Are You Prepared for Another New Year?

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result, but expecting a different one!”

While scholars don’t agree on who actually to attribute this quote to — or even the verbatim wording of it — the meaning is still the same. 

Many times, we repeat the same things; doing things the same way, over and over, and then get disappointed when we continue to get the same, undesirable results. It can be hard, and even challenging to admit that what we’re doing isn’t working. And then it’s not always easy to make the kind of changes necessary to get back on track.

Every year, typically sometime between New Year’s Eve and early January, many people look back on the year that is gone, evaluate what they’ve accomplished and where they feel they fell short; and then vow to make changes to achieve more of their goals or keep more of their resolutions in the new year.

Eat better. Sleep more. Worry less. Exercise regularly. Read a good book. Stay in touch with old friends. Spend quality time with family. Work towards that promotion. Save for that first home; that next home — maybe even your dream home. There’s always a mental and most of the time, also a physical list of things we set our sights on — wanting to do better with the good; and do less of the bad.

Forming healthy habits is a good thing.  Surrounding yourself with close friends, having a positive daily routine, and living your life in the best possible way physically, financially, and spiritually are all excellent attributes of a healthy lifestyle. But when something happens to disrupt one or more of these things, it isn’t wise to continue going through life as if nothing’s changed.

Life is full of unexpected surprises and unplanned stops in the middle of places you never imagined ending up. How do you adjust to these new circumstances; things that weren’t a part of your life plans?

If you’ve been through a divorce or the loss a spouse, you know what it’s like to suddenly find yourself adjusting to having only one income; cancelling travel plans; contemplating how and with whom you’ll spend the holidays, and other changes suddenly thrust on you.

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. Maybe you’re among the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their jobs during the Coronavirus pandemic. The unemployment check didn’t cover all of your expenses, and you still haven’t found another job that pays the same wages you had before. Or the doctor called to confirm your worst fears of a medical diagnosis. Your high school son just told you his girlfriend is pregnant, or your college daughter just announced she no longer believes in the God who she was raised knowing.

While we can’t control many of the circumstances that may happen to us, we can control elements of how we prepare to take on those events when they do 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.

I’m not suggesting that the impact of what may happen in life can be softened if there’s a good plan in place; as if planning keeps us from experiencing the pain of a broken relationship, the grief of the loss of a loved one, the agony of an unproductive job search, and many other things that come along.

But planning may help prepare one to make the most out of the new life’s circumstance — adjusting to their new normal; even if “normal” is for now, and not necessarily forever.

So what do I mean by that?

Start by outlining a Preparation Plan that lists life-changing things that could happen, and how you would be able to deal with them. Everyone’s list will be different and will depend largely on where you are in life. A mom of three young children may need to focus on her kid’s safety, well-being and their future. Whereas a single career woman may be more concerned about her financial stability (in the absence of a spouse’s income) in the event of a job loss. A retired empty-nester may need to be more concerned about living on a fixed income and the markets’ impact on their retirement.

People who live in cold-weather regions, the kind of places that are also prone to lots of snow, would be foolish to live as though they’ll never need a snow shovel, working flashlights and/or candles, and maybe even an alternate heat source. And who would move to Minneapolis in January, packing only their July Miami Beach outfits?

So what can you do now? Here are some of the things you might want to consider for your Preparation Plan, and implementing.

  • Make saving money each month a regular practice, so that you have a savings and an emergency fund. Create it, and don’t spend it.
  • Manage or eliminate your debt. This will also help you have more to save or invest.
  • Spend within or below your means. {See above}
  • Keep your resume updated, and never stop networking within your industry.
  • Make out a will and have an estate plan so that your spouse/children/parents don’t have to spend time in probate if you pass.
  • Take out a life insurance policy (and make sure your spouse has one) that covers your funeral costs so that your family doesn’t go in debt to pay for it.
  • Encourage your parents and single adult children to also have life insurance. Don’t assume they’re covered at work.
  • If you’re married, make sure you are involved with all of the business part of the marriage — know where all of the paperwork is and what insurance companies, banks, investment firms, social security, etc. you need to contact, should your spouse pass away or leaves.
  • If you’re single, create a document and leave with a very trusted family member or friend, that outlines all of the necessary contact information (your primary care doctor, workplace supervisor, banking information, mortgage or rental information, utility companies, and anyone else family may need to contact, should you become medically or psychologically incapacitated and unable to keep up with bill payments and other important transactions due to being in a hospital.

This is not a doomsday list, but rather a reality check. No one is promised another day or hour. If we could see into the future we’d avoid all of the pitfalls — choose an alternate route to work to avoid the accident; become more serious about our fitness and nutrition to avoid getting that health-related medical call; turn down that first date with the wrong person who would later leave and break our heart. We can’t see into the future anymore than we can change the past. But in the present, we can prepare for outcomes to better help us be able to survive; smart planning for whatever happens next.

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