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The Alpha and Omega Strategy

A couple weeks ago I was in Wal-Mart, which I seldom visit because it’s so far away. But on this occasion it was convenient to some other errands, so in I went.

I found my favorite hand lotion on sale, 32 ounces for $7.27, or $0.23/ounce. This was a bargain compared to our local grocery store, which sells 10 ounce bottles for $5.00, or $0.50/ounce.

So I bought a bottle of lotion. I wish I’d had enough money to buy 20.

Why 20? Well, my logic goes like this: Hand lotion has a long shelf life. I will always use this brand of hand lotion. Therefore it behooves me to stock up when the price is right, especially since storage space isn’t a big issue for us.

Keep this in mind for a moment as we turn to the faraway country of Belarus.

“The devaluation of currency,” notes Sovereign Man, “is, without doubt, positively devastating for a society.” He illustrates with the latest example in Belarus, where President Lukashenko controls 80 percent of the economy through state-owned entities and demands “total servitude from his people.” Earlier this month, Lukashenko ordered his central bank to devalue the Belorussian ruble by 56 percent. As a result, people are rushing to put their remaining currency into something. Anything. Food. Toilet paper. Hand lotion. Anything tangible. Because here’s the thing: Once those items are purchased, they are forever after immune from inflation … whereas money (cash) most assuredly is not.

I have no doubt the Belorussians would have bought 20 bottles of hand lotion if they could.

This concept – stockpiling tangible goods now as a hedge against inflation later – is the premise of a book called “The Alpha Strategy” by John Pugsley, published in 1980. The book is an economic primer on currency, inflation and monetary devaluation, as well as a strategy for protecting one’s assets by purchasing tangibles.

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Coming on the heels of the 1970s double-digit inflation, the Alpha Strategy ought to be wildly out of date in 2011. But you know what? It’s not. In fact, it’s more relevant today than it was 30 years ago. Back then, the economic dire straights outlined in the book were merely theoretical; today they’re real. In the 1970s, we merely faced staggering inflation. Today we face an economic collapse.

The basic idea is to purchase the items you need at today’s prices before those prices inflate. Those who don’t put their trust in banks or stocks and instead stockpile necessary assets will weather hard times better than those who don’t. “The best solution is the simplest solution,” notes the author, “and the simplest solution is usually the easiest to overlook. … It would be wonderful if you could stockpile everything that you are ever going to use for the rest of your life.”

Wonderful, yes; but not very realistic. First of all, how many bottles of hand lotion am I likely to need over the remainder of my life? I suppose I could keep track of my usage and extrapolate how long I’m expected to live. Then I could go to Wal-Mart and purchase 80 (or whatever) bottles of hand lotion, and in so doing forever lock in the price at $0.23/ounce. But then I’d have to store that hand lotion. As well as dish soap. And toothpaste. And everything else I use on a regular basis.

And while it would have been wonderful to stockpile gold and silver before the price of metals skyrocketed, what about other things with a limited shelf life? It’s not like I can purchase a lifetime supply of lettuce or gasoline or dog food or anything else that will eventually go bad.

Even John Pugsley admits the Alpha Strategy is not a perfect solution since we cannot stockpile everything we will ever need until the end of our life. Primary reasons include a limited shelf life, technological obsolescence (typewriter, anyone?), fashion (polyester bellbottoms?) and of course – the biggest consideration of all – space. As the author puts it, “It might cost more to store a 10-year supply of toilet paper than the inflation protection would be worth.”

Don’t get me wrong: as a confirmed Prepper who strongly believes in tangible assets, I urge people to stockpile whatever they can, not just rice and beans but also education and skills. “You can buy a sewing machine to make shirts, or you can buy shirts,” notes Pugsley. Possessing the skills to make shirts are just as important as possessing either the sewing machine or the finished product. “This investment in education and tools is the very best investment anyone can make,” says Pugsley. “Once you have invested in an education, no one can take that investment away from you.” I’ll clarify that “education” doesn’t have to mean a university degree with a huge price tag. It can mean the skills to make shirts. Or cheese. Or furniture. In other words, “education” refers to the ability to produce goods or services that are in demand by others. The author also urges people to become skilled in more than one area. Since no individual job or skill is immune from a market downturn, the more skills and flexibility you possess, the less vulnerable you are to unemployment.

To this list, I would also urge everyone to stockpile intangibles assets such as independence, morals, character and a work ethic. In a bad economy, those who are flexible, frugal, sober, creative and charitable are more likely to survive and thrive.

And the one remaining asset everyone should stockpile is a relationship with their Savior. People who cultivate this asset are the most prepared of all. Stockpiles of beans, rice and hand lotion are fine; but in the end all the strategies in the world will ultimately prove fruitless after you die. What will happen to you then?

The nice part about this final strategy is that it is completely safe from theft and inflation; it costs nothing because it’s a gift (freely given) and requires little to no storage space.

And the value is priceless. That’s why I call this the Alpha and Omega Strategy.