We have all seen timelines or charts which show a steady, linear progression. This could be an average rate of return on your retirement account with a nice ending balance. Maybe it is a life progression timeline showing graduation, a first job, marriage, a house, a child, family, empty-nesters, to grandparents, to retirement, to finally dying peacefully in your sleep in your late 80’s or early 90’s.

Sometimes life progresses this way, but in our observation- most of the time it does not. There is a layoff, a divorce, a recession, miscarriages, wayward children, sickness, death of loved ones, loneliness, etc. We have all experienced some form of these events. Life does not ask you permission as to how and when they occur.

So how do we navigate life events? We have some thoughts.

  1. Take time to process. Making big life decisions with emotions running rampant is seldom a wise decision. After the death of a loved one, the surviving spouse may be tempted to sell the house immediately. After losing a job, one might be tempted to buy a new car to temporarily cover up the disappointment. After marriage, a couple may feel the pressure to buy a house immediately rather than renting for a season.

To the extent possible, we would recommend hitting the pause button before making any big financial decisions. This could mean parking life insurance proceeds in a low interest savings account for six months, or not accepting the very first job offer after quitting a job, or being laid off. Allowing time for emotions to settle is prudent, particularly when making significant financial decisions.

2. Take inventory. After taking a clarity break, the time has come to put pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard). This step could include preparing a personal financial statement and budget. For a career, writing about job interests and answering hard questions about gifts, talents and abilities could be a very fruitful process (Book plug: 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller).

As for other life events, writing down desires and disappointments can help bring clarity as decisions must be made. Some might call this a “brain dump” to help get out the cobwebs of thoughts and emotions. For those of faith, you might find your writings to evolve into authentic prayers to the Almighty.

There is no right or wrong way to take inventory as life events occur. The important step is beginning the process.

3. Get guidance. Some say the word “humility” is spelled H-E-L-P. We are prideful beings. We often do not want help. “I’ve got this!” is a common saying. Sure, some days we need to simply put our feet on the floor, make our bed, and knock out an item or two on the checklist. But when significant navigating life events, seeking counsel has proved to be a wise course.

As financial planners, we need help when making our own financial decisions. It is virtually impossible to separate all emotion as we strive to do when helping our clients. Swallowing our own pride is not easy, but we have found it worthwhile in our own life scenarios.

When (not if) life events occur, consider taking time to process, taking inventory, and getting some guidance. We are confident that you will be glad you did.

*For financial planning clients of Rivertree Financial Planning: Please contact us as soon as possible if you have had any changes in circumstances, objectives, goals or risk tolerance.