As Ruble Falls, Russia Plays with Fire

When your currency drops 20 percent in a single day, you might be experiencing a currency collapse.

When you raise the interest rate you pay for deposits from 10% to 17% overnight, you might be getting desperate.

When your currency buys only a third of what it could purchase on the world market a year ago, you might be experiencing inflation.

When suppliers from other countries re-price the goods they sell in your country every few days, you know your currency is in freefall.

When the rich transfer their funds into dollars or Euros and the middle class seek out ATMs that dispense dollars and Euros, you know that not only is your currency is experiencing severe problems, but your people’s faith in your government is diminishing.

When people line up to buy cars, appliances, and other hard goods, it is because they lack faith that the money in their bank accounts will retain it’s in the future, you know it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

This 5,000 Ruble note is worth less than $900.

This 5,000 Ruble note is currently worth less than $90.

All of these things have or are happening in Russia, right now, right this week. We get a chance to watch, over a period of days and months, as the Ruble goes from being with 3 cents, to 2 cents to a single penny. We get to watch as their economy goes from robust to recession. And we may get to see a bank run and to observe what capital controls the government institutes to prevent good money from fleeing a bad environment.

If you are at all worried about fiat currencies and what a financial collapse will look like, you can look at Russia and the Ruble as a learning experience. If you watch with your eyes open, you might be able to prepare for how things could look in the U.S. one day in the future when people finally realize that our dollars and debt is a Ponzi scheme. (Keep in mind, Russia only about 1/25th of the debt that the U.S. carries.)

Here are a few lessons we can learn from them and from this situation:

  1. If you are holding a failing currency, convert it into a stronger foreign currency or precious metals as early in the downward spiral as you can. If that isn’t possible, buy hard goods that 1) have a decent shelf life, 2) will retain their value, and 3) people will want or need if there are no stores open. This could be basics such as food and diapers. It could be items like alcohol and tobacco. It could be antibiotics and other drugs, both legal and illegal. It could be tools, guns and ammo. If the problem persists long enough, it could be things like nails, screws, batteries, generators, fuels, wood stoves, firewood, etc. If you have lots of money and enough warning, invest in real estate – especially farmland – which has proven to be a good hedge in previous periods of inflation.
  2. Keep alert for warning signs such as a sharp rise in interest rates. If the Fed raises rates half a point, no big deal. If they jump it up more than two points at one time, look for an exit strategy, quick.
  3. Beware of bank withdrawal limits. During a bank run, banks may limit how much money you can take out at a single time. Banks or governments may prevent you from wiring money out of the country. The government may declare bank holidays in which the banks to no open and you have no access to your money. So keep some money available in cash, just in case.

    One possible way around this is to have accounts at multiple banks, like a big-name bank, a regional bank and a local credit union. If you withdrawals are limited, at least you can make a limited withdrawal from three banks, rather than a single withdrawal from one. That will get you your money faster.

    In Russia, there are recently tales of people who line up at ATMs and use very card in their wallet to withdraw the maximum they can in Euros or Dollars.

  1. Don’t put in a safe deposit box anything you might need to survive during a period of currency collapse or inflation because you may not be able to get it out or the bank may insist on inspecting its contents. Instead, buy a safe and hide it in your home or rent a safe deposit box at a non-banking institution that is not subject to Federal banking laws.

A Frightening Future

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not an economist and he apparently does not listen to economists. While the Ruble may stabilize for a few days or weeks, their economy will likely go into free fall in 2015, and this could result in a death spiral of job losses, bank failures, and collapse of companies and institutions.  This could tip Russia over into another collapse.

Putin is a bully, a liar and a blamer. He lies to his citizens, he lies to the United Nations, he lies to the European Union, he lies the U.S., and he lies to the media, many of which simply parrot his words with no fact checking. Often, tied up within his lies, he blames someone else, like telling the media that Russia had nothing to do with shooting down the Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine, but that it was Ukrainian forces . Like saying Russia not involved in the conflict in the Ukraine, even when faced with evidence that many of the so-called “rebels” are actually Russian soldiers.

Russia still has  large army.

Russia still has large army.

And one day, the lies will come tumbling down, the blame will become laughable, and then all we will have left is a bully. A bully with a large military and nuclear weapons. And no one knows what Russia will do then.

If Russia is smart, Putin will be removed from power before this happens. If Russia is not smart, it will find itself at war. Putin may well start a war simply to distract his people and to give him an enemy to blame for their misfortunes. War will not help their economy, and it will further alienate Russia from the rest of the world. Putin may think to use it to build his popularity, but in doing so, he will be tearing down everything he has built in the past 15 years.

We can expect Russia will enter a significant recession in 2015 because the price of oil is unlikely to soar back to $100 in the next six or 12 months,. We can imagine that they might default on their debt or at least threaten to do so and bluster seeking better terms. We can imagine they will distract us with fighter jets, bombers and submarines. But no one knows what they will actually do. And, even more unfortunate, no one knows how the U.S. will react. And that makes this a dangerous situation.

Much of this is out of our hand as preppers. We can’t change policy decisions, but we can prepare. I urge you to do so.

Here’s a few articles to read up on:

Russia Risks Soviet-Style Collapse

Ruble Rout Means Capital Controls Could be in the Cards

This is What a Currency Collapse Looks Like

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