Our Emotional Preparedness

December 13, 2014

The more I talk to people, the more I realize that most people are not prepared for hard times. It’s as though their heads are wrapped in cotton batting and their eyes are covered in the veil of illusion.

A man was telling me why he hadn’t done the simple exercise that would relieve the pain he was experiencing. The exercise isn’t strenuous and he could even sit on a bed or a chair to do them. But he was still making excuses for not doing it several weeks after being told that if he did them, he might not have to go for the surgery that would put him out of commission for a few months.

When I listened to him, all I could hear was his whining, the same way that all I can hear is his whining when he talks about his finances. And that got me to thinking.

Knowing what I know about his spending habits and how he doesn’t live within his means, always going into debt for things he doesn’t need, and then whining about his lack of money, I asked him what he would do if he was fired from his job and if his house was foreclosed. He stalled and mumbled and finally said that he would ask his family if he could move in with them. I noticed that he didn’t say that he would ask his family if they would take his wife and children in with him.

Then I asked him what he would do if his family suddenly found themselves without money and there was no one who could help him out. His mind went into free fall and he couldn’t think beyond asking others to take care of him.

This man is not the exception to the rule. The more I talk to people, the more I realize that most people don’t have a backup plan. That part isn’t what worries me. The part that worries me is that they can’t think beyond their present standard of living and what it would take to survive the vicissitudes of fortune.

The thing that comes to mind is how some of the victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme committed suicide after learning they had lost their life savings.

And I’m wondering, if we suddenly lose everything, how many people will have the emotional fortitude to deal with their financial losses?

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