Plan For the Future But Live Now
Hurricanes, forest fires, and other disasters demonstrate just how quickly new reality can alter the prospects for entire regions. It doesn’t happen only during major disasters, though. In the course of a few hours, everything a family owns can be lost to a home fire. An automobile accident can alter lives by leaving a family without parents or with permanent disability and crushing hospital bills. These are all things we hope will not happen, and we don’t typically live our lives with the expectation of impending disaster. We take these things as they come, because there is usually no other choice.
The future is absolutely unpredictable, and the further out, the less we can know with any certainty. There are, however, certain patterns that arise over time and lessons that we can learn from past experience and the experiences of others. In the case of major events, infrastructure designs can limit damage or expand it, and it makes sense to plan ahead, though there is always the trade-off of costs versus likelihood of catastrophe, a calculation that is not always apparent.
Individuals can also mitigate the negative effects of unfortunate events, again weighing the present costs against the possible benefits that may never arise. Property insurance can prevent financial disaster, even when physical disaster happens. By paying a small portion of the value of covered property every year, you can recover more quickly when misfortune strikes. While health insurance has been wildly distorted by politics for decades, such a policy is supposed to be a cushion against catastrophic events, paying a small portion periodically for the protection against ruin when something really bad does happen. It makes good sense as an investment in a better, more stable future, though that calculation has become much more tentative with the rapid increase in health premiums, coverage loss, and ridiculously high deductibles.
For some things, however, there is no insurance. You can’t store up love for a rainy day or pay a small portion today for big payout later. Only by giving it away can it grow. Dreaming is good, but every day provides opportunities for experiencing happiness and fulfillment. A couple might plan for a lifetime to enjoy the golden years to the fullest after the rigors of child-rearing and careers are fulfilled, only to have a disease or injury take one of them away or leave him or her incapacitated. We don’t usually get to choose if and when bad things happen. We do, however, get to choose how we prepare for an uncertain future and to take advantage of what today has to offer.
One of those preparations for the future is to live now, to experience and to give joy, to nurture relationships, and to relish family and friends while you have them. You never know when things will change, but nobody can take away the things you have already experienced. That doesn’t mean that personal or financial planning is of no use. They can certainly make recovery from an event much easier. Life insurance can ease the burden on surviving loved ones, but relationships can’t wait. They take investments of time, energy, and love every day.
Everything in life is a trade-off. In order to do one thing, you must give up other things. Paying insurance premiums or saving for retirement or rainy days means forfeiting present pleasure for future pleasure or security. It is sad when financial disaster finds people unprepared, but it is just as sad when people forfeit their important relationships for fleeting dreams that leave them empty. In times of disaster, it is often the relationships that see us through and make surviving worthwhile.
Originally published on Daniel McLaughlin’s website.
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