Last week, I was called in to teach a group of kids that are more difficult to teach than most. Many have already graduated from school, but are still forced to go because of their age. Many will never see the outside world as free men or women. Very few of them care about school at all. In short, they have nothing to lose by missing school, and not much to gain by going. The teacher that I was replacing had given a stock lesson in writing a specific kind of poetry.
Sucking, wasting, boring
Punks dorks teachers bitches
Sitting sleeping learning
That’s an actual example (near as I can remember from reading it) of what the students turned in. I can see why the other teacher didn’t want to deal with this class anymore.
When I found out that I was teaching this class, I knew I had to do something that would catch their interest, but that would still be educational and appropriate for them. I worked for most of the day and evening to come up with a kick-ass lesson that would be entertaining and educational. I had hundreds of pages to print out so that the kids could actually complete the assignment. Not wanting to waste my personal printer ink, I saved everything to DROPBOX so that I could print it out at work the next morning (by the way, if you don’t already have a Dropbox account, and you ever save any kind of file, you need one. Click on the link and you’ll get extra space when you sign up for an account. In fairness, I’ll also get a little free space, but I’d use the service regardless).
When I got to work, I learned that for some reason, my district’s internet security policy blocks Dropbox access. No worries, I could use my phone and print remotely to a printer. No dice there either, since the printers wouldn’t accept a connection to print from my phone. I was getting a little worried, since I realized that I was well and truly screwed.
By the time I got to class, I had about two minutes to think of something, or face the very real possibility of a minor riot on my watch. Luckily, I try to have a backup plan for whenever my first two (or three, but whatever) ideas crap out. I learned this by virtue of being caught many times with no plan, and having to pay the consequences. To make a long story end, my backup worked, possibly better than my original plan would have, and I was told by the sheriffs’ staff that I was one of the best teachers to have dealt with these kids.
I told you that for a couple of reasons. Number one, I was really impressed with myself and I wanted to brag a little. Number two, and more importantly, I did it because the lesson I learned and demonstrated has real-world application when it comes to personal finance.
Everybody tells you to keep a small, liquid fund to use in case of an emergency. Most people will say six months worth of expenses should cover you. But what happens if your emergency keeps you away from the bank or safe-deposit box, or wherever you keep it for a few days? What do you do then? One quick way you can protect yourself is by also keeping a small (very, very small) stash of cash within easy access. When I say small, which is the operative word here, I mean just enough to help you survive for a weekend or a few days until you can access your emergency fund if needed.
While we’re talking about emergency funds, what happens when you have exhausted your emergency fund completely? In today’s economy, being out of work more than six months is more the norm than the exception. If the worst ever happens, and you have exhausted your emergency fund, you will still need money. I suggest planning ahead. While you are building your emergency fund, you are putting some money towards it every pay-period. Let’s assume that an emergency doesn’t happen right away. Transfer one month of your emergency fund into something a little longer in term, with a higher interest rate. Keep making your contributions till you have replenished it. As you do this, you are building a bubble for when you run out of emergency “cushion”. If you have a problem with saving, you are also building a painless nest-egg for the future.
At work, you like your job, but what happens if you were the last hired, and your company needs to lay someone off (hint: In most cases, you are screwed). While you are working, in addition to saving your emergency fund, as we’ve discussed above, start building skill sets that will help you to be able to find a job sooner. This may mean formal schooling, or this may mean polishing your resume’ so that your skills and abilities are properly showcased.
At home, stock up on non-perishable foods and water in case of a natural disaster. With the summer we just had, with earthquakes in the east, hurricanes in the south, and floods everywhere, stores are running out of basic supplies. Those people who are prepared, are able to “weather the storm”. But what if something happens to your stored food? Maybe this is a good time for you and your community or your family to work out a plan where everybody contributes for a larger group to survive.
Look, I’m not trying to scare you, but shit happens. Sometimes, you are prepared and you bring your umbrella. Sometimes, your umbrella breaks as soon as you open it. When this happens, you will be glad when you put a change of clothes in a bag for just such a situation. Are you going to be prepared for everything? Not even close, and I don’t recommend that you even try. Sometimes, even the best prepared still lose in the end. I can’t stop that, but you can limit your exposure to losing by having a few backup plans ready should they be needed.
I believe it was Robert Burns who said:
“The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
Oft go awry
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!”
Given my students, and the lesson I just re-learned and related, I can think of no better message than to be prepared. Enjoy!