Falling trees in your personal finance life?

By glblguy

fallen tree

Last week we had a pretty major wind storm here in the NC mountains. Wind storms aren’t unusual, but this one was much stronger than usual. We awoke the next morning to find some of our outdoor furniture blown around, but everything else appeared fine. My two older boys and I climbed into the SUV to head to the bus stop. At the bottom of our street we found our metal street sign laying in the road. We then proceeded on down the mountain. As we came around a turn, we found a large tree laying across the road, no way to get around.

I love a good analogy and my wife and I were talking about bills and expenses the other night and I mentioned that it seemed like just when we got things straightened out, heading in the right direction or making good progress on our financial goals, something unexpected always seems to happen. In other words, a tree blows down and blocks the road.

I am sure many of you can relate. You realize your finances are out of control and decide to do something about it. You read personal finance books, read personal finance blogs, and maybe even get some assistance from a counselor or coach. You start your journey out great and make significant progress for the first two or three months and then…something unexpected happens. Your car breaks down, the heating and AC unit on your home goes out, or worse you lose your job.

All of the sudden, you’re in a similar situation I was in. You’re sitting in the middle of the road wanting to get where you need to go, but have this huge tree blocking your path. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times this has happened to us since we started our journey to live within our means and get out of debt. But what can you do?

What can you do?

The worst thing you can do is to not panic and not give up. The best thing that you can do is know that these kinds of things are going to happen. I don’t care how well you plan, how detailed you track your budget, how careful you are at managing your money and planning your life, life is going to through curve balls at you. Expect them.

Expect the unexpected

Know that bad things are going to happen: Your car will break, your house will leak, things will fail and need to be replaced, and people do get sick. Know and understand that through your financial journey, there will be some great times when you make more progress than you expected, and know that there will be other times when things go completely opposite. I believe that God intentionally throws curve balls our way to test our faith and how we handle things and to make us grow stronger. James 1: 2-3 says: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

Rather than viewing the “fallen trees” in your life in a bad way, view them as tests from God. View them as challenges that you must pass, knowing that when you do your progress on the other side will be better and faster with the new knowledge and appreciation you’ve gained.

Have an emergency fund

Emergency funds get discussed over and over again on personal finance blogs. Why? Because they are the critical foundation of your financial journey. Without one, handling those unexpected fallen trees in your life is difficult. An emergency fund is the tool that allows you to handle the unexpected.

If you are starting off your financial journey, next to facing the person in the mirror, the most important thing you can do is establish an emergency fund.

Remember it’s a journey

Getting control of your finances and achieving those financial goals you’ve set out for yourself and your family isn’t a sprint. It isn’t something that you will accomplish in a month 6-months, 12-months or evenĀ  a few years in most situations. It’s a long journey, that honestly will continue throughout your life. How many journey’s have you read about where the main character reached the end of their journey without a single hardship? I’ll bet none.

Third Day, one of my favorite Christian bands says the following in their song Mountain of God:

Even though the journey’s long,
and I know the road is hard.
Well the one who’s gone before me,
He will help me carry on.
And after all that I’ve been through,
now I realize the truth
that I must go through the valley
to stand upon the Mountain of God.

So the next time a tree falls in the way of your financial journey, don’t lose hope, don’t give up, and don’t fall back into old habits. Just remind yourself that I told this would happen. The tree isn’t a bad thing, but just part of the journey. Right now it’s a pain and is blocking your way, but with some hard work you can get it out of the way and continue your journey. Once you get there, not only will you have made the journey, but you’ll have learned more due to the hardships you encountered along the way.

What trees have fallen in your personal finance life? What stories from your life about unexpected events and hardships that you overcame can you share to give others reading this hope and understanding? Add a comment!

Photo by: nick farnhill

14 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Falling trees in your personal finance life?”

  1. DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad.com Says:

    This post is spot on.

    Many of would be well served to take a chainsaw to our finances . . .

    Unfortunately, many of us seem to think “life” (problems) won’t hit us until it’s too late. I am tired of stories in the media of former highflyers woes now that their personal party has come to a quick end.

    We should all follow the Boy Scouts lead and Be Prepared!

  2. Christina Says:

    Great post! You totally hit home. I get frustrated sometimes, because mentally, I am prepared to get where I need to go with our finances. I plan everything out as I try to reach the goals I want to reach for our family. But there are always things thrown our way that are unexpected. I have to remind myself that God is in control!

  3. Nicki at Domestic Cents Says:

    For certain, I grow more and learn more during hard times. I moan when things break and I grit my teeth at car trouble, but I grow. When life is pleasant I relax. Through crummy times I become a better, more responsible person. It stinks that it works that way :-)

  4. Travis @ CMM Says:

    I got a call last week from my parents saying it looked like my central heat and air unit was froze up. Immediately in my mind I saw the tree falling. My wife and I were already bummed because it looks like we’re gonna have to pay in on our taxes. Luckily, I was able to go buy some deicer to use on it, and it hasn’t froze up anymore. But those trees in our life can be very discouraging. But like you said, instead of looking down on our situation, we should look up to the One who can bring us out of it.

  5. Shawna Says:

    Thank you. I absolutely, 100% needed to read this today.

  6. Mr. Imperfect Says:

    I agree that the first step in any successful finance plan is to have the emergency fund in place. For too long we spent every dime we made and used credit cards for (among other things) covering emergencies.

    As you stated, we can plan all we want (and have a most excellent plan at that), but we never know what “tree” will be around the curve.
    Great post!

  7. Sarah Says:

    Thanks for the great reminder! We are experiencing a big redwood in our path right now and sometimes it is hard to keep the right perspective. I am so glad to know our God already has it planned out and knows the end!

    Hope you guys are staying warm and dry in your new mountain home! :-)

  8. Craig Says:

    There’s a reason all PF bloggers talk about an emergency fund, because it’s extremely important. now more than ever and you need to understand how to set one up. We actually just had a post on our blog about starting an EF for beginners if you would like to check out. http://blog.budgetpulse.com/2009/02/03/how-to-start-saving-for-an-emergency-fund/

  9. Funny about Money Says:

    Great extended metaphor! And a nice, thoughtful essay. :-)

    BTW… Did you get the kids to school?

  10. Matt Keegan Says:

    Larry, very well said.

    I think that there are so many of us who are working diligently to keep our lives in order and are often faced with obstacles as we head down the road of life.

    Thankfully, we don’t have to take this road alone as God gives to us a Comforter who encourages us as we make our journey. Fellow believers can be a big help too in reminding us that we shall, indeed, overcome.