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Most of us will have to deal with a financial emergency at some point in our lives. They can happen at any time, and rarely come with a warning. Whether you have one year or one week to adjust to such monetary upheavals as divorce, medical emergencies, military deployment, or loss of wages, you may be able to sail through financial foul weather – as long as you PLAN for it.
This first step will help you understand how much money you have to work with. It’s vital to putting together a practical strategy for the future. If you don’t already have your financial documents in one place, it may require a little hunting and gathering (and once you do, keep them accessible, be it on your computer or in a folder. Be and remain organized for the next inevitable change).
You’ll need recent bank and credit card statements for account balances, current loan papers, pay stubs with income, tax, and deduction information, and your payment history for household bill information.
Have it all together? Good. Now carefully examine and notate your current income, expenses, assets and liabilities. You’ll need all this data for the next step in your PLAN.
Ignorance isn’t bliss! Learn how this event will alter the way you currently spend and save. If there’ll be additional or increased expenses, you’ll need to be acutely aware of their type and cost. More gas for a longer commute? Diapers or daycare for a baby? The last thing you want is to be hit with a big, unexpected expenditure after you worked out a feasible money management plan.
To know how the change will affect the numbers in your financial picture, you may need to conduct some research. Thankfully, there’s an abundance of free to cheap (yet high-quality) information available. Websites, books, magazines, friends and family members who have experienced what you’re about to go through are all useful sources to tap. Contact your financial institution for ideas and options. If you’re in the military and are facing deployment, be sure to investigate the plethora of programs specific to your needs and situation.
Often a life change will inspire new goals. You may want to start an educational IRA to fund your child’s college tuition, or save for a down payment on a home. Take the time to assess long-term objectives and figure out how much it’ll take to achieve them. They too will have to be factored into your newfangled budget.
Now you need to put your PLAN into action. Because you’ve completed the first two steps, you should have everything necessary to smoothly transition from old to new. Plug the revised numbers into your budget. Are you over or under? You may have to modify spending habits, reduce expenses, or even sell assets to meet the needs of the pending change in circumstance.
Other action items may include opening a savings or investment account, adjusting tax deductions or exemptions, obtaining or modifying insurance coverage, or meeting with a financial professional for long-term planning.
Resist inertia – sitting around hoping things get done is tempting but self-destructive. All the knowledge and assistance in the world won’t help if you don’t do what you need to do.
Finally, reach out and connect with those who are, or have been, in the same position as you’ll be. The impending financial predicament may be new to you, but there are scores of people out there who’ve weathered the storm and come out dry. They can provide you with not just information, tools and ideas, but also the support you need to be successful with even the most challenging of changes.
Ask people in your familial and social circle for suggestions and connections, contact your employee assistance program for free programs and services, log onto online forums and chat rooms. You may be surprised by how enthusiastic others are to share their wisdom and encouragement.
Remember, change isn’t a matter of if – it’s when and how. Think of it as an opportunity to grow and be self-sufficient under even the most daunting of financial conditions. You can do it. It just takes a good PLAN.