Mrs. Manward walked toward us with tears in her eyes.
We were out back, working with the chainsaw when we saw her coming over the hill.
We knew it meant trouble.
As she told us what was wrong, we weren’t sure if she was sad or mad.
She’d lost something quite important – a document that’s critical to her budding business.
She wanted our help.
There’s similar trouble way down south.
“The food we had in our refrigerators has spoiled, businesses are closed, there’s no communication, not even by cellphone,” a Venezuelan store owner told a Reuters reporter as she stood in front of a pile of razor wire and debris.
“We need help! We are in a humanitarian crisis!”
Across the country’s capital city, the police and national troops were shooting up a crowd of looters that broke into a grocery store.
We’re told their bloody hands were holding things like pasta, rice and tomato sauce.
We may take some flak for comparing Mrs. Manward’s first-world problem to the disgusting third-world meltdown in Venezuela, but stick with us on this one.
You’ll find our old pal Liberty is trying to get our attention.
You see, that document our typically lovely wife was so worked up over has never been a real document.
It’s never existed on paper… It’s never come to life in any physical form.
It’s always lived in the digital realm.
And when we live by the computer… we die by the computer.
When she suddenly couldn’t find the document, panic took hold. Hours upon hours of hard work had vanished, almost as if somebody had flicked the switch on the vital combination of ones and zeroes.
That’s certainly what seems to have happened in Venezuela.
A nasty blackout has zapped the life out of the country.
As usual, politics divide the “whodunits.”
One party says America is up to no good. They say we attacked the grid to ensure our man gets in office. The other side says it’s the current regime’s fault. Just as we saw in Puerto Rico, they say decades of mismanagement and shoddy maintenance are collecting their toll.
We don’t care.
When you’re a slave, does the name of your master really matter?
When you’re in shackles, do you care who ate the key?
We turn again to the people in the streets.
“What can you do without electricity?” said Leonel Gutierrez, as he carried his 6-month-old daughter on a search for groceries. “The food we have has gone bad.”
What’s worse is that many of the folks who were able to crowd into a generator-powered grocery store were turned away unless they had a pocket full of U.S. dollar bills.
After all, the nation’s bolivars are hard to come by and are in sketchy territory these days… and the nation’s electronic payments system is hanging out with Mrs. Manward’s document in wherever it is digital entities go when they’re not working.
It’s a wake-up call to anybody who’s forgotten about the world we live in…
A world where we’ve traded our Liberty for convenience.
It’s a trade that’s made men like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos mega-billionaires… but it’s put most folks in a set of digital shackles.
Listen, we’re not anti-technology.
We’re not telling folks to take a pair of bolt cutters to their electric meter and join an Amish sect (although we’re convinced our buggy-driving neighbors will someday take over the world).
It’s a fact that this little passion project of ours and our popular trading system rely heavily on technology and the power of the digital age. But here’s the thing… It’s what most folks overlook.
Our wealth does not.
In other words, if the system crashed this afternoon, we’d lose our ability to uncover fast-moving trades… but we’d still have our wealth. We’d still have access to all we’ve worked for.
And it’s not all that hard to do.
It starts with a few simple steps… steps we bet you haven’t taken in a while.
Print out all of your important documents. Get a physical copy of your bank statement. Make sure it has your account numbers on it and the numbers to call in an emergency.
The simplest way to make sure you have this information is to have your bank or broker mail you a statement each month. Many firms are now defaulting to “paperless” statements. It saves them money… but could cost you yours.
From there, always be sure to have at least a month or two worth of living expenses in cold hard cash. Keep it in paper form, but be smart and diversify into a couple of different currencies. You never know when the euro will suddenly become safer than the dollar… or when you’ll need a few thousand pesos for a south of the border getaway.
Don’t forget about gold. It’s an obvious choice. But it’s far from perfect.
Sometimes having something to barter is far more useful than cash or hard assets.
Take the situation in Venezuela, for example. The native currency is virtually worthless. And few folks will have the ability to give you change for your chunk of gold. But they’ll certainly trade you some food for some gasoline… or a fully charged phone battery.
It’s a digital world.
In many ways, it’s great. But don’t take it for granted.
It could all come crashing down… and take the ill-prepared’s Liberty with it.
But don’t worry.
We found Mrs. Manward’s document… and she’s since printed a couple of physical copies that live in our safe.