To be prepared is half the victory. ~Miguel De Cervantes
Life is full of surprises. It pays to prepare yourself. Things happen to people and families everyday that they are not expecting. I used to go through life thinking that disasters won’t happen to me. I don’t anymore. I’ve lived long enough and have had enough experiences to teach me otherwise. I’m still very optimistic, but wiser. I try to prepare myself and my family for the unexpected.
The loss of a friend reinforces the need to prepare.
A friend of mine from high school passed away this last weekend. She was in her early forties. She left behind a husband of 25 years, two children, and at least one grandchild. I didn’t know her that well or keep in touch, but because we went to high school together we have a common bond.
Her passing at such an early age makes me stop and take notice. She had a medical condition that she wasn’t aware of until it was too late. It all happened very quickly. She went into the hospital and in less than a week she was gone. It is very tragic for her husband and family.
Acknowledging our lack of control is key.
My friend’s death is pretty much a worst-case scenario that most of us don’t even want to contemplate. I usually refuse to think about such things. The emotions are difficult to deal with and I like to believe I have life under control. Acknowledging that bad things can happen means I have to accept that I’m not always in control and that I might have to face some difficult emotional pain. I don’t like either of these realities.
However, if we fail to acknowledge these types of circumstances as real possibilities, then we will also likely fail to prepare adequately. This will only compound the problem and may leave us and our family in a serious bind.
Ways to prepare for the unexpected.
Regardless of the situation, there are some things we can do to better prepare ourselves for the unexpected turns that life takes. Here are some things that you should consider:
1. Review your insurance coverage.
Money isn’t everything, but its absence only makes a difficult situation worse. Having adequate insurance coverage in a few certain areas may help you recover quickly from a disaster. Here are the coverages you should consider:
- Homeowner’s insurance – Does your policy pay replacement value and is the total policy value enough? I lost a home in a tornado, so I can testify to the value of good homeowner’s insurance. If you rent, then consider renter’s insurance.
- Term life insurance – You should consider a 20 to 30 year level-term life insurance policy that pays 5 to 10 times your annual income. Term life insurance is all you need.
- Automobile insurance – Most states require liability insurance, but you should also consider collision and comprehensive coverage. These coverages pay to fix your car should you be involved in an accident or should your vehicle be damaged in some other way. You also want to check your policy limits to be sure they are high enough.
- Umbrella insurance – An umbrella policy protects you above and beyond your other insurance coverages. It usually comes into play if you are sued. It is a good thing to have and it doesn’t cost that much.
- Disability insurance – Disability insurance pays you if you are hurt and can’t work. It is often included in an employer’s benefit plan, but you should know the details. In addition, if you are self-employed, then you will need to buy this on your own.
2. Have a last will and testament.
Should you die unexpectedly, how do you want your affairs handled? This is what a will specifies. If you do not have a will, then the government will decide things for you.
A will is especially important if you have children. Who do you want to raise your children should you and your spouse pass away at the same time? This is a difficult question to answer, but leaving it undone is plain irresponsible. This is one that I have put off and still need to do myself.
3. Create an emergency fund.
You should have enough money in a savings account to pay for 3 to 6 months of living expenses in case you lose your job or can’t work. Knowing that you have this cushion in the bank will help you sleep easier at night. An emergency fund will also lower your stress in the event of an unexpected disaster. This means that you will think clearer and make better decisions. It just gives you a lot more options and can make your life much more comfortable.
4. Have important documents organized in a safe place.
You do not want to be hunting around for hours to find important documents when life happens. Gather all your important documents together into one safe place.
This should include things like your passport, marriage license, insurance policies, a recent bank statement, investment portfolio, your will, a list of emergency contacts, and any other documents you might need close at hand. Make sure your spouse and another trusted party knows where this information is kept.
5. Take a first-aid class.
It never hurts to know some first-aid. This is especially true if you have children or an elderly person living in your home. Of course, none of us are invincible. Accidents happen. When they do, a quick response could save someone’s life or at least mitigate the damage. First-aid classes are offered by the American Red Cross and don’t cost very much. It is a great way to invest an afternoon.
6. Learn to how to ask for assistance.
I’m not the kind of person that likes to have to ask for help. However, I have learned that it is very hard to do life alone. I have had some situations crop up in my life that would have been very, very hard to handle without the support, love and assistance of others.
I suggest thinking in advance about who you would call to help in various scenarios. It could be a neighbor, friend, family member, or spouse. Create a list and put it on the fridge. This can be a real time-saver in an emergency. Also, don’t forget to include the phone numbers for various emergency services in your community.
A little preparation goes a long way.
It really doesn’t take that much effort to prepare yourself. However, trust me, it will really pay off when you need it. I hope you never have to go through a loss like my friend’s family is enduring right now, but if you do, you’ll be glad you took the time to prepare.
What do you do to prepare for the unexpected?
Photo by Chris.Violette