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And Just Like That. Life Changes: Planning for the Unexpected

September 15, 2023

Financial planning is the art of planning for the expected AND the unexpected events in life.

Creating a plan involves looking at a client's entire financial picture and advising them on how to work towards their short and long-term financial goals. This includes building an emergency fund, saving money for their childrens’ education, planning for retirement and helping them manage taxes and insurance. The ultimate goal of a financial planner is to develop a valuable relationship with their clients and to provide them with confidence for today - and for a secure tomorrow.

This summer I entered my second decade working in the financial planning, investment management industry. I knew I had found my ‘career’ years ago when I first started working with Kurt Pearson, Compass Financial founder/owner. Early on I realized how rewarding (and FUN!) it was going to be to come alongside clients and help them dream their dreams and see them live out those dreams; to set goals and work hard to pursue those goals.

Part of the financial planning process is planning for the unexpected events that life has lurking in the corners; being prepared with an emergency fund, often referred to as a ‘rainy day fund’, a cash reserve account to rely on when those curve balls in life come knocking.


On May 25th of this year I found myself on the other side of the advisor’s desk.  This is now happening to us.  Happening to me.  Most importantly, happening to him.

My husband is the head men’s basketball coach at Simpson College.  He is the healthiest person I know.  He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink (that much) and works out every other day like it is his life’s mission.

On this particular day he was welcoming a recruit on campus, showing him around and trying to win this young man’s heart for Simpson College and the basketball program. Toward the end of the visit, Brad started experiencing a tingling feeling in his arm that he could not shake.  He and his staff narrowed it down to a possible pinched nerve.

Symptoms quickly progressed and before he knew it his staff was calling 911, I was on my way to Methodist Hospital and the CT scan confirmed Brad was having a stroke.  He was headed into surgery. Brain surgery to stop what was causing his stroke. Wait.  What!? 

How do you prepare for that? One minute he is fine – and the next he is not. He was in the Methodist Critical Care Unit for 5 days and was in the hospital a total of two and a half weeks.

Now we are faced with this reality.  A reality that I have consistently encouraged and coached my clients to prepare and plan for; the unknown.  Those unexpected ‘LIFE HAPPENS’ kind of events.

As I reflect on the last few months, I have been convicted to share a few thoughts.  Thoughts that keep running through my head and my heart. Nothing new for most of you.  Maybe a nudge for some of you. 

First the heart/mushy ‘stuff’.  (Those of you who know me, know that I wear my heart on my sleeve and I don’t hide my emotions well. So here goes). 

  • Love big and then love more.  Proclaim it. Tell them. I don’t know of anyone who does not like to be told they are loved. Love purely and freely. 
  • You never know what tomorrow will bring, so don’t take ANYTHING or ANYONE for granted.
  • Keep your sense of humor! Life can get very serious. A dose of humor and a hearty laugh can do wonders for the soul.
  • Remove the word ‘SOMEDAY” from your vocabulary. “Someday I will do this”. “Someday we will do that”.  Someday is not in our control. If you have the means and the resources, start living out your ‘somedays’ soon.  This does not have to be a major event. Watch a sunrise/sunset. Have a picnic in the park. Go to a movie by yourself. Do something that intrigues you but you have never quite had the courage to do. 
  • Accept kindness and generosity in the spirit it is being given. Brad and I have been humbled and overwhelmed (understatement) by the kindness and generosity of our ‘tribe’ of family, friends and co-workers. We have realized it takes practice to understand and really feel genuine kindness, and for many of us, for one reason or another, we don’t feel we are worthy of such a gift. When someone asks you what they can do for you in your time of need, be honest. Don’t waste their time (possibly money) and don’t waste yours. When someone asks how they can help, let them. Many times it is more of a blessing for them than it is for you.

Now for the more practical advice:

  • Emergency Fund. Cash Reserve. Rainy Day Fund. Whatever you want to call it, start building one if you haven’t already. Start with a small goal and go from there. 4-6 months of your household income in a liquid cash account, not subject to any market risk, is pretty standard advice. When unexpected events occur in our lives, there are often expenses associated with that event that are not covered by insurance or outside sources. Having an emergency fund can help you avoid using credit and adding to your existing debt.
  • Pre 65/Medicare Individuals – Know your Employer Sponsored Benefits: health insurance and disability insurance (both short and long term). The best health insurance plans will most likely NOT cover everything.  You will have deductibles and copayments, possible expenses that are not covered at all (excluded) or are considered ‘out of network’.  These expenses need to be paid first (by you) prior to the insurance company paying anything.
  • Disability Insurance. Many employers offer this coverage as part of a company benefit package. Even with the best disability coverage, there are still out of pocket expenses you could be responsible for. Disability insurance may impose an “Elimination Period”, similar to a deductible.  It is a period of time (60, 90, 180 days) that must be satisfied prior to the insurance policy processing benefits. In addition, most disability policies will only replace 60% of your monthly income. So this again leaves you with out of pocket costs and additional monthly expenses that you are not accustomed to.


3 months later, Brad is recovering well with small deficiencies on his right side that we trust, with continued therapy, will resolve. He is determined to coach again this year, so he has started back to work and is now facing his ‘new normal’.

Thanks for reading my story.

You all have your own stories – many of which you have shared with me.  I appreciate your willingness to allow me to walk this path with you.  I look forward to seeing you all in the next year and hearing about YOUR journey.