Article from guest contributor, Mark Snyder. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, but being prepared for things NOT to go as planned can prevent potentially life-changing financial repercussions.
As you're probably already keenly aware, life is full of unexpected twists and turns. After all, existence would be a rather boring proposition if everything always went as planned, wouldn't it? Even so, some of these twists and turns can have some potentially life-changing financial repercussions, particularly if you completely fail to anticipate them.
Here are five events for which you're best advised to be prepared. Do your best to anticipate them, and you're more likely to come out on top if any (or all) of them happen to you.
1. Getting Hitched
Saying your vows and making a lifelong commitment can be a beautiful and highly productive decision on both your parts. After all, you're not only joining spiritual forces, but you're also bringing your finances together (presumably) for the better. However, it's most advisable that you have a few discussions before your big day. There are definitely a few financial issues you'll want to cover before getting married, and they can mean the difference between planning college funds for your kids and living on the street.
Make sure to cover the basics like what kind of debts you have, whether you want to join accounts or keep them separate (or do some kind of hybrid), and how bills are going to get paid. For complete transparency, you might also want to check out each other's credit reports and take stock on what can be done to make them better.
2. Having a Child
Babies are cute and they may be all you're thinking about after a year or two of marriage, but they can also drive you right into bankruptcy if you don't carefully consider your finances first. Best case scenario: You've paid down your debts, your credit is in good standing, and you've put a chunk of cash away before you even start thinking about procreating.
But even these aren't completely going to save you. This was a best case scenario we just described and not a panacea. Even with those ideal conditions, the average child takes more than $250,000 to raise to adulthood according to studies done in 2012. If you're looking for potentially life-altering financial events, possibly none could be larger than having a kid.
3. Losing Your Job
Unfortunately, layoffs are a pretty common occurrence in today's corporate world. Whether it's done as a knee-jerk reaction to slightly lower-than-average third-quarter profits or because of a full-scale financial failure, many companies will take measures to downsize in tough financial circumstances. Whatever their reason, you've lost a job, and it definitely will send tremors through your bank account.
In this situation, the last thing you want to do is act like nothing has changed. Austerity is the key phrase when it comes to your finances during a layoff — it's time to start living below your means until you've secured meaningful employment elsewhere. Figure out what your most essential living expenses are and take stock of any income you may have (unemployment, odd jobs, etc.). Before anything else, all the luxuries need to go, be they boats, restaurant outings, deluxe cable packages, etc.
If these cuts don't do the trick in terms of acting as a stop-gap, you're going to need to start searching for some kind of part-time work (assuming it's worth more than your unemployment, if applicable). Even if it's menial labor, it's going to be something to put food in your mouth until you move on to the next major phase of your career.
4. Filing for Divorce
Divorce, unfortunately, is another particularly devastating financial event that can happen in your life. Statistically speaking, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce; a proposition that is usually far more expensive than what you see in those "Bankruptcy or Divorce, $200" road signs you see everywhere.
Your best bet, of course, is to avoid getting divorced in the first place by recognizing problems in your marriage that could cause divorce. If divorce seems inevitable, you'll want to consult an attorney and a financial advisor to ensure you don't get taken to the cleaners. Liquidating some investments and clarifying your financial goals are possibly two courses of action you'll really need to consider in order to make things work.
5. Entering Retirement
Retirement is possibly the last (and sometimes biggest) financial hurdle you'll have to overcome in terms of life-altering financial events. This is more true than ever, because many retired people are living longer than they'd ever expected and they're outliving their savings. Just think about it this way: If you retire in your 60s and live into your 90s, you'll be retired for almost as long as you were working! That's a fairly significant financial burden that could easily drive you into poverty if you didn't plan properly.
With a little prudent foresight, however, all of this can be avoided. Do a little retirement planning an shop through the various financial products that are available as part or retirement planning packages. And don't be seduced by the high-risk, high-reward products only; check out Annuity Assist to brush up on the pros and cons of annuities as retirement options.
No matter what you decide to do, though, make sure you're always setting aside some portion of your income into savings. While it might not be the most interesting or sexiest ways to partition your hard-earned cash, having a nest egg can mean the difference between squeaking by and declaring bankruptcy when the unexpected occurs.