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One of the disadvantages of investing in tangible assets is that they must be safely stored. There are really only a few good ways to securely store portable, high value bullion, art, gemstones or antiques. The first is in a safety deposit box at a local bank. The second is by using a burglary-resistant safe installed in your home. The third method is to keep these tangible assets in your house without a safe, but purchase insurance to cover them in the event of loss. Insurance can also be used in combination with a bank safety deposit box or a home safe for additional protection against loss.
However, bank safety deposit boxes and insurance have one major drawback. They both have recurring costs every year in the form of premiums for an insurance policy or rent for a safety deposit box. If your goal is to maximize the financial return on your tangible assets, this negative annual cashflow is undesirable.
Luckily, that leaves us with a remaining option to secure our tangible investments: buying a burglary safe. A home safe also confers another important benefit; it allows tangible asset investors to retain personal, physical possession of their investments. Although it may seem paranoid right now, I firmly believe that the phrase "possession is 9/10th of the law" will take on renewed importance in the face of inevitable future financial crises.
Due to this looming future scenario and the rapidly growing trend toward investing in tangible assets, I want to talk a bit about residential burglaries. In 2015 (the most recent year records are available) there were an estimated 999,446 reported residential burglaries in the U.S. There were approximately 125 million U.S. households in the same year, meaning your chances of being burglarized are about 0.8%. That might not seem like a very high number, until you realize that it is 0.8% every single year! As you can see, the risk of being the victim of a residential burglary really piles up over time.
The following items are most at risk of being stolen in residential burglaries:
- Prescription drugs, especially pain-killer prescriptions like Oxycodone or Vicodin.
- Small electronics like laptops, gaming consoles, tablets, digital cameras or cell phones
- Portable valuables like bullion, fine jewelry, luxury watches or sterling silverware
- Credit cards, debit cards, gift cards and checks
A burglar can easily fence these items on the black market or turn them into quick cash at a local pawn shop. This list certainly isn't comprehensive either; most burglars aren't picky and will take anything that looks valuable and is easy to transport. But in spite of a wide array of household items to choose from, residential burglars don't usually make off with that much loot.
According to the FBI, the average dollar loss per residential burglary in the United States in 2015 was only $2,316. I strongly suspect that this is a reflection of the fact that many U.S. households don't have much worth stealing. But don't let the modest dollar value fool you. If you store high-value tangible assets at home, you will be at risk for much greater losses if your home is burglarized.
This statistic underscores a fundamental truth about residential burglaries; they are largely the domain of drug addicts, gangbangers and other amateurs. Under normal circumstances, a burglar will hit the master bedroom (including its closets) and master bathroom (looking for prescription drugs) before quickly running through the rest of the house looking for anything of value that is sitting in plain sight. A burglar almost always wants to be in and out of your house as quickly as possible, so it shouldn't be surprising that the typical burglary is between 5 and 10 minutes in length.
In most instances, a burglar will use a large screwdriver, crowbar or large hammer/small sledgehammer to gain access to your home via a ground level window or door. In fact, these simple tools are almost ideal multi-taskers for the average burglar, not only giving him the ability to compromise most locks quickly and easily, but also fend off an angry dog in a pinch. However, because they have to be in and out so quickly, few residential burglars bother carrying additional tools with them.
Commercial burglaries, on the other hand, are where the semi-professionals and professionals of the criminal world gravitate. The obvious motivation behind this is the larger payoff. Banks, pawn shops, jewelry stores, payday loan companies and other retail establishments often have large amounts of cash or valuable merchandise on site. But these businesses usually employ strict security measures like cameras, alarms, and heavy-duty burglary safes.
So commercial burglars have to step up their game - and they do. The casing process is usually much more rigorous for commercial burglaries, often lasting for days or even weeks. In contrast, residential burglaries are often a crime of opportunity; a criminal may case a house for less than an hour before striking. Once he identifies a convenient target, the residential burglar, equipped with his crowbar or hammer, is ready to go.
This is rarely the case with a professional burglar who cases a commercial establishment. Once a commercial burglar has deciphered the employee routine, he will then prepare his equipment. His complement of tools will often include a variety of menacing power tools such as angle grinders, drills and demolition saws. These tools allow a burglar to cut open steel doors, tough locks and even high-security burglary safes, given sufficient time. Commercial burglars might even bring a cutting torch with them, although this is less and less common as the welding trades have declined in the U.S.
The takeaway from these statistics is that if you are storing even just a few thousand dollars worth of tangible assets in your home, it makes sense to take security precautions. Layered home security is a great starting point. But, in my opinion, a good burglary-resistant safe is also a requirement.
Luckily, most residential burglaries are the simple smash-and-grab variety. Even burglars who are more thorough usually stick to hand tool safe cracking, meaning less expensive, Underwriter Laboratories (UL) residential security container (RSC) certified safes are adequate in most instances. However, if you need to store valuables worth more than fifty thousand dollars, or just want peace of mind, then stepping up to a high-security floor safe or a UL TL-15 or TL-30 rated safe is the way to go. These commercial quality safes can withstand a punishing amount of abuse at the hands of burglars using power tools and still remain intact.