Monday, January 20, 2014

Wondering What if ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

“What if,” is a term I’m accustomed to. During the years I spent in graduate school, we constantly asked “what if,” when evaluating potential strengths and weaknesses of a business proposition. 

And then there’s the age-old question, What if I won the lottery and suddenly had $100
million to share with my family and friends. 

I’ve spent hours thinking about all the things I could do with that kind of money, and how it “wouldn’t change me.”

But the question of “what if” took on a more somber line of thinking this week when I met with my financial planner.

He gets paid for keeping his best eye on our money and asking me hard questions.

During our meeting he pulled up the numbers and began to talk me through the things he saw.

Then his face turned a bit solemn. “These numbers represent what I see if things never change,” he said. 

“But what if you die on your drive home?” Those words struck deeply and rattled me a little. 

I guess he could see the look on my face changed from my normal “Living a Dream” face to a more contemplative one.

He apologized for the blunt delivery, but I understand that it’s his job to ask the hard questions. He led me through several scenarios and what impact each could potentially have on our nest egg.

After the meeting we said our goodbyes, and my drive home felt much different than the drive over. I felt older.

In thinking about his question, what would happen to my lovely spouse Jilda if something happened to me?

Not only would she have to find someone to wash her car, and take out the garbage, but she’d also have to give serious thought to her future — how she would survive with less money coming in.

On the other side of that coin was what I’d do if something happened to her. 

Thoughts flew at me like an angry hive of yellow jackets.

I realize I should have been thinking in these terms much sooner, but normally I will not let my mind dwell on the negative for too long. I don’t think it’s healthy.

In my mind, my life has always been a rainbow, and I knew what awaited me at the end. 

Today is my 63rd birthday, but it’s also treatment day for Jilda, and as I type these words, I’m sitting in the corner of the cafeteria at Simon Williamson Clinic. A few years ago, spending so much time here wouldn’t have crossed my mind, but things change. 

I guess that’s what my money guy was telling me — things change.

While I refuse to live my life like I’m living on borrowed time, I can tell you that there are things I will do over the coming weeks and months.

I think John F. Kennedy said it best when he said, “The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.”

At the risk of sounding preachy, my advice this week is to ask yourself the hard question — “What if.”


  1. I have gone through this same scenario, and I have taken whatever steps necessary to make sure we're protected, but sadly, no matter what I do, I still worry about it from time to time. That is, until I remember that life is about living...not worrying! Do what you have to and then enjoy life! That became clear to me when Rick had to have open heart surgery two years ago we focus on enjoying life.

  2. Thanks for writing in such an encouraging post. I had a glimpse of it and couldn’t stop reading till I finished. I have already bookmarked you.
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  3. Great column Rick... it made me think and I bet it mad many others ponder things too :)

  4. Balance in all things. As the man said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans". Thanks for the nudge, Rick...

    1. Thanks Mike, I'm not changing my approach to life, but there are things that should be taken care of, just in case :)

  5. My husband just retired a year ago and we went though these same thoughts. We have done all we can and we have just left it to God. : ) He knows our needs and will provide.

  6. Happy Belated Birthday!
    Yes you're right, we like to avoid that question and hope for the best, but I - like many others - live paycheque to paycheque and would be ----ed if I suddenly didn't have a job (and my husband's been out of work for 6+ months) . I'd better get some planning in the works - thanks for the advice.

  7. We have been doing that this past year or so, Rick. The "what ifs". Hubby has beat a brain tumor and had prostate cancer (that they caught in time) but-he is uninsurable. I would have to sell things myself-so we are thinking of downsizing at some point in the next couple of years and getting more financially secure. My brother died suddenly, and unexpectedly, last year at 59 years old without a sick day in his life. It was a rude awakening as to what can happen.

    God bless you and Jilda. I have come to know her a bit through her blog and she is a lovely person. xo Diana

  8. I always wondered "what if", and then a different "what if" happened. I'm still here.


  9. Dear Rick, the "what if" question niggles my mind every so often now that I'm nearly 78 and realize that I could fall and no one would know. So my recent what if question is turning into finding the phone number/web site for the company that makes those alarm things we can wear in case of an accident.

    By the way, I read your posting on character and left a comment. Thank you for that post. It, like this one, made me think and consider my life. Peace.

  10. Agh! I agree.
    You know, you fix the roof when the sun is shining and a tree or plane will fall through it. lol
    You can't save enough, you can't be careful enough, you can't be rich enough cause what will be will be. You think you have enough but big brother is always counting your money.Plans never work out the way you want them to. At least this is what I found in my life. You have your wife to worry about and today people have whole families moving in cause kids can't find jobs. Or they find jobs but it doesn't cover the bills.
    I fight against corruption and fraud and drugs and theft etc...I push for ethics morals and values because unlike what our society says, these things make for good caring people who care about your nest egg as much as they care about their own because there is a right and wrong way to do things. It makes life easier and cheaper and friendlier to live in. But you know, you make an awful lot of enemies pushing such things and you have to sit back and ask why? Are people not good anymore? What kind of world have I been living in? My own I guess. I shake over my kids and parents and grand parents (or did). I love my husband.
    and when I see families throwing their kids out at 18 and throwing old people in senior homes, I just dont get it. What is even more surprising is that the young people today don't understand why you would go through all this trouble cause they are brought up to live in a throw away society.
    It's pretty scary. I liked it much better when people listened to God and the 10 Commandments as opposed to lawyers(who don't represent you but take your money) and a justice system with no justice and a government with no one there to really care to govern.
    I don't know what the answers are but my grand fathers words always come back to me. Know who you are and do what you need to do. Leave the rest to God. Lots of things change but so many stay the same.I still have to believe that this is true.

  11. Good column and I bet you have many people asking that question and also doing something about it. Today we did surgery on a 97yr old sweet lady. But she so does not want to keep living. The surgery today was just to keep her comfortable, nothing huge. I realized that I'm not afraid to die...but I am afraid to live that long...losing family members, not being productive, relying on others to give all my care. I took a deep breath and decided I can't control the fates..what will come, will come. I need to enjoy today and be grateful for every minute. And I am. But you know me..I also had a little chuckle thinking of myself at 97 lying in bed saying: "The Lord won't take me and the devil don't want what am I going to do?!" I hope you birthday turned out to be a good one!

  12. Happy Birthday, sobering words today!

  13. What if is something I'm not ready to think about, but I know I'll have to.


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