Monday, October 20, 2008

In Defense of Sound Personal Finance

June 13th, 2008: My lovely bride and I find out that we're expecting our first child.
June 23rd, 2008: I find out that my company is closing the facility in which I work. I will be out of work in only 90 days.
September 26, 2008: I lose my job.
October 20, 2008: MLB loses her job.
Summary: In just 120 days, both breadwinners lose their jobs and they find out that a new, expensive first baby is on the way.

The last several months could have been the financial downfall of our family. In fact, with the way many people live in this country, it would be for most. But, because of the way we've decided to handle debt, income, and spending, we're in fine shape regardless of the recent shakeups.

Today, my family lost a significant portion of our earning power. My lovely wife was laid off from her place of employment. She'll receive a few weeks of severance, but then nothing (well, unemployment, maybe). Now, at first, it sounds awful, horrible, and a devastating blow to our financial objectives and plans, especially after some major life changes already. But, for us, it's not really that bad.

First, my wife is currently almost six months pregnant with our first child, due on February 14th, 2009. My wife, bless her heart, does not handle stress well. At all. Not even a little bit. Even she will readily admit that small things become big things and big things become absolutely overwhelming. Add in some pregnancy hormones, and well, you get the idea. Work was a constant source of stress for her, and under advice of our OB, she was to try to reduce her stress levels. And, since work was a large source (nearly sole source) of her stress right now, that meant reducing its impact.

We had planned on her taking leave from work (and likely not returning) around Christmas this year. We're fortunate in that her severance pays through that time period, essentially mimicking our finances as though she had been working. But, she gets the added benefit of not actually having to work until late December. Add the possibility of unemployment benefits after the severance payments run out, and we may actually be better off with her being laid off.

The only monkey wrench in the whole situation is that she carried the insurance for our family. But, even that's not a huge ordeal. My new place of employment carries the same insurance (albeit slightly more expensively), so that's not a huge hassle.

However, even if circumstances had not been what they are, I firmly believe that we'd still be fine, due to the way we've been able to handle our finances. As I've stated in the past, we maintain a rather substantial emergency fund, carry very little debt (essentially, just the house) and keep a good tab on our spending. While we certainly haven't lived a painfully frugal lifestyle, we haven't been wasteful and frivolous with our spending either.

There's definitely a lot to be said for keeping a solid financial foundation. With a well-funded emergency savings, solid debt-management, and some good career choices, you can roll with nearly any punch that life may give you.

That said, you never know what cards you may be dealt in life, so ditch that debt, cut out some frivolous expenses and save some cash!



Lara said...

Your approach to finances and living essentially debt-free (carrying the mortgage on your house...with the hopes of paying that off crazy early) sounds like the Dave Ramsey method. It's the approach my husband and I use. It's quite nice not having to worry about finances when you do a little planning.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Nerd said...

I love the Dave Ramsey method. I don't think it's 100% correct for absolutely everyone, but it's a fantastic starting point, especially if you're starting out with NO direction.

My wife and I actually try to approach our finances with a "modified" Dave Ramsey baby steps approach. Similar in some respects, but I change some numbers and such.

In fact, that's another post I should write!