How the Last Recession Prepared Me for the One that’s Coming

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to check in. To say that this Spring has been among the strangest, and one of the most unexpected time in our lives, would be an understatement.

It’s been about eight years since I started this blog; just a few years after being forced to adjust my life to a new normal. Like so many people who are dealing with that today, the recession of 12 years sent the economy tanking, the housing market tumbling, small businesses closing, and corporations downsizing. Massive layoffs, unemployment, company bankruptcies, house foreclosures, and lots of uncertainty. And even as we slowly came out of it, thousands of people remained underemployed for years after; having to learn how to live with their new career and smaller salaries.

Millennials graduated into a shaky economy, where they struggled to find jobs, or accepted ones far less than the salary they expected their college degrees to help secure. Some of their Baby Boomer parents never found new employment (ageism), while many Generation Xers had to transition into positions far less than their expertise, prior experience, and career positions had previously demanded. We were all in this together; trying to figure things out, move forward, stabilize the economy, and get back to as close to normal as possible. 

And we did. We succeeded.

It was painful, and a lot of what was, would never be again. But the economy came back. Jobs came back. New small businesses emerged. Entrepreneurship grew. We survived.

But here we are again. This time dealing with something much bigger than the loss of a job or home. We’re being thrust into a new normal where we must deal with that and the ever increasing, globally impacted, loss of life in this pandemic they call COVID-19.

There is an old saying that Handsight’s 20/20. But I think Foresight can be as well; especially when you start to see familiar signs; warning bells.

One of the things my four years in the last recession taught me was the importance of planning and preparation.

Planning is creating a type of road map that outlines what you will do in an emergency, or when you see a catastrophe (natural or financial) heading your way. It’s what children learn in school from the fire department when they ask every to create a fire escape plan at home. In Public Relations, we call them crisis management plans which outlines what a company or organization should do in the event of a crisis. If they follow the plan, it usually helps them get through the crisis without stumbling and causing more harm.

Preparation is putting into action your plan, and collecting the resources needed. If the forecast is for a foot of snow in a place that barely receives an inch, then ask yourself, what do you need to do if you end up being “snowed in,” schools out, and you know you will be unable to get to work due to road conditions? A prepared person would probably grab the folders and files they need from their office so they can work from home; encourage their kids to bring their books home from school that day; and by all means, stop at the grocery store to pick up any items they have on the monthly shopping list, that they weren’t planning to do for another week. At home, someone preparing for a major snow storm might also take the time to check the batteries in their flashlights, pull out their candles or secondary light sources, and make sure all of the important devices are fully charged.

It’s too late to check for batteries once your power goes out. Or to realize your pantry is mostly empty, after the roads have closed. And yes, if you only have one pack of toilet paper in a house of four people, you should probably be mindful to pick up another one “just in case.”

About 10 million people applied for unemployment benefits, in the wake of the Coronavirus related layoffs, business closings, cancelled public events, and a volatile stock market. While a number of companies have instituted pay cuts to keep their employees. Rent, mortgages, groceries, medicines, utilities, and other bills are coming due, with many people lacking the funds to cover them.

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According to Bankrate’s Financial Security Index, nearly three in 10 (28 percent) U.S. adults have no emergency savings. One in four have a rainy day fund, but not enough money to cover three months’ worth of living expenses.

Sadly, there are a lot of Americans, literally working paycheck to paycheck, with no room in the month for emergencies or unexpected hits to their finances. This is a particularly difficult time for millions of people. But for many others; especially those who have always had a steady income, your habits, your lifestyle, and planning, or lack of planning, does still matter. What you have today doesn’t guarantee your tomorrow.

I’ve watched an industry I thought was invincible, screech to a grinding halt. And related companies institute pay cuts across the company. 

So what can you do now if you’re one of the people whose rainy day funds are not sufficient to cover you in the event you’re next to lose your job?

  • Stop spending frivolously.
  • Start saving immediately.
  • If you’re not already a coupon user, start shopping with them now.
  • Utilize rewards programs for groceries and gas to get extra savings.
  • If you don’t need it, don’t buy it!
  • Even as you desire to support local restaurants, limit how often you’re eating out.
  • Go through your bank statements searching for automatic withdraws, and stop the ones you don’t need/use. If your gym is closed right now, are they still charging you a monthly fee?
  • Get rid of duplicate services (do you really need both Hulu and Amazon movies; Spotify and Apple Music?). 

If you do not have a personal financial crisis plan, consider developing one now.

If the last recession taught us anything, it’s that what may have taken only months to get in to, took the majority of people and various industries years to climb back out. How are you preparing yourself now for the long-term?

 

 

Would Your ‘Do-Over’ Make a Difference?

Six years ago, I was frantically trying to pack up the house I was renting on one side of town so that I could move back into the house I owned on the other side of town. It was January 2014 and less than two months earlier I’d sold my house…or so I thought.

There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to sell my home, but that bad decision to move when I did was the beginning of three back-to-back terrible house-related decisions, and a total of seven moves in less than a four year period of time, that completely wrecked me financially; at a cost I’m still paying for today.

Why did I think I’d sold my house? Because my realtor told me I did.

We had the contract and the earnest money in hand; the inspections were done and repairs were made; an appraisal was completed; and the closing date was set. But I made one big mistake. I moved out of my house the weekend before closing, which was set the Friday after Thanksgiving. I knew there was no way I could get packed up and moved the actual day of the closing AND since I was planning to rent for a year, I also needed to secure a place where I’d be moving to before moving out. So I put down a deposit for the rental house, paid the required first month’s rent, and then paid movers to move me out of my home and into my new place.

The buyers were making their preparations too. They put in for their mail forwarding; the paperwork to have the utilities transferred into their names was completed, and they were planning to start moving in that weekend after closing.

But during the process, something felt wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something just didn’t feel right. And then my realtor went AWOL during the final days leading up to the closing; the time period when she should have been most available.

And then I got the phone call. The closing had failed! What happened after that was a total nightmare!

First, we tried to work with the buyers and their bank, to try to find out what happened; see what could be done in an attempt to get them to change their mind. Before I accepted their offer, my agent had assured me that they had a pre-approval letter, so hearing that the failure had to do with finances was a shock to me; leaving me to question whether or not my agent had really done her due diligence.

Then we tried finding another buyer (sadly this was right before the housing explosion in Nashville)! It was the middle of the holidays and no one was looking to move during Christmas. By January, I’d been paying both a mortgage and rent for three months and couldn’t continue doing so.

So, I made the hard decision to move back into my home and take it off the market.

 

That meant not only losing my deposit at the rental; but paying to get everything transferred back over into my name – the cable, the security system, phone, gas, electricity, and water. It also meant that all of the money I’d paid to turn everything on at the rental was lost; as was the money paid to the movers; and now I was going to have to pay to move back to the house.

Talk about a hit to the finances!

No house sale. And now I was out over $8,500 of money (counting the rent, the deposit, moving costs, etc.) that I really didn’t have to lose. All because someone else’s finances fell apart. Even though I didn’t know, and my agent didn’t tell me that I could have put a contingency in the contract to not move out until a certain number of days after the closing – I would have still been out the deposit and first month’s rent on the rental house, as that was the only way to hold the place to move in to. Not to mention the costs to make the updates they wanted from the home inspection.

 

That hard financial hit taught me one thing. Don’t accept another contract offer without adding a contingency on the move out date. That’s what I did four months later after switching realtors and putting my house back on the market. And it sold to a nice couple, who accepted the contingency, allowing me to move out three days after we closed.

But unfortunately, instead of going with my original plan of renting first; I put my money into another house (I needed to move from having stairs to having one-story, for health reasons). Under normal circumstances, this would probably have made perfect sense. But once again, I didn’t listen to my gut. I started having a bad feeling on the house during the inspection process – a time when I could have walked away due to the contingency I’d placed on it about the inspection report. Everything in me said to stop; something wasn’t right. I truly felt that the buyers weren’t being truthful. But once again, I listened to my realtor (a different one) and convinced myself that perhaps I was just getting cold feet and unwarranted panic attacks. So we kept moving forward.

BIG MISTAKE!

I ended up in a money pit, and with documented evidence that came later, turns out the buyers HAD indeed lied on the inspection report and face-to-face when questioned about certain things. And while it cost me a lot of money to make the repairs, the attorney I spoke to said doing so would still be cheaper than trying to sue them. You see, even if I won the lawsuit, she said…all they would have to do is declare bankruptcy and I wouldn’t see one penny of the money; but I will have spent over $20,000 in legal fees and such to take them to court.

I decided to cut my losses. I called my old realtor who sold the other house, and he sold that one in less than two weeks. I just wanted out and away from another house.

IMG_5312I can admit today that I fell into a depression, fueled by the incredible back-to-back financial hits I’d incurred – the draining of my savings account, the distrust of people who I thought were supposed to be there for my best interest. And the multiple moves in such a short period of time that hadn’t just destroyed my bank account, but my confidence and the security of who I was.

I was smarter than that. I knew I was smarter than what I had allowed to happen to me in that less than two-year period of time. So, what happened? And how did I let this happen?

I knew that my mental state wouldn’t allow me to trust another home purchase decision; and I certainly wasn’t going to trust another realtor. So, after a one year stay in one rental house, I moved 30 miles away — closer to my job — settled into another rental where I stayed put for the past few years.

I needed to breathe, to think, to plan, to live for more than a year in one place, and think back on and figure out the rest of my life. black-and-white-hand-person

I couldn’t go back and change what had happened. And I knew it would take me years to replace all the money I’d lost over the two years. But I also knew I didn’t want to make another move without a full plan in place.

What would I do differently?

Well, hindsight is always 20/20. And as this year is 2020, it seems appropriate to refer to my life’s lessons in vision terms. I should have viewed more things through strong lens.

 

  • Evaluate whether moving from your current house is the right thing to do and the right time. Once I moved back to my house that January, 2014, in spite of the knee injury (and later, surgery), I probably should have stayed put a while longer.
  • Never move out before closing; even if it means adding a contingency that some buyers may not accept. Better to lose that buyer up front than to be left holding the financial bag on the backend.
  • Trust your gut! If there’s one thing I regretted through the turmoil, it would be listening to realtors instead of my gut – both times! It cost me greatly. When something doesn’t feel right, stop and try to figure out why. Trust that overwhelming feeling, ask the hard questions, and don’t accept soft answers that seem to gloss over your concerns.
  • Cut your losses. Try to re-group and recoup. You can’t re-do the past, but you can make plans not to repeat it in the future.
  • Watch out for your mental health. No one talks about the emotional hit that home buying and selling can have on a person; especially when the expected outcomes go bad. What that 2-3 year period did to me psychologically has had a lasting, negative, and financial impact on me even now, 6 years later.

 

What Will You Do in 2020 to Make Your Difference Financially in 2021?

So, in my last post, I mention the four major areas I plan to focus on in 2020:

  1. Personal Life
  2. Home Life
  3. Financial Life
  4. Professional Life

I said that I’d be sharing some of the things I’m doing, learning, and planning for myself in this new year. No particular time table. No scheduled challenges. No added pressure contributing to the stress.

Even though I was planning to write from my own experiences, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to share an awesome story with you from one of my BFFs adult daughters. I think you will find it very inspirational, even if the nature of it doesn’t specifically apply to you.

For the sake of this blog, I will call her LW, a 30-something year old, recently divorced, working mom of two kids. And like many of you reading this, she is in debt; a lot of debt. And like a number of you, she decided to do something about it.

calculator and pen99.999 percent of you will never win the million dollar lottery. And almost as many will likely never receive a multi-hundred thousand dollar settlement or inheritance. So the reality is that if you are living with debt that you can’t pay off each month, and you want to change that, then you have to be willing to change you. And by changing you, I mean, change your mindset about debt.

Debt isn’t something that just poor or middle class people struggle with. The simple definition of debt is owing more than you earn or have. Break-even means only spending what you earn/have. So if you earn (or even win) one million dollars, but you spend one and a half million; then you’ll find yourself in debt to the tune of $500,000. That’s why you often read about athletes who received huge multi-million dollar contracts, ending up broke just a few years into their retirement; or lottery winners losing their millions less than five years after their win.

But debt doesn’t always come about as a result of mismanagement of money. LIFE sometimes throws us a curve ball, resulting in unexpected expenses, a shift in lifestyle, or downturn in the economy. A bad investment, a business deal gone wrong, job loss, mounting medical costs, and lots of other things can impact your financial life. How you respond, and your willingness to adjust your lifestyle to your new normal, may determine the future of that financial life.

Here is LW’s story. The “bold” is my emphasis.

In 2019 I was finally in a position to take control of my finances, and I’m taking a moment to celebrate what I’ve accomplished. 

On 1 Jan 2019 (after my separation but before my divorce was finalized), I had $120,814 of debt to my name. The number made me physically ill to look at, and I was burdened by 6 different minimum monthly payments on credit cards, a personal loan, a 401k loan, a car loan, and one (large, consolidated) student loan.

In July, my divorce was finalized.

Today, on 1 Jan 2020, my total debt is now $68,891 – just my car loan and student loan. I paid off $51,923 of debt in 2019, focusing on the lowest balances first, and snowballing those monthly payments into the next-highest debt as they were freed up. 

I didn’t accrue any new debt. I’ve been so blessed by family – I lived with my parents rent-free for half of the year, then moved into a family-owned condo where I pay very low rent. I’m blessed with a good career and good income (that I work hard for), but even outside of that I worked my ass off

I sold a LOT of my stuff. I started reselling gently used clothing on Poshmark and delivering for Shipt. I’ve never really had problems controlling my spending, but I tightened my belt even more this year, trying to focus on reducing fast food and restaurant meals and cooking at home instead; using what we have instead of buying new; continuing to use coupons and rebate apps like ibotta, and using our local “Buy Nothing” Facebook page. I didn’t buy any Christmas presents this year except for my girls (sorry, fam – next year!). 

And it feels amazing; freeing, empowering.  

I have a long way to go and a lot more work to do. And in other ways this year was full of more ugliness than I’d ever wish on anyone. But it feels incredible to see the quantifiable progress I’ve made in this one area. I’m on track to be completely debt-free in 2020

2019 was for recovering, stabilizing, and rebuilding. 2020 is for flourishing, living generously, and teaching my girls how to do the same 

— LW

 

Stop Stressing and Be More Confident with Your Life in 2020!

New Year’s Day, and I can’t believe it took me most of the day just to get the drawers and cabinets in my bathroom cleaned out and organized. Sure, I took a few texting and email breaks, and spent over an hour on the phone catching up with one of my BFFs! But I still did not expect it to take so long. Nor did I anticipate how much junk – outdated, expired, and almost empty containers of junk that was just shoved in the back of my cabinets and drawers.

I know I’m not the only one. I also know that one of the reasons people like me, and most likely you, put off taking on the chore of cleaning and organizing our homes, and even our lives, is because it all just seems so overwhelming.  This time of year often makes it even more daunting. So many “experts” on morning talk shows, columnists in newspapers, magazine articles, all talking about the many things we should be doing – personally and professionally — in order to be a “better person” and have a better year.

woman-lifting-two-dumbells-on-both-hands-in-front-of-mirror-1886487Get physically fit. Get healthier. Get financially secure. Get the house cleaned and organized. Travel more. Read the Bible in a year. Join a book club. Plant an organic garden. Raise chickens. And on and on and on. I mean who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed a bit; and confused about where to get started, and how to make most of it happen?!

When my sister shared a social media post titled 30 Challenges for 30 Days, asking me to join her in it, I replied within a split second — “NOPE!” The subtext of the headline noted: “That Will Make You a Better Person.” That extra message probably set me off more than the title. I don’t need to compete with someone, trying to accomplish so many things at the same time, all within some arbitrary time period, to prove I’m a better person! And I think that’s the trap we often fall into every year.

I am definitely a believer in doing things to make your life, your family, your home, and yourself better. But what those things are will be different for each person. And the priority of what’s most important to you now, versus what can wait, will differ. I mean I love pulling open my top bathroom drawer now and seeing how neat everything looks. I love finding what I need on sight; not having to shuffle a bunch of junk around, or getting ready to use some medical or cosmetic cream, only to find out that it expired six months earlier. But maybe your drawers are already organized the way you want them.

I decided early on that rather than trying to take a lot of things on at once, as if it wouldgold-ipad-beside-stylus-768473 even be possible to complete all of the things I need to do, while shopping better, eating better, working out every day, going to bed on time, and getting my budget in order, etc. etc. – you know the drill – I would instead choose tiny projects, like the bathroom cabinets, and just work on it until it was done (no pressured time limits) before moving on to the next one.

So, in preparing for and thinking about my life in 2020, I broke things down into four major areas:

  1. Personal Life
  2. Home Life
  3. Financial Life
  4. Professional Life

It feels much better to think about changes and improvements I can make to FOUR areas in my life, rather than trying to work on 30 or 40 different things at the same time! Obviously, each one of the areas have subparts to them. But keeping my focus on the big picture helps me to plan better on how to attack something in each one.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing some of the things I’ve done, and how I’m choosing to tackle them in my own life, project by project – baby steps to success. Some may be things you’re already doing, or there might be some things that inspire you to try to accomplish. Other things may be of no interest to you whatsoever. But the cool thing about a new year, and our efforts to make a new start, is that we each should start with looking at our own lives, and apply only those things that impact you directly. If it’s not something that’s at the top of your list; don’t do it.

By the way, on day two of the new year, I spent time tackling the desk in my bedroom. It’s not an “office” desk, where I do work. It’s a desk that I use to write notes, letters, journal, read, and occasionally, work on my blog. The problem was, like an unused piece of exercise equipment, my desk had become the place to toss things I didn’t want to deal with, file away; a convenient landing site for whatever! Getting through all of the desk drawers and cleaning off the top of the desk really made my day. No one’s going to see it except for me. But that’s the whole reason I did it. For me! And that should be your motivation as well.

What will make you and your life easier, happier, and more convenient? Go for it!

Time to Keep What’s Worth Saving?

“Bam. Bam. Bam!” That’s the sound of the police officer banging on my door. Our apartments didn’t have doorbells, so knocking, or in this case, banging, was the only way to announce oneself.

The sound of urgency in the banging startled me awake; especially since I didn’t know at the time it was a police officer at my door. It was the middle of the night and I’d only lived in that complex for a few months. As is my way, I spoke through the door, trying to verify who was there and why. Once I learned it was law enforcement, I opened the door to a female officer who was demanding that I exit the apartment right away. There was a car on fire right in front of my building, and they needed us to evacuate in case the fire got out of control and jumped to the building.

The officer wanted me to vacate immediately, but I refused to leave without going back into my bedroom to grab my purse and something to cover up with, and put on some shoes.

The car fire ended up being contained and we were allowed back into our apartments about an hour later.

As a child, I’d been through several real emergencies and only drills, especially when we  lived in Kansas. Whenever there was a tornado warning while we were home, we went down into our basement. I never had to worry about anything because my mom had taken care of everything. We had blankets, flashlights, candles and matches; snacks and water already in place. All we had to do was get downstairs, and then we’d listen to the transistor radio and wait for the all clear. Our basement was also the game room, so there were couches and chairs, and stuff to do as we waited it out.

As an adult, there have been plenty of potential emergencies — severe storms, flooding, ice storms. And watching things unfold on television, like the wildfires out west, and hurricanes in the south, made me start thinking, what if I only had moments to prepare to evacuate my home, what would I have the time to gather and what would be worth saving?

We don’t like to think about things like that; natural disasters or man-made catastrophes. But there’s a reason they call them “emergencies!” We don’t expect them or invite them, but you never know when something may happen. So when it does…how prepared are you for it?

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We have watched this play out in real time in the news. A forest fire gets out of control destroying everything in its path,. Mudslides, flash flooding, hurricanes heading straight for your community.

Or maybe it’s an unexpected doorbell ring from the police after a 911 phone call from a (possibly) mentally disturbed man, claiming to have sat on a bomb in his house.

That happened recently in a small community outside my town. The neighborhood was evacuated with no notice. Parents barely having the time to grab their children and leave. Fortunately, it was a false alarm, but what if it wasn’t. What if after you vacated, the block really did blow up, and everything in your home with it? 

So if you had only five minutes to load your car before having to escape out of town, aside from family members and pets, what would you put inside?

What if you only had 60 seconds? What would you grab?

Most people would panic, because most people don’t have a plan in place in case something happens. They are trying to make that decision at the time of the emergency, instead of being prepared for that decision in advance. Sadly, most of us want to live with the “what are the chances that will ever happen to me” syndrome. So when it happens to them, they exit the home with the clothes on their backs and little else.

I’m not suggesting in any way that anyone should risk their lives or those of their family going back into a home when flood waters at at the steps, a wildfire is in the backyard, or theirs the possibility of a bomb going off. What I am suggesting is this. Make a plan. Share that plan with your family. Be prepared to follow it.

Recently, part of New York City had a power outage that last over five hours. I watched as one family who was visiting the city was being interviewed. They were in good spirits, however, they had no way to reach two of their kids who were off touring apart from the rest of the family. Why? Because ever single family member left the hotel without taking a phone charger with them, and then from a full day’s use, had allowed their batteries to die! Certainly, as they left for the day, no one could have predicted the city would experience a blackout. But then, why would you plan a full day of touring, and not plan for how you would power your devices, even IF there wasn’t an emergency.

Firemen speaking at schools often encourage kids to go home and ask their parents to not only put together an escape plan for the family, in the event of a house fire, but to also practice it. I know one mother who discussed with her daughter about the plan, but never practiced it with her. I asked once why they had not physically gone through the steps of what to do when exiting the home. She really didn’t have an answer, though I chalked it up to being lazy, not wanting to be inconvenienced, and again, the old, “this is’t never going to happen to us,” mindset. But at least they had a plan, because many families do not.

So what can you stop and think about doing right now to prepare for that possible knock on the door or phone call? Make a list. Create a plan. Communicate with your family. If you live alone, decide which neighbor or friend you’re going to reach out to so they know what’s going on.

Here are a few other things.

  • Make a copy of important papers and documents and keep them somewhere safe, like a fireproof safe, or a safety deposit box away from your home. You can also scan the documents and email a copy to yourself that way if your computer gets destroyed, you can access them from any other computer.
  • I recommend also scanning your sentimental photos (family events like weddings, graduations, baby pictures). There are numerous cloud based services you can back your photos up to as well. The originals may get destroyed but at least you’ll have a saved copy. 
  • Always keep your car keys and purse or wallet somewhere you can find and grab quickly.
  • Keep cash at the ready. Remember, you can’t get to the ATM if the town loses electricity.
  • Know where your phone chargers are located.
  • Decide in advance what items you would pack if you have more time — like 5-10 minutes versus seconds to vacate. If you have a day or more notice, like an incoming hurricane, go ahead and pack the bags and leave by the door. Wouldn’t you’d rather spend time unpacking suitcases you didn’t need to flee with than fleeing your home without any extra clothes or shoes?
  • Keep an emergency bag of non-perishables, water, first-aid, and other emergency items somewhere you can grab on the way out the door. 
  • Watch the news and keep up with the weather report. Don’t wait until the last minute to pack your car if you’re leaving.
  • Keep gas in your car. Never park it in garage or driveway near empty.
  • Decide in advance how and where all family members will meet up or check in with each other in the event of an emergency.

No one wants to think that something tragic might happen to them. But every month, there’s some type of disaster or emergency somewhere, with news footage of someone talking about how they didn’t think this or that was going to happen. We can’t predict or in some cases can’t avoid many of the emergencies that might happen to us. But we can at least try to be prepared for them, if they do.

Why Don’t People Lock Their Doors?

It’s 2019. Is it really that hard? Do they even make cars anymore that don’t have an all–doors lock device on the driver’s side of the car? One click of a button on your way out the door, and your car is locked up.

So why do I keep hearing people complaining about their cars being broken in to and/or stolen. Technically, most of the thefts aren’t really “breaking into” anything. They’re simply opening the door that people leave unlock, and then rummaging through the glove compartment, under the seats, and maybe even the trunk. Week after week, I see a posting from someone on our Nextdoor app in my neighborhood area, who have either had their car ransacked, or someone who knows of someone else who did; or someone whose home security video camera captured people in the act of going through cars. I would say the majority of those who post actually admit to leaving their cars unlocked!

But why?

I think there are three kinds of people who leave their car doors unlocked on their house; whether it’s in their driveway or on the street. 

The Forgetful One! These are the people who either have so much on their minds, they forget the small stuff. Maybe they’re trying to get the groceries and the kids inside, and they forget to take care of that too. Or perhaps they really are just scatterbrains who don’t even think about locking the doors when they get out.

Then there’s the Lazy One! These are the people who are just too lazy to stop and lock their doors; as if pressing a button exerts so much energy out of you that you just can’t bring yourself to do it. They are the ones who get inside their apartment, remember that they didn’t lock the door, but are too lazy to go back outside to take care of it. They would rather take a chance that no one will break into it than to put their shoes back on, walk back outside and go lock their door.

And finally, the Arrogant One! They are the people who convince themselves that no one is going to break into their car; as if that’s a dare to anyone considering it. Despite the statistics, they actually believe that their neighborhood is so safe and crime-free, that “stuff like that” just doesn’t happen there.

In my hometown, the Metro Police statistics showed that in 2018, car thefts were up by 200 percent! The police statistics further report that the majority of the stolen vehicles not only had unlocked doors, but 60% of the stolen vehicles were left with the keys inside the car! In some cases, the car was literally left unlocked and running!

You have to know that you’re inviting someone to come in, go through your stuff, and take what they want!

Open sign at business

There was an artist who had their car stolen while they were unloading it for a show in town. The artist claimed they were only gone for a moment, but their definition of a “moment” was 20 minutes! What clock are they looking at when they think “it happened in the blink of an eye,” is the same thing as leaving your car unattended, unlocked, and with keys inside for 20 minutes? I can leave my house and drive to work in that amount of time!

I don’t know about you, but I work way too hard for the things I have to make it that easy for someone to steal my stuff; especially my car! But as if losing a car to theft isn’t bad enough, I’m even more surprised every time I hear about a home break-in where the homeowners either left a window or a door unlocked, or they didn’t have a security system.

I’ll be the first one to say that if someone really wants what you have inside, an alarm system isn’t going to keep them from breaking in. If that were the case, no banks, expensive art galleries, or gun shops would ever get burglarized. But it can slow them down; may make them rethink the risk, and notifies law enforcement when t happens. Over the past week, a popular entertainment news show that I watch reported that there has been a rise in the number of burglaries in Los Angeles. Every time I heard about another celebrity break-in, they did not appear to have an alarm system inter home. And I don’t get that. Certainly they can’t argue they don’t have the money to pay to secure their property? And especially for celebrities and sports figures who broadcast times when they’re out of town, either online, or simply by knowledge of a musician on tour or an athlete playing an away game! So not investing a few hundred dollars a month for a top of the line security alarm system just baffles me. Even for the rest of us, those who can afford a few less trips to Starbucks or the movie theater in order to pay for a system, there’s just no excuse not to have one. And when you do, ARM IT!

And I have visited multiple people who have alarm systems that they don’t actually arm. Others make jokes about their Smith & Wesson, or large German Shepherd. But you can’t use your gun on someone if you’re not even home when it happens. And the only thing your neighbor is going to think about your barking dog is about how annoying they are. Mostly, I think it goes back to the Arrogant One. They live in a false sense of security where if they think since no one’s broken in yet, then no one’s ever going to. Or back to the wrong belief that their neighborhood is rich enough, safe enough, that they don’t have to worry about stuff like that. Which brings me back to celebrities; some who even live in gated communities, who get robbed. How hard is it, really, to set up an alarm system for your home?

blue-gray house with lights

Personally, I can think of a lot of things I would like to be doing with my money each month, other than paying for my alarm system. But for me, it’s worth the investment for the peace of mind when I’m at home, that if someone does try to break in, I’ll at least be alerted and able to take necessary steps. And also the peace of mind when I’m away, that if someone breaks in, the police are alerted (plus the best, noisy neighbor one could ask for), and hopefully get there before they get away. If nothing else than perhaps a preventive measure for the thief who can so easily break into someone else’s home with out having to worry about tripping an alarm and trying to get away.

Did you know that there are some insurance companies that won’t pay out a claim if they find out that you left your keys in the car, your car doors were unlocked; or for some, you own an alarm system that you didn’t have set when the burglary happened?

So, lock your doors people!

Being Prepared for the Aftershocks

Yesterday, on Independence Day, Southern California experienced a 6.4 magnitude earthquake. The USGS describes an Intensity 6 as being “Strong.” The epicenter of the quake was in Ridgecrest, CA, a small city described as a “desert town.” Fortunately, as of this writing there’s been no reported deaths, and the destructive damage was relatively low. Several people attribute that to the strengthening of the building codes in California, understanding that living there means being prepared for when, not if there will be another earthquake.

One of the things I also heard many emergency personnel and members of the media refer to was a reminder to everyone about the importance of having their “earthquake preparedness packs,” since there is an expectation of potential strong aftershocks. The contents of the earthquake packs aren’t that different from a general survival kit ready for any emergency — tornadoes, hurricanes, city-wide power outage, or even an economic downturn. It’s better to be adequately prepared for any kind of emergency, even if you never end up having one, than to not have anything, and then experience an emergency and not have the basic means to survive.

That reminder got me thinking about a post I’d made several years ago talking about the theme of Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, and why everyone should have personal water buckets.

black-and-white-hand-person

Your water buckets are those things you use to catch the “rain” of blessings that you’ll need to sustain you, not for today, but be at the ready in the future. While you can’t know every possible scenario that could happen in your life, you can have a plan to prepare yourself for how to deal with most circumstances as they come.

Maybe it’s learning how to turn your hobby into an income stream for your family, or starting a second business for your retirement. Perhaps as a single adult, you take in a roommate so that you can put the extra funds away. Water buckets are basically ways to save money and resources today so that you have them to use later when you might unexpectedly need them.

If you’ve been through a divorce, and suddenly found yourself dealing with the shock of returning to just one income — perhaps your spouse carried you on their insurance, and now you’re having to pay for your own, along with the mortgage, and that new car that at the time seemed like a good idea — then you understand the concept of having the benefit of having something in those buckets.

Maybe you’re single, just lost your job, and now there’s no second income to fall back on; no one else to help pay those bills or provide for the health benefits that you just lost. 

Perhaps you still have your job, but with the cost of everything increasing, you’re just barely making enough to cover your monthly expenses. But then the brakes go out on your car — out of warranty, of course.

If any of these scenarios sound familiar in your life or someone you know, then you understand that life is full of surprises and unplanned stops in the middle of places you never imagined yourself ending up. And while we can’t control some of the circumstances that may happen to us, we can control how well prepared we are to take on those events when they happen.

Being prepared for life’s unexpected turns means being willing to create a plan now, so that you are where you need to be, have what you need to have, or are on your way to accomplishing steps to help you when a crisis enters your life.

So when it’s raining outside, the grass looks green, the flowers are colorful, and all the trees are thick with foliage, don’t worry about your neighbors or friends looking at you strangely because you’ve placed your water buckets outside the house to fill them up. Maybe they haven’t checked the forecast to know that there’s a drought coming. Be thankful that you’re going to be ready when it hits.