11/24/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Could You Survive in Poverty? Take the Quiz

I was at the Executives Club of Chicago CEO Breakfast this morning listening to Martin Slark, Vice Chairman and CEO of Molex, Inc. talk about leading truly global companies (Chicago-based Molex does 73 percent of its 3.3 billion dollars in sales outside of the U.S.) and he was -- let's say -- sober about the state of the economy.

"Credit card debt is the shoe that hasn't yet dropped," Slark told a roomful of similarly sober execs, all atwitter about the mergers, acquisitions and failures rocking the business world these days. And that was before the Dow tumbled another 500 points this afternoon. "Despite some pockets of opportunity," he lamented, "'09 will be worse. We have not yet seen the worst of it."

So I got to thinking about poverty, as I often do. Sure, things are tough all over. People will lose their jobs and even their homes in the coming months and the number of people living in poverty -- 37.3 million (12.5 percent of the U.S. population) in 2007 -- will surely go up.

If you're reading this, you'll probably never come close to qualifying for the category -- $20,650 for a household with four members -- but for the sake of lifting your spirits, I present "Could You Survive in Poverty?"

This checklist is not mine -- it was developed by Ruby K. Payne, an author and researcher in the field of socioeconomics whose work I've followed for years -- but it's a perfect gauge for how well you'd do if worse literally came to worse. It's not at all a joke; I bet actual poverty is not what you think it is.

Scoring at the end. Good luck!

I know which churches and sections of town have the best rummage sales.

I know which rummage sales have "bag sales" and when.

I know which grocery stores' garbage bins can be accessed for thrown-away food.

I know how to get someone out of jail.

I know how to physically fight and defend myself physically.

I know how to get a gun even if I have a police record.

I know how to keep my clothes from being stolen at the Laundromat.

I know what problems to look for in a used car.

I know how to live without a checking account.

I know how to live without electricity and without a phone.

I know how to use a knife as scissors.

I can entertain a group of friends with just my personality and my stories.

I know what to do when I don't have money to pay the bills.

I know how to move in half a day.

I know how to get and use food stamps or a government debit card for benefits.

I know where the free medical clinics are.

I am very good at trading and bartering.

I can get by without a car.

Scoring guidelines (these I developed myself):

If out of the 18 items, you answered 'yes' to the following:

18-14: Congrats -- you are street savvy and will survive (maybe even thrive) in poverty.

13-9: Pat on the back -- you'll be able to keep your head above water.

8-4: Look for help -- poverty is hard in ways you hadn't even imagined.

3-0: Call a lifeline -- you are completely unable to survive in poverty. Thank your lucky stars you'll probably never need to.