Even if you are following the best laid out plan and you are on track to pay off your debt or your mortgage in the next couple of years, that doesn’t mean your life keeps going as you had planned. Some of it’s not bad, but some of it’s not good. You need to be ready to deal with the situation because sometimes life does not go as planned.
Let’s look at two scenarios: losing a job (crisis mode) and expecting a baby (stork mode). Although they are quite different, your finances are handled the same. You put your baby steps on hold. When losing a job, you put your plan on hold until you’re making an income again. When you and your spouse find out you are pregnant, you put your plan on hold. You do this until mommy and the baby leave the hospital and return safely home.
Be Proactive When Losing a Job
If you know you are going to lose your job in the next few months, you need to be proactive. Start looking for another job, get your resume updated, and start practicing interviewing. Apply for some jobs that you would maybe take, even if they are so-so, so you can go interview.
If you are offered a job that is better than what you currently have, jump ship and take it. If it’s comparable and you are close to being let go with a severance, then you need to determine if taking the job is better than waiting for the severance. When you have a 3-6 months emergency fund in place, then you can take more risk and wait for the severance. If you have debt and no emergency fund, then you might have to take the first job that is offered in order to reduce your risk. Your financial state is limiting your opportunities.
Money Matters When Life does not go as Planned
If you are going to lose your job, or if you have lost your job, or if you and your spouse are expecting a child, you need to stockpile money. Save everything you can. At this point, you pause your debt snowball and just pay the minimums on all your debts. If you are on steps 4, 5, and 6, you stop college funding and just pay your minimum mortgage payment. You can keep saving 15% for retirement.
If you lost your job and the money is tight, protect your four walls—housing (including utilities), food, transportation, and clothing—if that’s all you can afford. Only spend money on your needs unless you have your emergency fund in place. Your emergency fund becomes your source of income if you can no longer work for a little while or if you lost your job. If you do not have an emergency fund, then you need to get rid of expenses that are not necessities. Hopefully, you had already done this as you were working on eliminating your debt, but if you decided that you kind of liked your debt and didn’t want to pay it off too fast, now you get another chance to get rid of the non-essentials in your budget in order to save your money.
When you and your spouse are expecting a baby (congrats!), besides pausing your baby steps to stockpile money, you should determine what your costs are going to be. You need to pull out your health insurance plan and know what your deductible and max-out-of-pocket are, so you can prepare financially for it. Besides the extra money from pausing your debt snowball, you can use your budget to save additional money each month for the next 9 months. Unfortunately, some babies come too soon and there are complications. Having your finances in order means you don’t have to worry about the financial implications.
Finances are not the only area that you need to be concerned about. Remember, there are seven important areas in your life. You need to consider how to take care of all these areas when your financial life has changes coming. These are the times in your life when you get to reevaluate your life’s plan.
You might have to get rid of your gym membership when you lose your job. That doesn’t mean you neglect your physical well-being. Walking is free, and it’s good exercise. This might be the time in your life where you need to be more active. This isn’t the time to sit on the couch and play your Xbox. You might need to cut your budget to the bare bones, but that doesn’t mean you quit giving offerings to your church or supporting your favorite charities if you still have an income. This might be the time when you give up eating at restaurants and learning how to cook better and more nutritious meals at home.
Even if you’re following the best laid out plan, life does not always go as planned. You need to be ready to deal with the situation. You need to improvise. When you are in crisis or stork mode, you need to save all your available money until the situation ends. This will help you to position yourself to deal with the financial implications of the situation. These situations do not derail your plan. They put your plan on hold for a little while and give you opportunities to reevaluate your plan and to seek opportunities that can better your life.