You Truly Cannot Plan for Everything… But Plan Anyways

I think my last couple of posts have made it abundantly clear: You cannot plan for everything.

Did I believe that I would be going on my “maternity” leave 8 weeks early? Oh hells no.
Did I plan to go through my emergency savings in a mere two weeks while my daughter was still in the hospital? You have got to be kidding me.
Did I want to start building up a credit card balance with hospital bills and gas fill ups? Oh Lord…

Oh, and then don’t forget the parking tickets, the broken down car, and the moving expenses from the beginning of the month on top of everything else.

But here’s the thing: I did plan. I planned a ton. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I had called my insurance and checked in on the price of labor. I made baby budgets, and I considered these costs when we decided to move to a slightly more expensive apartment. I felt so prepared for what life was about to offer me that I walked into my third trimester of the pregnancy practically giddy with how well it was all going for us financially.

And then life happens.

Life is never fair or kind. It’s never expected or anticipated. It is practically impossible to think for the financial road ahead when literally everything could happen.

Sure, there are things like life insurance, hospital pre-pays, and investments. But what do you do when none of that matters? You do nothing.

In the weeks/month since I had my baby and shared my story about traumatic, unexpected labor, I have been bombarded with emails from readers. I’m not joking when I say that I have at least 20 still be read! But they all share a common theme: each person recognizes that there is just not any way to plan for everything. 

I asked a couple of them to share their stories as a case study. Here’s just a few:

From J: 

I, too, had an early labor (around 29 weeks — 11 weeks too soon) via c-section. While I had called my insurance and was given a price quote, I was not prepared for the cost of the surgery and care for my child. Three years later, and I am still paying the outrageous hospital bill. This is despite having $5000 in our emergency savings…

From E: 

I hit a deer while driving through my neck of the woods. My car insurance claimed “act of God” and refused to pay. I ended up buying a new-to-me car with a mix of savings and some credit card debt as well as paid plenty for a rental until I was able to get to the dealer and purchase. Without a reliable means of transportation, I would have lost my job.

From E2: 

I always plan ahead. I have the recommended amount of money in my emergency savings (enough for 6 months without pay) and have retirement funds, life insurance, etc. But then my husband lost his lucrative job. We weren’t too hurt by that, but then my job pushed me to part time. Our car broke down and could not be repaired. My mom passed away, and I was responsible for funeral expenses. My sister, who was renting from us at the time, decided to move out and break her lease.

… After three months of joblessness and a string of horrible luck, we looked to get out of our modest lease, but the landlord wouldn’t let us break it without penalty. We applied for government assistance but were turned down because of my part time income. Our savings was gone in 4 months.

By the time my husband was employed again (besides the odd jobs he worked to help us eat), we were $15k in credit card debt.

For each of these stories, I asked them if they could go back and do one thing differently. For E1 and his car, he admitted there was really no way to predict it. He could have saved more or put it in a specific car fund, but he was already saving 20% of his small income. The same was true for J who shares a similar birth story. There was no way to know or prepare for something so unexpected.

E2, however, had a unique perspective. She believed that everything happened for a reason. Without the joblessness, she would have never found her dream job. Without her car breaking down, she would not have ever learned to take public transportation. And without being turned down by assistance, she would have never pushed herself and her husband to work harder at side hustles.

What E2 wishes she would have done was to prepare mentally for the emotional toll that comes with a financial windfall. She says, “I never wish to feel financially safe again, despite having now put away 2 years worth of income in an emergency savings and downgrading our living. Being vulnerable only leaves you breathless and more prone to falling deeper and deeper down.”

Preparing can only take you so far. It can get you the minimum and it can keep you afloat. But until you are able to mentally and emotionally prepare for the real emergencies that life brings, you truly cannot plan for everything.

9 comments for “You Truly Cannot Plan for Everything… But Plan Anyways

  1. June 8, 2015 at 7:48 am

    I have lived long enough to realize that there will be surprises along the way the road called life. Its how you handle it and what you learn from it along the way. I had to go on 5 months of bed rest with my second child and that was a horrible experience, but so worth it.

  2. June 8, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Wow — what a story. Thank you for sharing. It’s so humbling to think about wiping out hard-earned savings so quickly. All the same, if you and the commenters had NOT saved in advance, it would be that much worse. So you’re right — it’s still super important to plan, and to set aside as much as you can for that unexpected rainy day.

  3. June 8, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Great point about preparing for the emotional strain of financial difficulties, even when you have an emergency fund. I’ve always advocated for 6-12 months and I get a lot of push back because that it a lot of money to save and sit in a savings account. But from personal experience, time and money go fast when you need it. 3 months may seem like a long time but it goes by in a blink of an eye. FYI – you did all the right things to prepare financially for baby FNP. You couldn’t have predicted she would come early and need to stay in the NICU. Don’t beat yourself up over the shoulda, woulda, coulda. You’ll get this taken care of and have a beautiful baby to love.

  4. June 8, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing everything that you are going through. It really is powerful and it teaches us all how much life can throw at us. I’ve been working on paying off my debts because that will make me feel a lot more comfortable and secure in my future.

  5. June 10, 2015 at 4:41 am

    Planning has never been more useful. There are things that happens unexpectedly, but planning for anything can actually help us even a bit or somehow. So whenever there comes things unexpectedly, don’t panic and think that you have prepared for this.

  6. June 10, 2015 at 11:04 am

    It is definitely the unexpected things in life that make financial planning so difficult. It’s clear that the path to financial freedom is definitely not linear. There will be ups and downs overtime but it’s a marathon not a race. Cheers!

  7. June 15, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    For us the biggest hurdles have been unemployment/underemployment. Yes an EF can help but when you’re thrown into unemployment at the very beginning of your career before you’ve really had the chance to build up some savings…

    Anyway, DAMN STRAIGHT you can’t plan for everything. It sounds like you have been as prepared as possible.

  8. June 17, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    I don’t know if you have time to even look into this, but you might be able to apply for hospital financial assistance? For us, the hospital bill often arrives weeks after discharge so we’re not in the midst of the emergency. A social worker might also be able to help you steer through the NICU and its aftermath.

  9. June 18, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    This is a great point. Sometimes, you can be the most prepared person. But then life happens. That doesn’t mean your preparedness is useless, though. It still can help.

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