My previous Coping with trouble post got a very interesting response from a reader; she is Bulgarian who lived in the country at the beginning of the 1990s and is now in Canada. She said that the experience scarred her for life and that now she always keeps staples stored in her house; she also said that she agrees with all my points – thank you Maya. Interestingly, I had heard two other people say that they always keep food in their house: one was a survivor of the siege of Leningrad and the other a German Jewish lady who was a child during World War II.
But I am digressing again. What I meant to say is that Maya also wrote:
“One important thing I would add is to invest in your-self. Learn new skills and master old ones and be prepared to be as self sufficient as possible. Creativity and adaptability are as important as money in hard times.”
I fully agree; in fact this was to be the core of the third post on how to survive an economic meltdown; the one about the long term. Here are the three things that I believe chart a sensible course of action to ensure that you and yours survive and thrive through an economic and financial crisis in the long run.
Diversify your competencies
People are different in their approach to competencies but there are two main groups: hedgehogs and foxes. As in nature, hedgehogs turn one big trick and foxes are versed in many smaller tricks. Whichever group you belong to you will notice that your competencies tend to cluster around one area. I for instance, even though I am a fox, tended to stay with academic writing (formulaic and restrictive) and with being an academic in a respected university. Writing this blog is part of my diversification; I have also been learning loads about the internet and how it works; experimenting with different ways to communicate research results (why not make a movie) etc. More importantly, during the last two years I have completed a high profile course in science and university management and leadership (a bit of a waste of time but still a different competencies set); have a diploma in NLP (the document look more impressive than the one I got for my PhD) and have attended a marketing seminar. Oh, and I forgot – I have been reading books on finance.
Diversifying your competencies should aim to grow into diversifying your income streams. At the moment, and in this troubled times, I am vulnerable: what would happen if the university decide that they would be better off getting someone younger, less experienced and cheaper?
Learn new life skills
This one is obvious as well – in times of trouble one needs to brush up on the life skills they already have and acquire new ones. Can you cook? Can you cook good but inexpensive stuff? Can you create it? Can you knit (I can’t and this is something I’ll always barter for)? Can you grow things (another thing I can’t do and am not interested in doing)? These are the basics and not so hard to learn and develop to some level.
There is another layer of life skills here that come with class and cultural capital. This is much harder to develop and master if you not born into it or have not got university education. I do realise how controversial this statement is but people are making a mistake about university education – it has been presented as developing skills when in fact it is much more about cultural capital and the reproduction of elites. Today, this cultural capital can be got by participating in different, relevant networks. Specific skills here are the ability to negotiate, talk oneself out of trouble (sometimes I do the opposite and talk myself into trouble), be imaginative and creative and keep an open mind.
…and my concern…
…currently is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to store resources for the future. Until recently we ensured that we have access to money in the future (and that our money works for us) by saving and investing – neither of these makes much sense today. So, I am thinking that a possible way out of that is to generate passive income. This is, however, still work in progress.
This is the last of my three posts on what I would do to ensure that ‘I and mine’ survive in time of economic and financial trouble. In a nutshell:
1) Stock up our store cupboard so that we have some time to go through the ‘trauma of adjustment’ when trouble comes (done);
2) Stop worrying about our ‘negative wealth’ (fix the interest on it) but be careful with savings (particularly if the properties that are on the market sell);
3) Develop and master new competencies and life skills; develop and grow passive income streams.