Life transitions bring change, challenges, and the possibility of transformation. Transitions come about in many ways: the birth of a child, loss of a job, retirement, prolonged illness or death of a loved one, to name a few. Each transition presents an opportunity for growth, resilience and a broadening of personal capacity. But it all comes at an emotional and usually financial cost.
Steve’s department was being eliminated and he was given a two-week notice. His wife Denise’s job brought in a decent amount of money, but their lifestyle depended on both incomes.The severance package offered would get them through a month or so, but after that it would be tough.
Amy’s father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her parents lived across the country, and her mother was devastated. They had no support, and it was up to Amy to help them out. Her consulting business was flexible, but not that much. Amy had to hand off some clients to friends and hoped that she could pick up the pieces when life returned to normal.
Peter and Carol’s first child was born on a Sunday. The family was overwhelmed with joy at the arrival. What Peter and Carol weren’t expecting was the doctor’s report that surgery would be needed to correct a problem they had found soon after birth. It would require a fairly long and expensive recovery period. There were many more issues to deal with than Peter and Carol could handle at this time.
Dealing with financial issues during periods of significant change can be nearly impossible. Following any highly emotional occurrence, getting your head around the nuts and bolts of financial decision-making can be a menacing obstacle. But let’s face it—it’s not as if there’s a lot of choice in the matter.
The best approach to working through financial matters during transition times involves forethought and preparation. Consider the following:
Some transitions are foreseeable, such as the birth of a baby or planned retirement. Others, such as sickness or an accident or a sudden death or job loss, happen in the blink of an eye. But what they all have in common is the emotional energy consumed during these times preventing the other “stuff” to get relegated to lesser importance.
In dealing with times of stress and strife, we need to draw on our strength to find our resilience. Our ability to bounce back from upheaval is a key component to meeting the inevitable challenges life provides. Without resiliency, we end up floundering in our problems and lacking the tools necessary to claw our way out.
Preparation and forethought are great steps to take to meet potential life transitions head-on. Waiting until you’re in the midst of a major life change to deal with financial challenges is far from ideal. It’s much easier to bounce back when you already have your cash reserves, insurance, and emergency plans in place. To think of it another way, it’s much better to have a fire extinguisher on hand and never use it than to wait to buy one until your house catches fire.