In this post, we’re talking about preparing for unexpected life events—losing the job you planned to retire from, the divorce no one imagines experiencing themselves, the loss of a partner years or decades too soon.
Calamities like these can and do happen to all of us, because—if we’re lucky—we live long lives. The odds of making it through seventy or eighty years without some kind of difficulty are slim. But even the unforeseen can be managed with protection in place.
If you read the last post, you know that the ground rules for managing the expected and unpredictable are the same: we need to have conversations about both kinds of outcomes and we must have flexible plans in place that we follow for each. But unexpected events are further complicated by our emotional reactions to them. They can obscure our ability to manage our financial well-being today and tomorrow. If you’ve ever heard anyone declare, “I’m too overwhelmed to think about what I should do,” or conversely, “I’m sure this will turn out just fine,” heed the following.
To make sure your emotions aren’t getting in the way of your ability to tackle the unexpected, look for these red flags. If you spot them, face them head-on, seek professional assistance, and take positive action. Think of this as another aspect of preparation, ensuring you’re up for the challenge of dealing with the unpredictable.
Denial and magical thinking.
If something serious has occurred, but you’re still acting like everything’s “business as usual,” rejecting offers for help, or making reckless decisions, it’s time to get support.
The opposite of denial, you’re stuck ruminating—repeating the same (often negative) questions, thoughts, and conversations over and over again. When this occurs, you’ve got to find a way to break the cycle and ground yourself so you can tap into that flexible plan you’ve developed and move forward.
If the issues you’re facing are taking the form of one giant, overwhelming specter looming before you, making you feel like you can’t possibly prevail, you’re awfulizing. The way to feel less, well… awful, is to lean into the prep you’ve done already.
You can’t act on any pressing issues, even though you know things are headed south. Your paralysis in that sector may creep into the rest of your life as you blow off even basic responsibilities elsewhere. Again, relying on an established plan here, or someone who can provide perspective can go a long way.
The bottom line: be mindful about not only how you prepare, but also for how you’re reacting when an unexpected situation does arise. Combined with a solid, yet flexible plan, that awareness can make all the difference.