Boltholes – A Billionaire’s Doomsday Escape

Bolthome | @eberhardgross via usplash

A bolthole (sometimes bolt-hole, bolt hole or bolt home) is essentially a safe house. A place where someone, generally a wealthy individual, can escape if things get rough. You have probably heard of the more famous boltholes in New Zealand or on private islands in the tropics, but they also exist in other parts of the country and world, as well.

Why Do Rich People Have Boltholes?

The concept of a bolthole is really a response to the question, “What would you do if society collapsed?” In other words, if a natural disaster threatened your home or if riots spread throughout the world, where would you go? These are questions we have all asked ourselves from one time or another, mostly half-jokingly.

Examples of Boltholes in History

Popular movies like I Am Legend (2007), played into this fear. In that movie, a secret community in Vermont serves as an escape for many of those avoiding a new super virus.

That being said, boltholes have seen use in the real world, as well. For example, towards the end of World War II and after The Allies liberated Paris, leaders of Vichy France fled to the Sigmaringen Castle. Later in the war, many residents of Amsterdam went to the countryside to avoid the Dutch Famine.

Examples of Boltholes

Many ultra-wealthy individuals have invested in boltholes. Perhaps most famous is that of Peter Thiel: The billionaire entrepreneur spent about $14 billion on one compound in New Zealand. Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque Du Soleil, bought an entire atoll, and then got charged with growing marijuana on it.

And of course, Richard Branson has Necker Island, which I must admit looks nice: I think most people could last a while there.

Why Boltholes Are a Complete Waste of Money

The fundamental problem with boltholes is that they represent a flawed logic in those that buy them. Of course, if someone has billions, one could ask, “What’s a few million as a backup option?” In that sense, they are correct, it is a fair assessment. A catastrophe could strike anytime, and COVID-19 has only exasperated those fears.

However, in a world decimated by war, famine, riots, disease or maybe an alien invasion (since we have already entered banana land), a bolthole would provide little relief for anyone who can afford one. Within days on entering such solitude, one would already be reliant on canned foods and MREs. A bolthole’s owner would become dependent upon their security to keep intruders out, a job that would become increasingly-tough as those with any valuable skills would probably go to less-conspicuous locations.

What COVID-19 Taught Us

COVID-19 decimated the United States economy (as well as the economies of many other countries) and so far the pandemic has been relatively mild compared to some of the scenarios proposed by doomsday prepares. However, what COVID-19 did prove is that in a real societal collapse, all standard values of wealth (money, cars, private jets, etc.) will have little material value in a world dealing with a catastrophe. Therefore, the belief that one will simply be able to escape to a secluded corner of the earth and hang out until things blow over is unrealistic.

Even so, having an escape is not a bad thing. When COVID-19 struck and millions of Americans were able to work from home, many of them flocked to their summer homes. The concept of spending some time at the beach, or in the mountains, was far more appealing than being stuck in a studio apartment in NYC. In that sense, a bolthole is a valuable asset. But, those that used their vacation homes during COVID-19, were only marginally safer than those who stayed at home. They simply wanted to ride out the pandemic in a more comfortable place.

How You Can Build Your Own Bolthole

Here is the secret: There are simple skills we can all learn that are far more probable to be used-in-action than a billionaire escape. Learning how to make a fire, find clean drinking water and perform basic mechanical repairs are things most of us should know how to do. Of course, many of us do not even know how to cook a basic meal (up until recently, myself included).

There are also many tools that we should all have on hand. The U.S. government has a comprehensive list on their website.

The next time your Libertarian-leaning friend suggests that you should be ready to hunker down when the Dark Ages return, remember that your knowledge of basic survival skills is far more useful than flashy assets. You could have two private jets and a Range Rover, but if you do not have your health and a little bit of common sense, you will be no better off than the rest of us.

But if you do strike it rich and decide that you must have an escape, please feel free to give me a call. I would be happy to broker a deal.

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