In a few of the phone interviews I've done I was asked, if I could give just one piece of advice for preparedness, what would it be? My answer is, start a library.
Most of us have a traditional education - that is, most of us graduated from high school where we learned, mostly, academic lessons that would serve us well if we opted to continue our educations into college, and then work in a white-collar/professional position. For those who had a different path in mind, our traditional schooling is of little value in the greater scheme of things (once a person knows how to read, s/he can learn anything else s/he needs to know without having to wile away the days in a classroom, and I know this for fact, and not just theory, because it is the philosophy by which we currently live and teach our children).
This weekend our economy began a faster collapse. With the annoucement of the downgrade to the US credit rating, stock markets across the globe have plummeted. A colleague of Deus Ex Machina after stating that he lost thousands in his 401K, said that the "rules have changed, but we don't know what they are." Perhaps hoarding money in interest-bearing accounts is no longer the answer. We don't/can't know what the answer will be.
As I've said before, though, my house is not an asset, it's a shelter, and if I had the money to pay off the house, I would do it, even if it meant withdrawing all of my savings and having no "liquid" buffer. The reality is that, even if I used every penny in my 401K or savings accounts to pay off the house, I'd be saving over a thousand dollars per month not having to pay a mortgage, which means I could start saving that money. The other reality, the one that no one ever mentions, is that over the life of my house loan, if I paid it off now, I'd be saving HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of dollars in interest payments.
I'm not a financial adviser, and I might regret my decision to have no back-up money, but worstcase scenario, if my house is paid off, and I lose my job or the stock market crashes, I still have a house.
If I have thousands of dollars in a 401K and a mortgage, and the stock market crashes, I could lose half my money, and if I also lose my job, I might lose my house.
The rules have changed, but we don't know what they are. We just know that they aren't what they were, and if we keep trying to live like it was yesterday, we're going to really suffer tomorrow.
Most of us never learned basic survival skills - even something as simple as darning a sock, and the way most of us will fill that gap is to read about how it's done and then put it to practice. In essence, most of us will learn what we need to know from books.
Books are good for more than just teaching skills, though. They can transport us to worlds that we might never have been able to explore were it not for the words on the page. We can meet amazing (and not so amazing) people and have incredible adventures with them. We can learn from their successes and mistakes, and as much as I love the real-life stuff, fiction is as much a part of my collection as all of the how-tos.
It's no secret that I love books. I talk about it all of the time, and as an author, I really couldn't be anything less than a bibliophile. I mean, if I don't believe in the importance of my "product", then why should anyone else?
Back in March, I hosted a month-long giveaway leading up to the April 1 release date of Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: the Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil, and one of the things I gave away was a box of books - all fiction and just for fun. Unfortunately, the winner of that box of books has never responded to me, and so I still have a box of books sitting on my office floor that I would really like to gift to someone who will appreciate them.
If you would like to enter a drawing for this lovely box of books, please leave a comment. I will select a winner by random drawing (names in a hat).