3 Investments That Pay Off In Every Economy (Even the “Apocalypse”)

September 22, 2020

minute READ 

From time to time, we find ourselves in an economic climate that is terrifying. 

The 2008 financial crisis was a prime example of that. By the looks of it, we might be heading into something that could be worse.

For instance, in his book The Storm Before the Calm, renowned geopolitical forecaster George Friedman predicts the 2020s will be a decade of crisis in the United States. (And as the saying goes: “When the US sneezes, the world catches a cold.”)

Billionaire investors have reportedly started to sell their stocks, bringing up the question what us “plebs” should be doing with our money. 

What can you invest in when the world might undergo a severe crisis that could last a while?

Luckily, there are some things we can do with our resources that tend to pay off huge dividends, regardless of how bad (or good) things get. 

Investments that work in every economy

In this article, I’ll share three investments with you that are bound to work in every economy. 

The last two are so resilient that they are virtually “apocalypse-proof.” They would have worked during the two World Wars, in the Great Depression, the 2008 financial crisis, and they will most likely continue to work for the indefinite future. 

No money? No problem! You can still invest other resources.

Before I describe them, I’d like to point out that you can make these investments even if you have no disposable income. You might just have to get creative with it and invest other resources you have, such as time and energy. 

1. Invest in your business or side hustle

Investing in your business or the creation of a side hustle can give you a huge return in most economies, as long as there is a demand for what you offer. If you are employed, having a side hustle will also create a secondary income stream for you which can give you more financial stability in rocky economic situations.

The specifics of this investment — how much to invest and in what way — will depend on whether you already have an existing business or if you are just thinking about creating a side hustle. 

If you are at the beginning of your journey, know that you can start and run a business without spending a lot of money. For instance, the essential running expenses for my business are less than 100$ per month — and my business returns a multitude of that amount. If I started out, I could probably find a way to reduce those expenses to 20$/month or even less. 

If you already have an existing business, I probably don’t need to tell you that investments into it can pay off in huge ways. For instance, I have invested in coaching and training that made me back 3x or more of what I spend on it. 

While spending on your business or side hustle is not a “passive investment” where your money earns a return for you, it is an often-overlooked way to use your existing resources to increase your income. 

The only caveat is this: make sure that you can afford the sums you are spending and that you have done your due diligence about it. Just throwing money at your business without a plan isn’t going to help you and not every investment into your business will pay off (for instance, I have wasted a couple of grands on Pinterest-related marketing that didn’t create tangible results). 

Here are some ideas for investing in your business/side hustle:

  • buy a book or course on how to start a side hustle (if you are starting out) or on how to market better (if you already have a business),
  • if it makes sense for where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, consider hiring a coach

What if you can’t invest money in your business or side hustle? 

If you cannot invest money, invest time and effort. Look for free business resources and tools and implement their suggestions. 

For instance, here's an article I wrote that can help you start your passion business today and here's an article that can help you monetize your passion.

2. Invest in your physical and emotional health

People typically don’t think about their health as an investment or an asset. Here’s why you can’t afford to do that: 

Both your physical and your mental health have a dramatic impact on your finances. If you are not healthy enough, you typically cannot work at all or at least not as much as you otherwise would. This reduces your earning potential and thus wrecks havoc on your financial situation. 

The same is true for the health of your family members, regardless of whether they earn an income or not. 

If one of your adult family members doesn’t work, they will typically contribute to the household by providing services you would otherwise have to pay for — such as childcare. However, they can only do that if they are physically and mentally well enough. 

Your health also impacts your finances in other ways. For instance, health bills are reportedly the №1 cause of bankruptcy in the United States. And while it’s not possible to prevent all serious illnesses or accident, you can reduce their likelihood.

If we think about it that way, taking COVID-19 precautions (such as wearing a mask) is actually a financial investment — because you reduce the likelihood of ensuing medical bills or long-term disabilities.

Here are some ideas for investing in your health and the health of your immediate family:

  • buy higher-quality food and improve your diet, 
  • see a therapist if you deal with mental health issues, 
  • do the check-ups your doctor recommends. 

What if you can’t invest money into improving your health?

If you cannot invest money, invest time and effort (actually, even if you can invest money in your health, you should still invest time and effort). 

There are many common-sense things you can do to improve your health that don’t require money, such as being careful when crossing a street so you don’t get driven over by a car, moving enough throughout the day (as they say, sitting is the smoking), and getting enough sleep. 

3. Invest in your relationships

In any situation, strong relationships are one of your biggest assets. They can get you access to opportunities, services, and support that you otherwise couldn’t get. Relationships are even more important in near-apocalyptic scenarios. 

As Douglas Rushkoff reported, billionaire investors running through apocalypse-scenarios were concerned about how they could keep their security team in check in case money was no longer used as a currency.

The answer to that is obvious if you are coming from a relational (as opposed to a transactional) perspective — personal loyalty. I’d support my brother or a friend in any situation (including the “apocalypse”), simply because I care about them. 

Governments bail out banks. People bail out their friends and family. 

People who care about you will pay your rent, buy you food, or fix your car for you if you can’t do it yourself. Heck, they might even give you a kidney (something that’s so special that you can’t even legally buy it) if you need it!

If you think I’m exaggerating the importance of relationships, here’s a story that will change your mind (contains non-graphic references to war, homicide, and sexual violence — so feel free to skip): 

During World War 2, German families got assigned prisoners of war, whether they wanted to or not. Depending on what family they ended up with, these people got treated very differently. My great-grandparents were farmers and treated them like family — sharing food (that was sparse even for farmers), sharing tasks, and sharing a table. 

As soon as Germany declared its unconditional surrender and Allied Forces occupied the country, the neighboring farmer was strung up by his former prisoners of war. Presumably, the farmer had been very abusive towards them and now that any remaining semblance of state order had collapsed, nothing kept them from killing him. 

Contrast this with the treatment my great-grandparents received: their former prisoners of war immediately rushed to help them hide their valuables and declared that they’d protect my grandmother from being raped in the post-war, quasi-apocalyptic chaos all around them. 

I hope this story shows why you should never underestimate the importance of your relationships. Relationships have kept us humans alive since we first started existing!

How to invest in your relationships:

Ultimately, the way you invest in your relationships is by caring and helping out people around you. This doesn’t require money. You can and should also invest time and effort into your relationships. Since we’re social animals, most of this will happen naturally. 

At the same time, you want to be sincere and strategic. 

Sincere, because people can sniff out a transactional mindset. A relationship-based approach only works if we actually care about people. 

Strategic, because there may be some conversation you should proactively have with your friends and family. 

For instance, I recently mentioned to someone that they are lucky to be friends with a farmer, in case they ever find themselves in a situation where food is in short supply. 

What I shared is that it might make sense to have a conversation with the farmer and ask if it would be possible to get on a “first priority”-list for food, perhaps in exchange for committing to support them in other ways if they need help. 

If you have friends and family members who have resources or skills that could come in handy in challenging or quasi-apocalyptic situations, it might make sense to have explicit, advance agreements about that. 

Knowing that in the worst-case scenario, you can always move in with your parents or buy food from your friend will have you feel more relaxed. 

Takeaway: invest in things that increase your resilience

You will notice that all the things I mentioned have something in common: they are investments that increase your resilience. 

Being healthier, having strong relationships, and having more skills/income streams will make you more capable of dealing with any challenge the world throws at you, including the “apocalypse.” 

And that’s something that yields dividends in every economy. 

This article is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered financial, legal, or health advice. In fact, no article featuring the image of a Zombie should probably ever be considered sound investment advice. 

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About the author

Bere is the founder of Leader for Good. She's a former lawyer and academic who moved from Germany to the United States where she started her own business. Today, Bere loves helping her coaching clients and students connect with their passion and purpose. You can find out more about her coaching business at www.workyoulovecoach.com.

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    • Oh, thanks so much for sharing your perspective as a former investor! I’m really glad that this gave you new things to think about. Thanks for sharing how it landed in you!

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