doomsday planning

Doomsday planning has opened up a whole other industry. You won't believe the kinds of Doomsday Preppers products I found on the market!

There have been many end-of-world predictions over the course of history sourced from both religious and non-religious beliefs. Just as recent as last year, American Christian radio host Harold Camping predicted the rapture occurring on May 21, 2011, and again on October 21, 2011. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released an emergency preparation plan based on a Zombie Apocalypse to get people’s attention about emergency preparation for things like Super Storms, and we are just days away from one of the most famous and most imminent predictions: the end of the Mayan calendar this Friday, December 21, 2012.

Predictions of the end of the world have been going on for centuries. Combine our fascination of prophecies with our capitalist society, and what do we get? A growing niche of businesses and profit-seekers largely run by those who do not believe in the world ending. It’s sort of like global warming naysayers selling beach towels and sunscreen to the abominable snowman.

Services Being Offered to Loved Ones “Left Behind”

Two companies have seized an opportunity for those who believe in the Rapture and who have pets that may get left behind. Eternal Earthbound Pets was launched in June 2009 to fulfill this pet-sitting need by employing “guaranteed atheists”. For $135 for the first pet and $20 for each additional pet (paid up front), this service is guaranteed for up to 10 years from the start of the contract. Unfortunately, this business did not make it very long. The homepage states “This service cancelled due to lack of clients.  Thanks for all of your interest & excitement over the past three years”, which makes me wonder if they refunded the money from their 258+ contracts. Another company that is still in business is After the Rapture Petcare, which offers access to a secure, password-protected database of non-Christians who have agreed to care for pets after the Rapture for $10.

Post-Rapture Post offers to send a letter to whomever you wish in the chance that you are taken in the Rapture. Packages cost from between $4.99 for a simple letter to $799 for a message of up to 3,000 characters hand-scribed on medieval style parchment sheets, rolled and wrapped with a fine Italian ribbon. As of May 17, 2011, the website had sold 400 letters.

Entertainment Industry Offerings

Many within the entertainment industry are capitalizing on prophecies and end-of-world predictions. Hollywood has profited greatly from people’s belief in the end of the world with such movies as 2012 (worldwide sales of $769,679,473), End of Days (worldwide sales of $211,989,043), Knowing (worldwide sales of $183,593,586), The Day After Tomorrow (worldwide sales of $544,272,402), The Happening (worldwide sales of $163,403,799), etc. Have you seen the show Doomsday Preppers, where we are given a tour of bunkers, food supplies, and the minds of people preparing for the end? There is also the 16-book, fictional series Left Behind which discusses the rapture and aftereffects in great detail. It has total sales of more than 65 million copies, as well as three movies, an album, and a video game.

If you are looking to party, you can book one of several hotel packages both in Mexico and in the United States. Even the Houston Museum of Natural Science is offering an End of the World Mayan Mixer, luring guests in with the line “it may be your last chance to dance”.

Manufactured Goods and Bunkers for the End of the World

The company Vivos sells space in an underground community they have built in locations around the United States (currently they are advertising a limited number of vacancies at their Indiana, Nebraska, and Rockies locations). The opening slideshow on their website says “Many have predicted it, ancient cultures, the bible, prophets and seers, all predicting the same catastrophic events all leading to another life-extinction event, all pointing to these rapidly changing times, the events are now exponentially accelerating [lists a whole bunch of possibilities], we cannot predict, but we can prepare for whatever may be coming our way, the ultimate life assurance solution. Join us for the next Genesis”. Each spot is $50,000 per adult and $35,000 per child (prices vary by location), which includes everything to survive for one year.

If you are like the majority of people and would bunker in your own home in the event of a disaster, there are several companies (Emergency Essentials is one) that have catalogues of emergency preparation gear such as Gamma Seal Lids, dehydrated food supplies, and books (i.e. Nuclear War Survival Skills).

Financial Industry Advertisement

While I have not seen a financial service being offered post-apocalypse, TD Ameritrade did come out with a commercial that piggybacks on the hype of the Mayan prediction. It states, “[i]f you believe the Mayan calendar, on December 21st polar shifts will reverse the earth’s gravitational pull and hurdle us all into space. Which would render retirement planning…unnecessary. But say the sun rises on December 22nd and you still need to retire? TD Ameritrade’s investment consultants can help you build a plan that fits your life…so who’s in control now Mayans?”

As with any potential or prophesied national disaster, people are responding to the end of the Mayan calendar in a variety of ways. My most favorite excuse for not budgeting that I have ever received in my inbox came from a reader about a year ago who basically stated, “what’s the point? After December 21, 2012 we are all not going to be here anyway.” While some are making preparations that would rival the preparations of the cast of Doomsday Preppers, others are opting to party, reevaluate their lives, or to just not care at all. In the event that December 21, 2012 marks the end of the world rather than the last point at which the Mayans wanted to project onto their calendar, then it is entirely true that money will cease to matter anyway. And in the far more likely event that the world does not end this Friday at midnight, then these companies have made themselves an extra buck at others’ expense, and we will, thankfully, wake up to our financial obligations.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.
5 replies
  1. Squirrelers says:

    Fascinating. Another example of how there is a market for just about anything out there.

  2. Laura says:

    Fantastic post and so accurately written: the Mayan calendar ends, not that Mayans predicted the end of the world. Our calendar ends every Dec. 31st and then a new one starts on Jan. 1st. Does this mean every year we should anticipate the world ending on that day? No, we create goals for the future to vow positive change in the next calendar cycle. We plan to make everything after this calendar BETTER! Perhaps since this is such a long-standing calendar, we should create our “new year’s goals” to start on Dec. 22nd and make them that much more powerful … Goal 1: maximize 2012 401(k) contributions?

    • Amanda L Grossman says:

      Thank you Laura!

      Don’t forget the 401(K) contribution limit increases to $17,500 in 2013.

      Happy Holidays:).

  3. Grayson @ Debt Roundup says:

    This is an awesome post. Unfortunately, the Mayans created another calender after this one. This current one ends due to the alignment of our planet with others and that marks a new “life”. I guess I can’t fault people for trying to be entrepreneurs, but the only people getting screwed here are the ones buying into the crap. If something does happen, site back, drink a beer, and enjoy!

    • Amanda L Grossman says:

      Hi Grayson,

      Thank you for sharing your information! And I think you are right–if it’s going to end, we will all need to go with the flow. What else can we do?


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