Financial Planning and Life’s Unexpected Changes

All of us know someone who is in transition. What do I mean? Transition is moving from one stage to another such as starting a family, becoming empty nesters, ending a partnership whether marriage or business, facing chronic illness, losing a job, death in the family and so many others. These life circumstances bring tremendous insecurity and potential instability not only to our psyches but also to our finances. 

Financial planning is not about finding the right answer but rather finding the best answer to suit a particular, unique situation. There are literally hundreds of choices one can make toward creating stability or instability in our lives. During the heavy emotion of grief, it’s nice to have someone like me with whom you can bounce off ideas and map out next steps to move forward. Some people are geared toward doing their own research and figuring things out for themselves. Others find the support invaluable. 

The insecurity of transition, even if it’s good for us, creates stress which can lead to impulsive decision making or inertia. Change requires adjustment – there is no way around it – and it can be painful.  Someone once told me that when you are in a relationship (and I use this term to mean any connection with which you have an emotional energy, such as a spouse, parent, job, health), you mold and adjust to the shape of your circumstance. Once that relationship is lost, it takes time to get your “shape” back or create the “new normal”. This reshaping takes whatever time it takes. There is no rule of thumb with grieving just as there are no rules of thumb with your finances. For example, I have worked with widowed or divorced people who are reluctant to take control of the finances which were managed by their spouse – making changes somehow dishonors or negates the significance of the relationship. Logic would tell us this isn’t true, but logic has no bearing when emotions are running high. 

I have found patience is a key to finding our “new normal”. We have to allow ourselves time to feel bad and afraid. Stuffing those feelings down is actually detrimental to moving on. Patience is also a most powerful factor in creating wealth.  If we allow the circumstances of the day to affect our financial decision making, we are creating stress that is simply not beneficial. One strategy I have found helpful when feeling fearful about the future is to actually allow the feelings to wash over me rather than trying to push them away. Acknowledging the feelings actually allows them to lose steam and dissipate. When I was a little girl, my bedroom was at the end of a long hallway with no windows. My parent’s room was at the other end of this hallway. At night, I would hurry down the hallway imagine being chased by a giant hand with a long arm, which of course, never materialized. Now, I use that imagery to face my fears. I think of that long arm and hand and rather than hurry away, I turn and face it. When I do, it diminishes or vanishes all together. There are many strategies that could work for you to turn toward the fear rather than away.

Our emotions are with us for a reason. If you are fearful about your future, that is a conversation we need to have.  Adjustments can be made to help you feel more secure. That is the beauty of planning – it incorporates all phases of our lives and can be adjusted accordingly.

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