Don’t be Haiti

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in Western Hemisphere; certainly you witnessed some of the country’s abject poverty during the media coverage of their earthquake in 2010. In the past 100 years, Haiti has been repeatedly devastated by earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides, and flooding. Tens of thousands have died in these natural disasters. How can one tiny country be so subjected to so many tragedies?

One piece of the puzzle certainly has to do with the extraordinarily narrow focus of those that have held economic power. There have been no coherent national policies on environmental conservation, no building codes, virtually no functioning public education system.

The focus of the often-corrupt few with power has been ME and NOW.

They have allowed and encouraged building houses of straw. “In Haiti a block is maybe an eighth of the weight of a concrete block that you’d buy in the U.S.,” says Peter Haas, the executive director of the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group. This might result in buildings now, but it results in many unnecessary deaths in time of natural disasters. “Earthquakes don’t kill people,” says John Mutter, a seismologist and disaster expert at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. “Bad buildings kill them.”  Haiti had some of the worst buildings in world.

They have ignored the deforestation and allowed environmentally unsound agriculture practices resulting in a land vulnerable to flooding and landslides. For years, the Haitians have used wood as their primary source of energy resulting in nearly complete deforestation of the country. Mudslides have been responsible for massive losses of life and have washed away whatever precious top soil might have once existed.

This poor country’s substandard ways and means do not invite natural disasters, but they do exacerbate the destruction the disasters bring.

Too many of us rule our financial lives just like Haiti. It’s all about ME and it’s all about Now. We ignore the fact that “disaster” is just around the corner. We don’t invest enough in the future. We rationalize how we “deserve” the many conveniences and comforts in our lives and we “need” them right now.

I want you to have what you want; even if it is fancy vacations, $5 coffees and a shiny new car.

But I implore you to think of the future first.

Invest in your career, read, study, take classes, and attend seminars. Have a plan for your advancement or for your next career.

Choose wisely. Don’t select the leather seats or the exciting high risk investment over your family’s security.

Save a sustainable emergency fund to help mitigate disasters.

Don’t be Haiti.