Written by & under Policies and Procedures, Staff Management.

What if you injured your hand and couldn’t play your instrument? What if you developed a chronic illness? What if you were diagnosed with cancer and needed months’ long treatment?

These are questions no one wants to face. Especially, small businesses or those who work for themselves. Health insurance is expensive and disability insurance even more so. After all, we think we are invincible. Things like that only happen to other people, not us. Sadly, I am here to tell you that it is not true.

Ten months ago I became acutely ill. After a trip to the Emergency Room, for what we thought was simple appendicitis, tests showed that it was not so simple. I was admitted to the hospital. Nine days later, the doctors uttered the dreaded words: possible cancer. Within hours my surgery was booked and I began what has turned out to be a year long journey. Surgery confirmed our fears, Stage 3 colon cancer. How could this be? I am too young. I exercise. I eat a mostly vegetarian diet. I am a mom to two young daughters. A wife, a professional flutist, a business owner. And yet, none of that matters. Cancer does not discriminate. And it doesn’t only hit someone else, sometimes it is right here at home.

Are you prepared? Do you have an emergency fund? Do you have health insurance? Could you weather the storm of a catastrophe?  Who would run your business? Who would teach your students, send out invoices, answer your emails and phone calls? For small business owners these questions become even more important than for those who have paid sick days, personal days, disability and workers compensation. The recommendation is that everyone should have 3-9 months living expenses in a savings account or other fairly liquid investment. Every family should absolutely have health insurance. For many of us just making it through the month is a difficult task. But I would argue that if music teaching is to be your chosen profession, your career, you must take action to protect yourself. Retirement seems so far away, and illness always strikes someone else. But what will you do if it doesn’t? Start today. For every paycheck put $10 in your emergency jar rather than the Starbuck’s coffee you pick up on your way to work. The next time you get an unexpected gig, add that money to the jar before you go out to dinner or allocate the money to your typical bills. And, most importantly of all, do not touch it! This money is for the true “rainy day”, the moment you cannot imagine ever happening. Keep track of how much you have, but do not count it towards car repair or a new instrument. Trust me, you will never regret having the safety net of an Emergency Fund.

This article is a welcome home for me. It is my first writing after 6 months of debilitating chemotherapy and surgery. Happily, I am cancer-free. We did use our Emergency Fund and I don’t regret it for a minute. Thankfully, we had one, but it is never enough. We are climbing back financially, my students are back to weekly lesson, my business is solid and growing. And so now we begin again. The emergency jar looks very empty but we are committed to filling it back up again.

Do you have any tricks for putting money aside? Have you ever faced an event that sidelined your career? How did you face the challenge? Your comments are welcome.