleagues, the American Red Cross provides this sobering assessment on how Team USA measures up:
"In Europe...first aid training is required for people who drive, work in industrial settings and care for children in many countries.
"This bold approach means that Europeans are better prepared than most for a roadside accident, household emergency or workplace disaster. For example, the survey showed 95 percent of the population in Norway is trained in first aid. Close behind are Germany and Austria with 80 percent. And Iceland can boast that 75 percent of its people are trained."
When you consider that homicide deaths from firearms in 2013 (11,208), per Table 18 of the CDC annual report are less than those death tolls from unintentional falls (30,208), machinery (37,427), traffic accidents (33,804), and poisoning (48,545), I would think that any organization urging increased safety measures would be leading the charge to teach kids first aid in schools and adults in the work place.
So here is my challenge, gun control advocates - take a page from the NRA playbook and encourage your members to make first aid training a priority. If you truly want to make your effort about safety, then urge your team to learn how to handle the wide variety of dangers in the real world, most of which have nothing to do with guns.
You'll hear no criticism from us on that issue in doing so. We do not have to agree on the issue of guns in order to make other efforts in safety in America.
Paul T. Martin
Tonight, this is what I saw while driving home from a meeting. The needle on the fuel gauge completely migrated to the far left, piercing the letter "E" right through the middle.
And yet once the range indicator read "0 miles to empty," I kept on driving. For another ten miles.
I don't do this often. It's not good for your vehicle to do so. But if I didn't test things and myself beyond pre-established limitations, how would I know just how far I could push the envelope?
My Toyota Tundra has a 26 gallon tank, according to the owner's manual. Yet after driving another ten miles after having zero miles of range left, I was only able to put 21 gallons of gas in it. Many Tundra owners report having the same experience. Apparently, Toyota allows for a five gallon reserve.
Be safe. But push yourself and your gear sometimes.
What if the doom and gloomers are right?
What if one of the worst case scenario predictions - ones that impact large regions of the country, if not the entire nation - come true?
For a moment, let's use Olympic scoring, where we throw out the most extreme scenarios which I feel reasonably comfortable asserting will not happen (such as UN troops are coming to impose martial law in the United States and/or President Obama suspending the Constitution to permit him a third term in office.)
Let's focus on scenarios that, while worst case, are a bit more plausible, such as:
What if one of these scenarios is more likely than we realize? What if one of them is being planned right now?
My answer to that question? I guess we'd deal with it. After all, what choice do we have?
Many in the preparedness movement tend to get vapor locked in their efforts. We can't take the next steps in our preparedness efforts because:
I find this problem quite odd, since there's more information and resources about preparedness today than there's ever been. Those preparing for Y2K or after 9/11 didn't have access to YouTube for "how to" videos. Those preparing for the risk of inflation shocks back in the 1970s didn't have Google to help them research their efforts. The body of written work on preparedness was quite limited for most of the 20th century.
We have plenty of information and resources now to tell us what to do next, what the "big one" might be, what we need to acquire and how to start doing so.
It's this vapor lock which causes the question about "what if the big one happens?" So how do we cure vapor lock?
Stop worrying about the big one - what it might be, what it might mean, and when it might happen. Prepare yourself for living without utilities, access to the grocery store and bank. Prepare yourself for the rigors of manual labor. Everything else will take care of itself.
Agree or disagree?
Like many of you, I have read a number of articles regarding various currency controls being implemented by retail banks. There are countless stories on line about people being told:
That last link, by the way, isn't to a news article - it's from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, which uses a .gov URL. Note what constitutes a "supicious transaction" warranting a report to the federal government:
So today, as I am home recuperating from hernia surgery, I decided to be productive. So I went to the bank and withdrew $7,500.
Depending on who you are, $7,500 is a fortune, a modest amount, or a bet on a putt in a golf game. Regardless of where one might fall in the income spectrum, I wanted to have a substantial withdrawal that did not run afoul of the mandatory reporting requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act ($10,000). So I randomly picked $7,500 as my withdrawal amount.
I wanted to stack the deck in my favor, so I dressed for the occasion. Changing out of my Under Armour uniform (I own stock in UA), I put on a business casual outfit so I could dress to impress.
I arrived around 2 PM in the afternoon, after the lunch rush but before the afternoon rush hour. The lobby was relatively empty. One other customer was being helped by one of the two tellers on duty.
The young man who waited on me was pleasant enough. I greeted him warmly and offered both my check for $7,500 along with my driver's license. He did not flinch, although his teller colleague seemed to be rather surprised that I was asking for that much money.
He then asked how I wanted it back. I suspect my response had much to do with his demeanor, as I asked for it back in a variety of denominations, hitting every single sized note in his drawer. (In an abundance of caution, let me affirmatively state I have no intention of using this currency for any illegal activity.)
Before he wanted to count out the money, he asked me whether I used the bank's online app. I told him I used it occasionally but didn't really have much use for it. He wanted to demonstrate it to me using the bank's iPad, in return for two, $1.00 deposits into my account. I wasn't sure what the right answer here was, since a) I didn't want to waste time as I had other places to be, and b) I didn't want my failure to participate to trigger some sort of red flag. After we both fumbled around with the iPad to make the whopping $2.00 deposit, he got back to business.
This is where the rubber met the road. I fully expected the manager to come out and harass me and create all sorts of excuses/invasions of privacy, but none of that happened. The guy actually had $7,500 accessible at his station. He pulled it out, counting all of it either by hand or by machine for me to see (except for the three bundles of $1 bills, each bundle worth $100.)
What did trouble me a bit was the fact there were other customers in the lobby and at other positions on the counter. Those paying attention clearly realized what I was doing, and that I'd be walking out of the building with a 5.11 bag filled with over seven grand.
That's when Slick arrived. I don't know if that's his name, but that's who he reminded me of. Male, mid to late 30s, hair slicked back, shirt unbuttoned half way down his chest to expose a really bitchin' silver plated chain necklace like you'd see at a flea market. His internet was down and so he needed some of those "cheesy credit card paper things" to transact business. Fortunately, he was drawing a lot of attention to himself - not in a rude or abrasive way, to be fair - and thus the rest of the lobby focused more on his pressing cyber issues rather than the fact I was about to walk out of there with a huge wad of cash.
Needless to say, my situational awareness was very high. At one point, I turned on the camera of my cell phone, put it in selfie mode, and used it to scan the lobby behind me.
After the transaction was completed, I wished the teller "Merry Christmas" (I was a bank teller as a kid, so I can relate to what he does for a living), and departed. Eyes up. Man purse loaded up with C.R.E.A.M. Full scan on.
I got in my truck, looking for people who might be following me. I had another stop to make, and I wasn't about to leave my bag in the truck this time of year. So I slung it over my shoulder and carried inside, mailing a copy of Pivot Points to an acquaintance for an Amazon review.
And now I'm writing this, but not before safely storing the money away from my home at a secure location. (That's a story for another day.)
I hope this has been of some help to you. It was a good exercise for me to do, so that when people ask me my thoughts on the subject, I can give them an assessment based upon personal experience.
Having said all of that, I still believe we need to remain vigilant. There's nothing inherently evil about cash, although many government planners would beg to differ. When I was a kid, my dad would routinely transact farm and other business in large sums of cash...mainly because those with whom he was doing business preferred that.
But these are different times. We need to plan accordingly, with accurate information we have verified for ourselves when we can.
Here's where I tell you what I think about things I think about.