Living a Life Filled With Uncertainty

contributed by Nathan Gehring, CFP®

shoesWe had a different blog post set to run today, one that focused on our theme for the month: financial literacy. However, following the events that occurred in Boston two days ago on April 15th, 2013, it was clear that a more important topic needed addressing: living in a world filled with uncertainty. The Boston bombings have once again reminded us of just how uncertain our lives and the world truly are.

The events in Boston have forever changed the lives and paths of many people. There are the truly unfortunate few who have perished, and the families that must now cope and rebuild lives without them. There are those who have lost limbs or suffered from other significant injuries, and will have to build new lives unable to continue down the path they followed on April 14th. There are many who will experience deep emotional suffering, who will have to recover and continue down the road of their lives. You and I may reconsider our priorities and our own paths even if we were not directly related. None of this was planned for. None of this was expected. Uncertainty prevailed.

Every day we make financial decisions and plans that may affect the rest of our lives while this uncertainty swirls around us. This is the world we live in. This is the world financial planners help clients navigate every day.  Every day, people make decisions with uncertain outcomes in an uncertain world. Often, in retrospect, a decision may appear bad or wrong. But the determining factor isn’t how the decision ultimately plays out, but how was it made up front. Financial planning helps you make decisions that allow you to live your life while preparing for and existing in a world of uncertainty.

The Boston events highlight this uncertainty in dramatic fashion. One decision planners often help clients make is whether to purchase life insurance and disability insurance, and how much to purchase. After making the decision to purchase, the best outcome is if you never require either of those types of policies to pay a benefit. I’m pretty sure most of us want to outlive the term of our life insurance or never need benefits from our disability policies. Yet, many times I’ve discussed these insurance policies with clients years after purchase, and they believe they’ve wasted money because they never received benefits… even though this is the best result! No early death, no disability…that’s the path we hope to experience.

Yet, for those who were injured or killed in the Boston bombings, having planned in advance and placed those types of policies in force, the unlikelihood and uncertainty prepared for has actually come to be. No, the uncertainty of life wasn’t removed. No, those people cannot be resurrected nor those limbs regrown. No, life isn’t put back on the same track. But the planning done in advance to prepare for a possible uncertain outcome (death or disability) may help those people and their families regroup and rebuild and move on.

This is just one example. Uncertainty is constantly around us. Even when the world seems to be sailing smoothly, it can all change in a moment. Uncertainty doesn’t come and go, only our perception of that uncertainty changes. Whether it’s an act of terror or a sudden illness or a stock market tumble or an employment change or an unexpected windfall, we live within the grasp of constant uncertainty. We can’t remove that uncertainty. But we can take meaningful steps and make important decisions to better prepare ourselves when uncertainty does strike.

Perhaps you find me writing this to be insensitive or poorly timed. But I am an emotional fool, and my heart broke as I watched the coverage flowing out of Boston. My thoughts have been with all those affected since that happened. I have been both introspective of my own life and family, and of the profession I choose to practice in. This type of horror reminds me why I do what I do and why it actually is important work. I believe this to be important to share with you.

My hope is that all people impacted had prepared for uncertainty and can begin to rebuild their lives over time. And for those who did not, I know the kindness deeply rooted in humanity will reach out to help those in need. We always do.

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