The flooded Merced River across Yosemite’s valley floor
My trip this Spring to Yosemite provided a wonderful time to experience a part of this country I’d never been to before and to check another National Park off my bucket list. The weather was great, the sights were magnificent and the time with my son-in-law was especially enjoyable. Our careful planning paid off, allowing us to relax and fully enjoy the park while working the plan (hereis my previous blog underscoring the need for proper planning). But, no matter how much one plans, there are always things beyond our control, issues that make the planning go awry.
As mentioned before, the abnormal amount of snowfall last winter in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the warm temperatures this Spring and the ensuing snowmelt created grand cascades for the waterfalls and caused the Merced River in the valley below to overflow its banks. The various falls were beautiful to behold, but the flooded river triggered evacuation of certain areas. The rising water interrupted part of our camping plans.
Our plan was to stay in the North Pines campground for the first three nights of our trip before venturing into the backcountry. We were able to camp there for the first night, but then they closed the campground due to the swelling Merced River. Like the rest of the displaced campers, we didn’t want to leave the park, so we started looking at our options.
Because of a last-minute cancelation, we were able to quickly grab a spot at Curry Village the second night, thinking that was our only viable option. We later learned that Camp 4, where all the international rock climbers camp, also had some spaces, but at that point, as the adage goes, “we didn’t know what we didn’t know.” We did stay in Camp 4 the third night, and it turned out to be a wonderful place to meet folks and camp.
Interruptions happen in our financial lives as well. A premature death of a spouse, losing a job, a recession, a divorce, a disability, needing to leave the workforce to become a caretaker of a loved one, a global economic downturn, or a host of other factors can set back even the best laid plans. Here are five things to keep in mind when those circumstances occur.
Expect the unexpected
C. S. Lewis once wisely pointed out,“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant [or unexpected] things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life.” Interruptions are inevitable and we shouldn’t be surprised when they come. Knowing that future adjustments will need to be made can lessen the harshness of the event. That is why financial planning is dynamic and not static; changes need to be made along the way.
Note your attitude and change your perspective when necessary
Interruptions can not only create financial troubles, but emotional hardships as well. Caring for your mental wellbeing is crucial in the moment. You must set aside those initial gut reactions of panic, fear, anger, or other emotions that paralyze you, and channel your energy and thought process towards the future. Carefully directing your attention to the positive will also lessen the stress you are feeling. The size of your bank account or portfolio should never define you. The crisis you’re facing isn’t always a personal failure, and working through it can demonstrate your strengths. Stay focused on your long-term goals and not the short-term disruptions. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control your attitude during them.
New opportunities may present themselves
COVID was a major disrupter for corporations that caused them to reconfigure their business model to survive. Think about how restaurants needed to readjust the way they served food during the shutdown. Likewise, learn to reframe your own situation to make the future better. The setbacks that come our way often bring opportunities that are not realized at first, but down the road can put us in a better place; even if it doesn’t always yield more money, you might have more happiness or better mental health. In our case, the evacuation enabled us to experience a different aspect of the park and meet folks from Europe whom we wouldn’t have met otherwise.
Assess your options
First, realistically assess what’s within your control and what isn’t, what is a one-time setback and what is going to be an ongoing issue, what is temporary and what is permanent. Next, analyze what resources you have and what are available to you (e.g., your emergency fund, COBRA, unemployment insurance). Determine your priorities and readjust your plan accordingly. For example, a recession near retirement might cause you to extend your working life, take on a part-time job or live at a lower standard of living than once anticipated. Understanding strategic ways to make your money work for you can make all the difference.
Again, you don’t have to go it alone. We didn’t know what we didn’t know; it wasn’t until we talked to others that we learned about Camp 4. You may not initially know all your options or the best way to move forward but reading, researching, and talking to a trusted, experienced financial guide will render valuable information, so prudent decisions can be made and best action taken.
None of us can keep interruptions from happening, but our responses to them will make all the difference in the world.