God never promised us that our lives would be easy but as Paul says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” You know as well as I do that nobody plans on things going wrong but many times life just happens. When things do go wrong, especially after a financial setback, many people just want to curl up into a ball and give up. What sets the successful apart from the rest is not giving up in the face of challenges or difficulty. Easier said than done! I want to share a few ideas to help get you going.
1. Don’t allow your emotions to cloud your judgment It is in our nature to make decisions based upon how we are feeling at the moment but people who are able to make a decision that is not based on their emotions usually have better results. A great example is when you are feeling bad and you go out to buy something that might make you feel good in the short term but may hurt you financially down the road. Maybe you have been on track paying down your debt and all of a sudden you get an unexpected medical bill or your car needs a new transmission. At times like this we may be tempted to just throw in the towel. When you feel this way it is time to reach out to your accountability partner. We all have friends that are able to talk us down from the ledge so don’t be afraid or let your ego get in the way of asking for help! They can often times help you see things in a more rational light and prevent you from making harmful decisions.
2. Assess the damage by asking what, why and how After you have gotten your emotions under control you will want to gather as much data as possible. You want to know exactly what happened. Once you know what happened, you want to ask yourself why. Was the setback caused by you, someone else or some unforeseen circumstance? Ask yourself the how questions. How will it affect me now? How will it affect me in the future? Finally, you need a clear picture of your present financial situation: income, expenses, savings, investments, etc. The objective here is to get as much information as possible in order to formulate the steps you need to take to recover.
3. Determine your goals Once you have all of the facts, you need to set some goals. This means different things to different people but it’s helpful to break it down by time and results. For example you may have just suffered a medical emergency that you paid for by tapping your savings or credit. Your goal could be to have 75% of the debt or savings repaid within 4 years. Remember, goals need to be “SMART” – specific, manageable, ambitious yet achievable, realistic and time-bound.
4. Determine the plan of attack The key word is attack and there are steps you have to take. Once you know your situation and have your goals set, you want to make a plan or roadmap to follow. Your plan needs to be in writing. There have been many studies showing that people who write down their goals and plans have a higher probability of achieving them. Set yourself up for success and write down your goals!
5. Monitor and be flexible No plan is foolproof or set in stone. You want to continue to mark your progress and if necessary be flexible enough to make some adjustments to your plan. For example you may require more time, or perhaps something comes up that causes you to deviate from your plan. If something does happen, you just want to take the necessary steps to get back on the track so you are able to accomplish your goals.
You might not always be able to control the situation but you can control on how you react to it! It is key to control your emotions, assess the damage, define your goals, make a plan, and be able to make adjustments. Always tell yourself that through Christ all things are possible and nothing is going to keep you down forever!
Steve Repak, CFP® is a Financial Literacy Speaker, Army veteran, and author of 6 Week Money Challenge: For Your Personal Finances (January 2016) and Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training For Your Money (January 2012). Steve has helped many people turn their finances around with his inspiring financial literacy presentations and one-on-one financial coaching.For more information about Steve, his books or if you would like him to speak at your or next event visit www.steverepak.com
The Life of a Single Mom (TLSM) is a 501c3 nonprofit that exists to serve single parents and those who work with single parents. We are fully accredited through a variety of organizations that include high levels of financial accountability and awards for our premiere financial stewardship, including GuideStar, Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, Great Nonprofits, Chamber of Commerce, LANO, and others.