I’ve been noticing something lately. Something that’s really had me thinking. Life seems to hit those who are most unprepared…the hardest. Especially those who are financially unprepared. I work with a guy (a very nice guy) who always seems to be flirting on the edge of financial disaster.
If it’s not car trouble it’s trouble with the college where his two oldest kids attend. If it’s not doctor co-payments, it’s air conditioner problems. Here recently, he bought a near brand new car (because his other car was about to disintegrate). Turns out this nearly “new” car had been in an accident. Despite a clear CarFax report.
It’s as if the financial grim reaper follows close behind him. As if life picks on him, throwing him curve ball after curve ball precisely because he’s not prepared financially. Needless to say, he’s stressed. I can see it in his eyes. Hear it in his voice.
So what’s the lesson here? That we have to be prepared for the inevitable life changes. And what’s the operative word? Inevitable. The phenomenon I’ve been observing with my coworker isn’t some kind of conspiracy against the helpless. What I’ve been witnessing is called unpreparedness in action. If he had the financial cushion to absorb these hits, I probably would notice slight irritation if anything at all.
Solid financial footing will give you greater freedom to choose; it will reduce the stress inherent in any unwanted circumstance. Also, it will allow you to focus your energy on what needs to be done.
Choice. When my coworker erupts in financial panic, it’s because he’s run out of options. Whatever choice he makes either worsens the problem or worsens his debt load. He really does have to choose his poison.
Being financially prepared will help you adapt to your new circumstances more quickly and with less resistance. Planning for change can reduce the stress of the event and give you greater peace of mind today, knowing you are ready to handle what’s coming.
Resilience. How well do you cope with stress and adversity? I can tell my coworker, and friend, has borne much adversity over the last 20 years. I can see the toll it has taken—psychologically, emotionally, and physically.
Financial preparedness acts as an antidote to the daily dose of adversity and stress. It turns mountains into speed bumps. Caverns into small cracks in the road.
So, how do you do this? How do you give yourself more options and create more space between you and life’s trials?
A monthly budget that reflects the reality of your income and expenses is one of the most important stress-reduction tools you have. With a realistic budget, you can more easily manage the changes you expect, while an emergency fund and proper levels of insurance can leave you ready to handle the unexpected.
My family and I have experienced this the last few months. I’ve had a budget my whole life, more or less. But I haven’t always used a budget like I should. But that’s changing for the better. And we’re saving again. Saving for those inevitable times when life just happens.
What about you? Do you see yourself in constant financial trouble? Or have you stepped away from the edge?
Quotes from the Durango Herald.