Multiple Skills Provide Resilience!


Both my mother and father knew the importance of being able to earn a living in multiple ways.My father never went to college but gained an equivalent education in accounting and business by study and then applicationóskills that were not held in high regard by my grandfather who was a well known union organizer.Dad also taught himself to golf, became a scratch golfer and could have become a pro.


My father also taught himself to type and could rival some of the best secretaries of the time with an accuracy rate of over 100 words per minute on a manual typewriter which he used until he died.This gave him early employment opportunities.I once Googled my fatherís name and found a document he had typed when he was in his early twenties.It was a tabulation of the names of all of Newarkís policemen and firemen.He went on to be a tax expert and then started a very successful business of his own.


My motherís father was a carpenter who, like many during the Great Depression, often had difficulty finding work.But my motherís mother came to the United States as an indentured worker to a baker in St. Louis and learned skills that could help support the family.Importantly, my motherís parents felt that their children should be able to work at several different kinds of jobs, so my mother was taught piano as well as baking.Even during the Great Depression, musicians could often find small jobs to bring in some extra money.


For that reason, my mother insisted that both my sister and I learn a musical instrument.We were both taught piano as a must and encouraged to do more.I diversified by learning to play both the flute and trumpet in addition to the piano.Those lessons I learned from the Great Depression stuck with me:Be able to work at more than one kind of a job.I taught both aerodynamics and aeroelasticity courses after work at Boeing to earn extra money for a down payment on a house and even had a short stint teaching ballistic missile design at Cal Tech years later.


I canít see the future any better than anyone else, but I think that the countryís last two decades of excessive consumption has left a mark that will be very difficult to erase.Thatís the massive personal and government debt thatís now with us accompanied by the lowest savings rates weíve had since the Great Depression.The majority of Baby Boomers have far too little saved to be able to retire in their early sixties as they had hoped.Like their ancestors, many are going to have to work until physically unable and then rely on the support of their children, charity or welfare.


We are living in an environment where continuous employment may be difficult.However, having multiple skills broadens the number of opportunities.You donít have to be a youngster to learn new things.With much concern about whether I could be a student again, I went back to college at 39 to get a degree in business.That changed my line of work.In my late fifties I learned how to use a computer and excel at Excel.†† In my sixties I learned enough about financial planning to be able to support myself if I wanted.Iíve produced programs that have tens of thousands of equations and are used by large numbers of people.In my seventies I was asked to write two books by one of the largest publishers, both books now sold by Amazon.Now in my late seventies, I have a Web site that gets to more than a million people every year, and I answer a number of e-mailed financial questions every day.I know I am learning more about economics than I did as a student in business school.


Weíre living in an age where many have to be agile to get employment.I can testify that having multiple skills can be crucial to earning an income.What may be even more important, new opportunities provide means to grow both income and knowledge.Multiple skills also make retirement more enjoyable.I only regret that I had stopped playing musical instruments along the way.


Bud Hebeler