Eventually, it happens to everyone. Something unexpected and disastrous happens, leaving us with a giant medical bill or some other enormous expense. Maybe you wake up one morning with more than a pint of blood having poured from your ear (it happened to me in college) or you have a heart attack on Thanksgiving morning as you’re about to pull the turkey out of the oven (it more or less happened to my mother). Maybe you’re awakened by the sound of a car running into and mostly through your house (it happened to the parents of a friend of mine). Maybe a tornado picks up your car and drops it in an abandoned rock quarry (it happened to a friend of mine). Maybe you buy a house on Tuesday and it burns to the ground on Friday (it happened to my cousin and his wife).
Sometimes these things just happen – they’re devastating, and often they tear asunder things you’ve been planning. There’s not too much you can do to really prevent them, but there are a lot of things you can do to minimize their impact on your life.
First of all, don’t panic. If you find yourself getting extremely upset and losing control, separate yourself for a little while and calm down. If you really can’t handle the emergency yourself, call 911. That’s what they are there for.
Second, don’t avoid it. As soon as you’re in control of your faculties, start dealing with the situation. Find out all of the resources available to you that can help, and start using them to correct your life. If you lost your job, don’t sit around for three weeks playing video games in the basement – polish up your resume and start hitting the pavement now.
Third, it is often useful to let down your guard a bit and contact someone you really trust to help you; for example, if your spouse is in dire straits or just passed on, you may need someone to step in and help you with the affairs of the moment. If you don’t have anyone, contact a local church (preferably the one most similar to your faith and upbringing) as most pastors are glad to help out someone truly in need.
There are also a few simple ways you can prepare now so that when the bad thing happens, you’re ready.
The first (and perhaps most important) thing is building up an emergency fund. Each week, you should have an automatic withdrawal from your checking account into a savings account – say, $25 or so. This money should just sit there in that savings account until a disaster strikes. That way, if the transmission dies in your car, it’s not panic time – it’s just time to go get money out of your savings account. This will help for smaller emergencies that can mostly be dealt with with cash.
The second task is to cover yourself and your spouse with life insurance, especially if you have children. This is especially true if you are in a two-income home, where both people work and both incomes are required to make payments – life insurance will help to prevent a financial disaster later on. A term policy for a person in their twenties is quite inexpensive – this should be a precaution that many people take.
Most states require some form of automobile insurance and many employers (though not all) provide health insurance. If your employer does not provide health insurance, it is well worth your time to seek out an employment situation that does provide it, as it is incredibly valuable. If you are self-employed, you may need to insure yourself, but there are many plans available for this.
If you take home nothing else, though, it’s this: build an emergency fund and don’t be afraid to use it when you need it. It will serve you well time and time again when life, well, kicks you in the teeth.