Ask the grumpies: Worry and the intangible nature of wealth

First Gen American asks:

Do you ever worry about the intangible nature of your richness? If the world really goes sideways, is having physical stuff of value (art, etc) another way to hedge your bets? I keep thinking back to the Jews who used their prized violins and things to get passage out of the country during the holocaust. That was in my moms lifetime so not that long ago.

Good lord yes, I worry very much.  In terms of alternate stores of wealth, no, not so much.

I think I’m worried that artwork etc. are too cumbersome to take with me, and jewelry is so bad at keeping its value.  Maybe there’s something to be said for having actual gold bullion, but that is heavy and so attractive to thieves.

I’m hoping that we’d be able to have liquid assets outside of just the US and we’d be able to get out if we needed to.  But it’s hard to say.  Right now it hasn’t been a priority (#Biden), other than keeping probably more money than we need in savings accounts and having assets scattered across several different financial institutions.


11 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Worry and the intangible nature of wealth”

  1. SP Says:

    I mostly don’t worry about this, though I recognize it is a risk. The mitigations against the risk are too much for me to realistically consider, so I accept the risk that the world may go sideways, and we’ll be mostly screwed. Ideally I’d have a survivalist bunker with food, guns, and essentials. Then secondly, cash in a few currencies globally. Probably most importantly would be personal connections in a variety of countries who would help us. I have none of those things, so I just hope we’ll be able to make it work with our skills and what we have. There are plenty of doomsday scenarios where we won’t be able to make it work. I guess I could consider the foreign currency aspect, at least, but that is still intangible.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I have second cousins in Northern Europe…
      Also I feel like although it’s not perfect, education and skills are a little bit of a hedge.

      • SP Says:

        yes, academic/education type skills are a hedge for certain types of bad things. Zombie apocalypse-type fighting skills I’m much more lacking in….

    • Maya Says:

      I still think the fascism aspect can be avoided…

      Zombie apocalypses, however, seem inevitable when you catch me after I’ve just watched an ep. of The Last of Us.

      I suspect the people who do well in the apocalypse are not people I would enjoy being around. (e.g. John Goodman’s character in _10, Cloverfield Lane_.)

  2. CG Says:

    I mostly think about buying property that has direct access to clean water–that’s where my mind goes. I have not done this, however. I also routinely assess how long we could live off the Costco food stored in our basement. I try never to mention this so my kids don’t realize how nutty their mom is.

  3. Alice Says:

    I don’t worry about it. I also don’t think that art, violins, jewelry, etc. are things that carry value in a useful way in this day and age, at least not in our culture. I’m not sure what physical items do. It may be that the most useful item in an escape situation is a debit or credit card and the analysis and will to leave before the debit or credit card is not useful.

    When I think about the various refugee, migrant, and escape situations that have been part of the world’s landscape in this century, I find myself thinking that the bigger challenge is the bureaucracy that keeps borders more closed, what happens to people who try to enter new countries when they’re under threat in their old ones, and the much tighter identity proofs that are now required for all kinds of things.

  4. First Gen American Says:

    You have a point. Maybe a copy of my diploma is my most useful intangible. I know my friend had an easy time immigrating to New Zealand because he was an engineer. Certainly Industriousness and a calm head during a crisis probably is one of the better assets to have even though it’s not tied to wealth.

    I thought of the painting thing because some of my wealthier neighbors have a lot of money on their walls and I wondered if that’s one of their ways they diversify assets besides just house and investments. It has the potential to appreciate but is fun for them to own too.

  5. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I worry pretty uselessly because I don’t have a good solution for retreat in a bad situation in the US. It feels like I don’t have any useful skills that would translate to this standard of living elsewhere. I don’t think non-cash things like art and jewelry hold value like they did when my parents fled their homeland.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Can you go back to your parents’ homeland in an emergency? I can’t because the citizen rules were such that my father didn’t have birthright citizenship because his father was from another country and he didn’t have citizenship in his father’s country because he wasn’t born there. (A catch-22 that would have resolved at age 18 if he hadn’t moved to the US.) So I’m still under just plain old US citizen rules.

      • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

        I was born and raised here so while my parent and aunts and uncles could potentially return, I’m also just a US citizen. I can visit for 90 days without a visa, that’s about it. I guess planning to be nomadic and traveling through a series of countries with low COL might be one way to handle truly dire circumstances but that sounds pretty awful to my hobbity heart.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Apparently if my father had been a citizen, then I would be able to apply for dual citizenship on the basis of his, even though until this summer I’d never been to the country.

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