A bit of a change of pace today. I came across this TEDxTokyoTeachers talk today. It's ten minutes and pretty interesting. Genevieve also has a blog here.
Are you ready for disaster?
Seven years ago, I lost my job suddenly. I had been working in the Miyagi Board of Education for four years as an English teachers' adviser when my boss sat down to talk to me one day in October.
Due to changes in the educational policy (the prefecture was changing from JET ALTs to privately dispatched ALTs) from the following April my position would no longer be necessary. Thanks for all your hard work and all that.
This was a bit of a shock. When I took the job I was told that the one-year contract would be renewable indefinitely, and no-one had told me that change was coming.
I found myself with less than five months to find a full-time job in Sendai, or my family and I would be on the street.
Three years ago one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded hit northern Japan.
My family was unharmed but the house we lived in was structurally damaged and my wife's business took a big hit.
Due to fears over the nuclear accident we found ourselves packing a car in the middle of the night, perhaps never to return. The funny thing was, I never thought about anything we'd left behind during the six weeks we were away.
Both of these were life-changing experiences. From the first I got an urgent sense of the importance of income diversification and having a financial cushion. From the second I got an intense awareness of how little physical possessions mean to me at the end of the day.
The key lesson is that it is dangerous to assume that things will not change unexpectedly.
Take the red pill
I loved The Matrix. I think I've seen it about thirty times. One of my best memories from university is a Matrix-themed house party I had in my final year. Epic.
So Neo had a choice: he could take the blue pill and remain normal, or take the red pill and enter a new world.
You have a choice too. You can take the blue pill and not learn more about how to set yourself up to be financially secure, or...
I got into travel hacking (air miles and hotel points) a few years ago. The basics are fairly easy, but it can get extremely convoluted if you want it to. At one point, I had a thought and asked some friends on Milepoint "wouldn't it more effective to take all this time and just make more money instead of learning about airline tricks, and then use that money to buy plane tickets?".
That was the start of my journey into personal finance.
I still enjoy travelling slightly better using loyalty programs, but I think I was right: being more aware of money is a better investment of time.
My guest post on Retire by 40 is about the various stages we go through on our financial journey. Which stage are you at?
Ben Tanaka is a teacher living in Sendai, Japan.