It seems almost unthinkable that Congress won't manage to get its collective head on straight, raise the debt ceiling, and swerve past a potential U.S. sovereign debt default. Almost.
Are the Republicans really serious that if they don't get exactly what they want, they're willing to allow that bomb to go off? And, if so, are Democrats really going to stand by, unwilling to cave, and give their archrivals the satisfaction of victory in order to save our financial future?
The longer these knuckleheads sit around playing high-stakes chicken, the more I worry. As a result, I decided to scribble out a few thoughts on how we can prepare ourselves ... just in case (please note, these are only half serious).
1. Hedges. While I think Eric Cantor's gaffe was more a PR-oopsie than a bet against America, he has shown us one way to hedge ourselves against a U.S. default -- the ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury (NYSE: TBT ) ETF, which returns twice the inverse of what Treasuries do. Since it "seeks daily investment results" though, this is a better short-term bet than long-term holding. Another option would be buying puts on the S&P 500.
2. Milk and eggs. I don't really know what a debt default will look like, so I'm thinking a little along the lines of a blizzard. So as we get closer to August 2, you'll find me at the grocery store, loading up on perishables and canned goods alike. Duct tape always comes in handy, too.
3. Stability and consistency. If you want to be prepared but don't want your whole portfolio in cash, look toward high-quality companies like Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) , Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) , and McDonalds (NYSE: MCD ) . Sure, they'll also take a hit, but each has good global diversification, pay dividends, and businesses that have weathered many economic ups and downs.
4. Gold. Man, I hate to say this because I'm really not into the whole gold craze. But there are no two ways about it: If the U.S. defaults, gold will surge. Where else are frantic investors going to put their money -- Europe?
5. Refinance your house and buy a car. The possibility of a default is still very low, so it probably doesn't justify any really major financial commitments. However, if it does happen, I can promise you that the low rates that are currently available for loans will be long gone. If you're truly concerned about a default, and you're thinking about taking out (or refinancing) a loan anyway, consider doing it before August 2, and don't take an adjustable rate. Of course, at least as far as cars go, the best way to buy is still to save up and just pay cash.
6. Shotguns. If the U.S. defaults, then I'll assume many other unthinkable things could happen, such as a zombie invasion. Based on what I learned from Zombieland, shotguns seem to be very effective against zombies.