Each month, I sit down (where ever I may be) and contemplate the article of the month for Rivertown. From right here in Suffern, to Tennessee, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Russia (yes, even on vacation!) and places far and wide, the articles come when the subject matter hits me. Sometimes it's in a client meeting or current events, a conversation overheard, or a dilemma I'm personally wrestling with. The one thing I am certain of... I'm always uncertain of the subject matter you eventually come to read each month. So, this month I pose to you... what are some of the items in your life that you can count on to be uncertain?
Health to me is the first personal item that is uncertain. As we age, things change on both the outside and the inside of all of us. How many times have you learned of one's ailment to be surprised and thought... ” but he looks so healthy?” A span of time between meetings at our time in life brings many outside changes: weight change, grow the beard, shave off the beard, change hair color, new clothing styles... we change slowly or we change quickly- but none-the-less... we change. The biggest thing about health is the unpredictability of change- one day you're fine, the next day you're not. As I sit here writing to you, I realize how many changes in our life are uncertain, how many are certain- whether we will admit or not- and how many things are inevitable... we knew it was coming but didn't see it until it was here. The question I post to you this month is- how did you plan for the certainty of uncertainty. Did you plan for those thing that were upcoming that you knew about, and have a contingency plan for those you did not?
Planning for an uncertainty can be attained financially by having an emergency fund, fully liquid, available to you in the off-chance you were blindsided by something vital that will take money to fix. In health, it may be a doctor's payment that must be made before emergency surgery, or paying the bills immediately after the crisis has passed. It may be for the refrigerator that surprisingly died and a new one has to be purchased and delivered before the food spoils. The car may need emergency repairs... you get the message. The credit card may be the immediate answer, but as we have all experience, the bill will come in at the end of the month, and sometimes you must struggle to pay it. The emergency fund is for just a thing- to pay for the unexpected, the unprepared for, the blindside. It's never pretty, and it's never pleasant, but being prepared is always a way to make it a bit softer and easier to deal with.
Death is a part of life, they say. As we get older, it seems that the calls and notifications come closer together and more often. Emotional preparation is never easy, and involves great discomfort and pain. No amount of money makes it easier, but the fact is that after the initial shock, it's usually followed by expense. Funeral, remembrance, loss of earnings... and the list goes on. So, not to be maudlin, but it's a reality of life, and the expenses connected to losing a loved one is not small. Being prepared for lifetime health issues as well as death occurrence must be dealt with in advance- pre-paying for funeral costs can be one of those ways to prepare for the certainty.
OK- too serious. Let's talk good thing- weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, confirmations, birthday presents and the ultimate feel-good item... GRANDCHILDREN! Good things come in small packages they say, and newborns are a prime example of truth in statement. Whether parent or grandparent, we all want our next generation to do better than we did. It's a part of love, a part of caring. So, one of the certainty's in life, for the most part, it that those little bundles of joy will grow, hit the magic number of 18, and be ready for college... will you be ready? You have 18 years to prepare, but my experience of 32 years shows parents don't buckle down to save for college until the child is about 14... not really enough time to save for 1 year, let alone 4. Attention parents: Don expect your Mom and Dad; those loving grandparents- will pay for it- their money is tied up in their retirement and having the time of their lives. So, do yourself a favor... look at all the certainties in your life, add in for the uncertainties, and have a game plan- it will pay off financially and emotionally in the end- much more than you will know.