Should You Try to Time the Market or Invest Less in Stocks?: 20 Potential Stock-Tanking Events

    Common wisdom among firers seems to be that:  1. stocks will go up over the long term, and if they don’t, then there will be total societal breakdown and money will be useless anyway because the only way to eat will be looting or cannibalism, and you will mainly need a prepper compound and guns to protect yourself from the roving hoards.  2. It is stupid to try to time the market and you should just be contributing to your stock funds steadily and consistently over time.  3. You should have most of your non-real estate assets in the stock market.  

  Isn’t there a middle ground, though, between exponential growth forever and complete decay into anarchy where life is “nasty, brutish, and short?” Isn’t there a possible future where stocks don’t gain, or maybe even lose value over a very long time period, and totally societal collapse, where, you know, cash dollars still have value, kind of the like the 1970s but extended a lot? If so, then all these assumptions would be brought into serious doubt.

    Here are some possible events that would either shrink the economy in the long run, or would at least create purchasing opportunities by briefly collapsing stock prices. These events would be severe enough to shake the system, but not strong enough to destroy it completely.

  1. The Big One: Aren’t we long overdue for that earthquake that is going to knock a good chunk of California into the sea?
  2. A single rogue nuclear attack or terrorist detonates a nuclear device: the world has been within a hair’s breadth of full scale nuclear war at least twice. It is completely plausible that some group or unhinged politician can get their hands on and detonate one of the thousands of nuclear weapons in existence.
  3. Hacker or terror attacks on infrastructure: These would likely be from hostile nations, but not necessarily.
  4. Earth’s magnetic field reverses: This would temporarily leave the Earth without poles, and without protection from ionized radiation from the sun, which would affect infrastructure. Electronic data might be wiped. These happen every 200,000 years, but we are long overdue.
  5. Sun activity like solar storms or coronal mass ejections: These could take out infrastructure like the internet even without the failure of Earth’s magnetic field. I hear we are due for intense solar activity in a few years, since the sun experiences cycles.
  6. The NEXT pandemic or vaccine-resistant covid strain.
  7. A pandemic of plants: A blight on corn or wheat or a major crop failure.
  8. Tropical diseases move north with climate change.
  9. Asteroid strike: One exploded over Siberia a few years ago. It would be pretty serious if a city got hit.
  10. Civil war: This might manifest in the form of frequent bombings and domestic terrorist attacks.
  11. Nuclear power plant meltdown: There are still a lot of plants operating.
  12. Gulf stream slows or stops: Mid latitude climate would cool. Agricultural output would likely be affected. There are reports of this ocean current slowing already.
  13. Melting glaciers slip into the ocean, causing sudden sea level rise: Every report in recent years seems to say the melt is happening faster than we thought. It seems only a matter of time until chunks of cities start getting washed away.
  14. Population decline: First world countries are seeing this. Stock and economic growth has historically been driven by population growth.
  15. FIRE becomes too popular: Everybody quits their jobs and relies on siphoning money from their mutual funds, lowering demand for stocks since less people are buying into 401ks, while at the same time pushing prices lower by selling.
  16. A large portion of the population ends up with chronic health problems: Maybe this happens because of worsening diet related diseases, and more and more people become severely overweight or diabetic. Maybe lead in the drinking supply poisons and impairs a lot of people, like what happened in Flint, MI, but on a larger scale, or with a new chemical, maybe PFAS. Maybe a large amount of people end up with long Covid. Maybe microplastics bioaccumulate in people to a level that suddenly becomes problematic. Maybe tick-borne illnesses continue to explode.  
  17. Floods, fires, and storms get so bad that they consistently and significantly disrupt economic productivity.
  18. Pollinator crisis causes multiple crop failures: The bee die-off gets worse. It is possible that the honeybees that everyone is keeping these days outcompete and cause the extinction of many other bee species.
  19. Rampant video game addiction keeps more and more people in their homes with minimal lifestyles.
  20. Political interference ties the hands of industries or large companies: If one party takes decisive control they could actually take significant actions, kind of like the ones that are affecting Alibaba in China right now.

Is it a good idea to invest in self sufficiency and get an acre of fertile land before buying a ton of stocks? Maybe, maybe not. Even if one of these unlikely events occurs, say, in 5 years, it is possible that the dip in stock values would only bring them back down to the value they are at today.

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