Have a Back-up Plan

Apr 11, 2012 by

My 90-year old father-in-law, John, passed away Monday, after a full, fun, and interesting life very well lived, much of it with his wife of 62 years (whose wit and practical outlook remains as vibrant as ever).


Naturally we’ve all been reflecting on memories. One of John’s legacies for me I think has particular relevance to Money Counselor’s mission—helping readers make better money decisions. I can perhaps best explain the legacy like this:

Whenever I’m contemplating some hare-brained or otherwise dubious idea or scheme, I can’t escape a vision of John listening quietly and politely, then noting, non-judgmentally: “You’ve got a back-up plan of course,” or its close twin, “What’s your Plan B?” I feel sure my wife and John’s other five sons & daughters would back me up on this.

Me: “Yes, we’re thinking of moving to an island in another country where the economy is poor and without jobs.”

John: “You’ve got a back-up plan of course.”

Me (while unemployed): “Would you mind telling me what you think of these ideas I have for an Internet start-up company.”

John: “What’s your Plan B?”

Ask Yourself

I think we can all benefit by incorporating the Dr. John test (shall we call it—he was a physician) into our money-related decisions.

You: “I’m thinking we don’t need to start saving until we’re in our 40s.”

Dr. John: “You’ve got a back-up plan of course.”

You: “I’d like to quit my secure job and open a bakery. I like to bake.”

Dr. John: “What’s your Plan B?”

You: “I’m not worried about saving for retirement. Everyone in my family dies young!”

Dr. John: “You’ve got a back-up plan of course.” (And please don’t tell me it’s Social Security!)

You: “I’ll start looking for work when my unemployment benefits run out.”

Dr. John: “What’s your Plan B?”

Apply the Dr. John Test

If what we’re thinking doesn’t pass the Dr. John test, maybe we better think again. Back-up plans are an important part of financial success. Things go haywire in our lives all the time, and the unexpected happens weekly. What’s your Plan B if you’re laid up and unable to work for 6 months? The car needs a $3,000 repair—what now? If you’re feeling you want to quit your paid employment to pursue full time a lifelong passion, it might be wise to have a Plan B on the shelf.

There’s nothing wrong I think with entrepreneurial risk-taking, adventure, and pursuing one’s dreams; I’m a strong advocate of all of these. But, to minimize the chances of catastrophe, remember Dr. John: “What’s your Plan B?”

Thanks for everything John.

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