It is a brisk September morning in Northern California. Today started out like most workdays. I got up, (skipped my workout), showered, got dressed, came downstairs, ate breakfast, and watched the morning news while the kids taunted each other. Pretty normal.
As I was preparing to leave the house and head to the office, I walked out to the car and heard a hissing sound. I stood there trying to figure out where it was coming from, and then realized the horror of what was happening . . . my tire was leaking air! Most drivers have experienced that tragic feeling of discovering a flat or leaking tire. My morning just went from "pretty normal" to "oh crap" in an instant.
So I did what most of us do in that situation (at least those of us that don't keep Triple A on speed dial). I went to the trunk and pulled out the jack and my tiny little donut, and I proceeded with the grimy, dirty job of putting on the spare tire. I then debated with myself whether to go directly to the tire store, or if I could make it 20 miles to the office. My left brain prevailed and I went to the tire store, and waited for an eternity (a mind blowing total of 45 minutes) while they replaced two tires (no, not four; I won't let them talk me into that scam!) After all that, I was finally able to get on my way, and back to my busy day.
But this whole experience got me thinking . . . have you ever had a financial flat tire? Something that interrupts your financial plan? Maybe an unexpected medical condition that leaves you disabled? Or the loss of a long term job you've had since the stone ages? Or an addition to the family after your other kids have finished high school?
How did you handle it? What was your emotional reaction? Were you prepared for it, or did it completely derail you?
The reality is that all of our problems are somehow financially related. It’s all about money or time. And after all "Time is Money." Right?
This morning's flat tire cost me both money ($179.40 to be exact) and time (45 minutes). But the real question is how did I respond psychologically to the problem? Besides feeling bad about snapping at my wife for asking me a question right as I was trying to unscrew the lug nuts, I took it in stride. I got the tire changed, drove to the tire store, and waited. Once it was done, I got on my way. No big deal. It happens.
How we handle small problems (like a flat tire) often determines how we respond to bigger challenges (like going bankrupt.) And like regular exercise, dealing with small problems on a regular basis provides us the training for how to handle the bigger problems when they occur. But if we haven't prepared ourselves for the big ones, they tend to be more painful and disturbing, because we weren't ready.
I wasn't worried about paying for the tire. I had enough money in the bank to cover it, because I have prepared for it. I have an emergency fund. I was ready.
But even if I didn't have the money, I would probably have approached the problem in a similar manner. I would evaluate the problem, identify solutions, pick the best one, and move on. I wouldn't continuously dwell on whether or not I should have had roadside assistance coverage. I’ve experienced small problems in the past which have prepared me to deal with the big ones when they come.
Stop twiddling your thumbs and kicking yourself for your past mistakes. So you cashed in your portfolio at the bottom of the market. So what. So your business tanked and you went bankrupt? Good try! House got foreclosed on? Find a better one!
Let the past stay in the past. Whatever your financial flat tire is, fix it and move on. Learn from it, and get ready for the next one. Undoubtedly, you will have another one at some point. So be ready . . . and then take it in stride. Don't let it stop you. You've got miles of open road ahead to discover. Get yourself in gear and enjoy it.