End of the World in 2012? Here's How to Make a Profit
Senior Editor, CNBC
"For web sites that have tongue in check humor, end of the world videos will do a good business," Hanft says. "That includes horoscope sites. There's obviously a segment of the population that's drawn to this and it becomes self-perpetuating. There will be products out there to buy."
And there are—running the gamut from doomsday survival bunkers,doomsday last wills and testaments, doomsday vegetable seeds for food shortages and for those needing something to hug, doomsday teddy bears.
Many of the doomsday offerings are seeing record sales. That's because there's no shortage of customers, says Bucknell University sociology professor Alexander Riley, who's done research on end of the world scenarios.
How do investors play Armageddon 2012?
"A lot of businesses are presuming the world won't end but want people to buy their products so they will survive any kind of 'catastrophe'," Riley goes on to say. "The whole idea is not limited to the survivalist fringe. It's entered the middle classes too. A lot of people will act on that survival impulse and buy things to prepare."
That impulse brings a warning from Riley.
"A very large number of firms are more or less preying on a gullible, frightened people, who have been cynically misinformed by irresponsible media sources," Riley argues. "Many of the companies are clearly looking to make a major mark up on what they happen to be selling."
So how do investors play the 'end of the world 2012'?
"If enough people really believed in the prophecy, they would quit their jobs and sell everything they own," says Matthew Tuttle, a money manager at Tuttle Wealth Management. "I've heard of someone who did just that. Look, if the world ends it doesn't matter if I'm in the market or not."
But if someone wants to play the odds—betting against the world's survival to make money only to have it all potentially end—Tuttle says the 'smart money' is in commodities, energy and metals.
"You want those types of investments," says Tuttle. "Also, alcohol companies might do well, as people will probably be stressed out as time gets closer to the date. The problem is, you might not be around to enjoy the money you made."
As for the investment community itself, Armageddon 2012 might already be figured into the market, says Jeff Gitterman, CEO of Gitterman & Associates Wealth Management.
"You've always had a lot of nuts on Wall Street using astrology charts to pick stocks anyway," Gitterman says. "So there may not be that much of a difference in investment planning heading to 2012."
Gitterman adds there's been a long run on 'profit making' disaster proof investments.
"Gold is already going up because of the current world scenario, with Japan, the Middle East and food shortages," Gitterman explains. "As for short selling—betting the price of a stock or commodity will go down—I don't see that as good. You get too exposed if you are wrong."
On a more serious note, investors need to stay calm, says David Neubert, co-founder of Kapitall, an online investment platform.
"Ignore 2012 completely," Neubert says. "If gold rallies because people associate an earthquake or hurricane with the end of the world, take the other side. Do not try to anticipate panic; that never works."
As for Peter Bianchi, his firm continues to push 'drank', what the 43 year-old Bianchi calls a "natural relaxation drink to replace drugs and alcohol." It's been on store shelves for the past two years—with some 17 million units sold.
Bianchi claims he has no special marketing plans to tie 'drank' with Armageddon 2012, saying the doom believers already know about it.
"People are too stressed out now, and 'drank' is a perfect for the end of the world." Bianchi adds. "Drank's ingredients help relax people, and that's what I'm all about, making people feel relaxed in this mixed up world," "Besides, if the end does come, it's better to be cool and calm than crazy."
"Apocalypse 2012" will air on Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 9 p.m. and midnight ET on CNBC. The documentary will repeat on Friday, December 21, 2012 at 8 p.m.