I’m a planner by nature. I’ve always had a vision for my future. But, despite knowing where you want your life to go, you’re never fully prepared for a job loss, divorce or life going off the rails in some other way. It just happens. Despite our best intentions, life can’t be completely planned out. This is why I find it funny that we spend most of our lives “retirement planning” or planning for our deaths. How morbid.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shouting in the face of retirement planning or being prepared. I’m not naive enough to think it isn’t necessary. What I am saying is that we put way too much focus on the future instead of living each day to the fullest. (Which, by the way, does not mean spending every penny you earn.)
That’s why two years ago when I lost my job, I wasn’t worried about my retirement savings. To be honest, how would worrying help me? All I would do is add an extra burden of emotional stress to what I was already going through.
Although I’ve gotten my life back on track since then, I’m still not worried about being behind on retirement savings, the magical “$1 million saved” for retirement number or all the “what ifs.” Why? Life happens. Life is always evolving and changing. I’ve been through breakups, divorce, job loss, bad financial decisions, the works. And you know what? I’ve always come out the other side. I believe what they say — what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
As things go off track, sure, it’s easy to get lost in hopelessness. It can creep up and overcome you. But there is always hope. You just need to keep trying.
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When the unexpected happens in my life, I always remember:
- Things could be much worse. I could be homeless, critically ill or, worse, dead.
- My goals don’t automatically vanish — they’re just temporarily postponed.
- Even the smallest of changes can create a tsunami effect.
- There’s always time to catch up.
When things don’t work out, it’s easy to hit the panic button and immediately assume you’re not going to have enough for retirement. However, there is always time to catch up. It’s not the amount of time you have — it’s making the best use of it.
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Sure, financial gurus enjoy touting that the earlier start you have, the better, because of time and compounding. But, are you going to live in fear of that statement? Are you going to throw your hands up in failure and resignation, thinking that you’re doomed, so why bother? Heck no. Every chance I have to put money into my retirement I do it, even if it’s only twenty bucks. When I can put in extra, I do it.
Also, even if my original plan is not to work into retirement, I could always keep working if I needed to. We all have skills we can use to keep working or get a part-time job. I honestly see myself working indefinitely. Not at a corporate job, of course, but maybe as a writer, an artist, a photographer or, heck, maybe I’ll sell fruit at a roadside stand. Who knows? The best thing is that life is unpredictable and I’ve learned to roll with the punches.
When all else fails, I simply remind myself that things always work out in the end.
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