Hierarchy of Survival Needs

Hierarchy of Survival Needs

A very common question for people who are getting started with preparedness and changing to a more self-reliant lifestyle goes something like this…I’ve only got $X. I know that I need to stock up on food, and I should probably have some gold & silver on hand, but what should I get first! It’s a great question and most people screw this one up massively. (I did) I’ve found it effective to look at buying survival/preparedness supplies like Maslov’s hierarchy of needs.

In Maslov’s hierarchy, if you satisfy a high level need like love before you satisfy hunger and thirst, you’re not going to last long. Similarly, there is a hierarchy of survival needs. You can see the picture of my hierarchy of survival needs by going to It’s a work in progress and I’d love your input on it, but right now we’re going to address food, and precious metals.

I’ll start by saying that gold and silver are a great way to store/transport wealth and to protect you against the devaluation of the dollar (inflation). But the key phrase here is “store wealth.” In order to store wealth, you’ve got to have “wealth” in the first place. If we check in with Webster, we see that the definition of wealth is “The abundance of valuable material possessions or resources” or “abundant supply”.

It would stand to reason that you probably don’t have “wealth” to store until you have an abundance of basic survival items on hand…particularly food and water. What I mean is that if you don’t have food on hand to last for an extended period of time, why would you buy silver or gold? I originally bought silver and gold because I thought it would be a good thing to own in a survival situation, but fast forward with me for a second and picture yourself in a survival situation.

You’ve stored up lots of silver and gold…now what? You can’t eat it. You can’t start a fire with it. You can’t drink it. You can only use it to trade for other goods, and to do that you have to find someone with excess food and disclose the fact that you have gold/silver to trade. Everyone that you approach about a possible trade is going to remember you as the person who has gold/silver. This is obviously not good from an Operational Security perspective.

The longer you go without food or water, the more of your gold and silver you’re going to be willing to give up to get the things that you NEED. People will instinctively understand your desperate situation and realize just how much leverage they have over you. The fact is, you can use food storage to trade for other goods just like you can with gold or silver…but if you need to, you can always consume it. Put another way, in a survival situation, you will NEED food, but you won’t NEED silver or gold.

There’s a common joke among people who don’t like gold. They say that gold won’t be useful because when you’re hungry, you won’t be able to find anyone with 1000 loaves of bread to trade for your ounce of gold. This is true…and it makes my point. If the person with the gold had prepared differently, they would have enough food and the gold would simply be a way to store their excess wealth.

As a very practical example, look at recent hurricanes, earthquakes, and blizzards. 3-5 days into the disaster, which was worth more: water and food or gold and silver? Now this all gets much more complicated if you have to bug out and space/weight are a big issue. In this case, you may want to take a few ounces of gold/silver instead of several additional pounds of food, but you still have to find someone with EXTRA food who actually WANTS your silver or gold in order to make it worth carrying.

So, am I against precious metals? Absolutely not. I fully support buying gold and silver…just at the right time. So when should you start buying gold and silver? There is no hard and fast answer, and the answer is going to depend on a number of factors, including your mobility, storage space, number of caches set up, the size/maturity of your mutual aid group, and more. Everyone is going to have a different guideline, but I will suggest this…I wouldn’t buy gold and silver until you have food, water, fire, shelter, medications, trauma gear, and tools for self defense sufficient to survive a breakdown in civil order lasting a month or more. Even then, I would suggest spending most of your money on core survival items and a portion on gold and silver.