Some people are worried about various doomsday scenarios and taking action to ensure survival. The Cold War and the threat of a nuclear holocaust led to the doomsday preppers. Today, in addition to a potential nuclear war, there is the possibility of pandemics, civil unrest on a massive scale, and climate disasters, from rising sea levels to more horrendous and deadly storms.

Billionaires and those somewhat less affluent are increasingly taking actions they believe will better ensure the survival of themselves and their loved ones if a doomsday situation becomes real. In 2015, 166 single-family office senior executives were asked whether they were establishing safe locations for their super-rich families in case of a cataclysmic event (Exhibit 1). A sixth said they have or were. This does not include creating safe rooms in their houses, which is extremely common.

In 2024, another set of single-family office senior executives was asked the same question. This time, 64.2% reported taking some form of action. These super-rich families aim to ensure their survival in several different ways. Much of their choice is a function of what scares them most. One approach is to build or join what are commonly referred to as billionaire bunkers. It is important to note that billionaire bunkers are not only for billionaires, but they are for the 1%.

Billionaire Bunkers
Some billionaire bunkers are repurposed and extensively refurbished former military silos and military bunkers. Some are built from scratch to the specifications of billionaires. Many have various luxury accommodations, from pools to theaters. All are intended to be self-sustainable for some time. Several firms specialize in this area, helping the ultra-wealthy prepare for some cataclysmic event.

There are firms, such as Vivos, that create underground survival shelters. Some of the facilities are membership-based, while others are owned by a single family. Companies like Atlas Survival Shelters, with their Platinum Series, custom-build super-luxury bunkers.  

The type of bunker a billionaire or someone less wealthy chooses depends on the perceived threat. In case of nuclear war, the location is critical. The bunker must be where it will not be directly targeted, which means it must be distanced from population centers and military installations, will not be adversely restricted by local municipalities, and will have access to essential resources such as water. However, some billionaires and many other people prefer to be at ground zero in the event of a global nuclear war.

Many billionaires and a more significant percentage of the ultra-wealthy are concerned about other catastrophic events and less about global nuclear war. The man-made or natural considerable destruction of the country’s infrastructure, such as power grids, guides some of the ultra-wealthy in what their bunkers will have to deal with. A company like SAFE (Strategically Armored & Fortified Environments) provides comprehensive security solutions beyond protective living environments. 

In 2024, a major concern of most of the super-rich, as their single-family office senior executives reported, is another pandemic. About three-quarters say that another pandemic is inevitable (Exhibit 2). And the next pandemic can easily prove to be much more devastating than Covid-19. Compare this to less than 10% who were concerned about a pandemic in 2015 when such a catastrophe was hypothetical.

For many of the ultra-wealthy—and this goes way beyond the super-rich—the solution is to prepare. They are taking steps, from air filtration systems in their residences to stocking medical supplies. However, most, if not all, billionaire bunkers are being designed to address the next pandemic. Some billionaire bunkers include medical facilities rivaling some of the best hospitals.

Besides the facilities themselves, a key consideration is ensuring selected individuals can access them as a disaster unfolds. Therefore, extensive plans are usually made, and resources allocated for family members and chosen others are quickly transported to their bunkers. This only works when there is enough advance notice to take such action. In the event of a full-scale nuclear war, the likelihood of getting to their bunkers in time is low.

One billionaire family has built several bunkers worldwide close to locations where their large extended family lives. They have also set up protocols and the resources to quickly move family members and support staff to these locations. They realize that all their family might not survive to reach the bunkers, but barring the eradication of life on Earth, they are confident that much of their family will survive. 

In this time of uncertainty and anxiety, if not panic, a growing number of the ultra-wealthy are taking action to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their wealth. This takes multiple forms, from involving themselves directly and indirectly in policy decision-making, and an increasingly common approach is to build bunkers to ride out a cataclysmic event.

It is essential for professionals working with the ultra-wealthy to be attuned to their survival concerns and be able to discuss possibilities. There are tremendous benefits for professionals who can help the ultra-wealthy, especially billionaires, protect what matters most to them if the world crumbles.

Jerry D. Prince is the director of Integrated Academy, part of Integrated Partners, a leading financial advisor firm. Russ Alan Prince is a strategist for family offices and the ultra-wealthy. He has co-authored 70 books in the field, including Making Smart Decisions: How Ultra-Wealthy Families Get Superior Wealth Planning Results.