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Change is Coming

Published by: Wes Brown, CFP® Date: December 18, 2014

We’ve heard it said that nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes. Yet, as the leaves fall and winter pushes its way into East Tennessee, we’re reminded of another of life’s certainties: change.

Five years after moving my family from New England to East Tennessee for work, I recently found myself navigating the transition between firms. I knew the move was positive for my family and the families that I serve, but I was surprised by how troubled I was when it actually happened. From end to beginning, I hadn’t anticipated just how challenging that transition could be. Yet, such is the nature of change.

Scary or exciting, change is an unavoidable part of life. Marriage, divorce, childbirth, losing a loved one, changing jobs – good or bad, these life transitions have a profound impact and can be stressful to navigate. Still, it’s important to remember that every change has value and offers opportunity. As the 17th century author, Anne Bradstreet, wrote: “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”

What’s the key to successfully making it through a transition? Being prepared. Noted psychologist, Dr. Shawn Stoever, recommends the following strategy:

First, anticipate transitions before they happen. For example, if your parents are aging and their health is beginning to decline, think about what needs your parents could have and how you might meet these challenges. Consider the potential need for long term care, and think about the financial and emotional preparations that are required to make this transition smoother.

Second, maintain a financial cushion. Even if you don’t foresee any transitions in the near future, it’s always worth being prepared financially. Keep a minimum of six months of living expenses saved just in case. The extra margin in your finances will help alleviate some of the tension that transitions often bring.

Third, when a major event does occur, take the following steps to proactively handle the emotions and stress:
• Acknowledge your feelings. Whether it’s anger, sadness, hurt or excitement, you will have some emotions associated with the transition.
• Take care of yourself. The healthier you are, the more capable you will be of handling the emotional, mental and physical challenges associated with change.
• Hold onto the constants in your life. During transitions, it can seem as if your whole world is changing. Remind yourself about what remains unchanged.
• Brainstorm the positives. Take time to discuss what is exciting about the transition. Talk about any new opportunities the change will bring.

Finally, as psychiatrist Dr. Carol Berman suggests, try thinking about transitions this way: “Be happy that changes constantly occur. If you don’t like what’s happening to you now, wait a while and it will change. If you do like what’s occurring now, enjoy it as much as possible – it will be different soon.”

Wes Brown, CFP® is a Senior Financial Advisor for Rather & Kittrell. He can be reached at wbrown@rkcapital.com