It is all well and good for me to sit here and tell you that the secret to financial security, both now and in retirement, is having a plan and working it. It is true. However, sometimes life gets in the way. Our best laid plans can and do occasionally go awry. And even if we can stick to our plans, we may just want to take our life in a different direction. That doesn’t mean that we leave our financial security to the fates. It simply means we need a new plan.
There are ways to protect your plan. An emergency fund and insurance will provide a buffer against unforeseen events like a job loss or an illness or injury that keeps you from working for an extended time. For more on emergency funds and insurance check out these two posts: Disaster Recovery Plan for Your Finances; Do You Have Insurance for Your Income.
But things still may not go according to plan. Chloe decided to go to law school. The private law school she chose was expensive, and getting her degree while working wasn’t something Chloe wanted to manage. She took on student loans in excess of $45,000 per year to pay for her education. She knew the payments would be high, but lawyers make a lot of money. She believed it would all be worth it.
Once her degree was complete, Chloe landed a job with a law firm and began her career. But after a year, she was coming home crying every night. She hated her job, and couldn’t see herself continuing. Unfortunately she needed her law firm salary to make her student loan payments.
She came up with a new plan. She began looking for work in the not for profit sector, where her loans might be forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. She found a position in an organization she loves. With income based repayment, her student loan payments are manageable on her much lower salary for the ten years she has to make them. After that they will be forgiven. She can even begin saving for her retirement.
Ben and Amanda were looking forward to a comfortable income in retirement from Ben’s government and Amanda’s corporate pension. Over the years, Ben’s work changed for the worse, and eventually Ben felt he couldn’t face his job another day. He took early retirement.
Because he hadn’t put in enough time at his job, his pension was drastically lower than expected and much lower than his full time take home pay. Ben looked for new work, but it was the depths of the ’08/’09 recession. So he didn’t find it right away. He eventually did find new work, but their much lower income forced the couple to make a new plan.
It was stressful as they scrambled to adapt. However, they evaluated their spending and made changes so they could live and continue to save for retirement on Amanda’s salary alone. Their efforts paid off. Ben is now fully retired. By maximizing her 401(k) contributions and eliminating debt, Amanda was able to build their savings to the point where she can now retire as well, even a few years earlier than expected.
You can’t plan for everything, and life rarely goes according to plan anyway. But that doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands and let the winds of fate blow you where they may. Without a specific plan for your financial security, you will find it illusive. When life forces you to change your plans, take a look at what you have and what you can make of it. Then make a new plan.
Image courtesy of 9comeback at FreeDigitalPhotos.net