One of the most important things I have learned about life over the past 43 years is that things don’t always turn out the way that we think or hope they will. Sometimes that’s good thing, and sometimes it’s not, but that is simply is the way that it is. These unexpected changes can have a major impact on our financial stability — relationships, jobs, the economy, and our health are all things that can take a turn, and often without warning. The sooner we learn to expect the unexpected, the more we will be able to empower ourselves in the face of adversity. Life is unpredictable, and acknowledging that gives us an advantage in getting through difficult times.
There was a time in my life when I found myself getting divorced while caring for my one-year-old baby, paying for a large mortgage and all of my bills, frequently traveling for work, and taking on more responsibility as I ascended the corporate ladder. Obviously I didn’t get married with the plan to get divorced, but it happened and it left me struggling to stay afloat. Then the recession hit. It was the perfect storm, and it nearly knocked me out. To this day, I look back on this period of time when I want to remind myself of what I have the power to withstand and overcome.
I learned so much about myself during that difficult time in my life. I learned that I am resilient beyond my own expectations. I learned to remember that everything is temporary — the good times and the bad. I learned that pushing aside the potential doom and gloom of my unknown future and making it a priority to direct my focus to the day in front of me was one of the ways I could move myself forward. Having withstood this time without filing for bankruptcy is something I am proud of. As I always do, I kept a journal during this time in my life, and it is powerful reading for me to look back on today.
As the recession began and it was obvious that the economy had taken a turn for the worse, I felt a degree of shock that I wasn’t prepared for. This experience taught me that the economy is cyclical. It will not stay in a growth phase forever, and it is important to acknowledge that our economy will have ups and downs. We should expect fluctuation and be prepared to find ways to maintain our financial stability in a downturn.
This experience also taught me that there is potential to create value and wealth in any situation, and this was an important lesson for me. At the time, I panicked. I saw my neighbors not paying their mortgage and fleeing their homes. My building implemented a condo assessment to make up for the units that were no longer being paid off. My bills exploded and my income didn’t increase — in fact, my employer cut everyone’s pay.
In hindsight, I should have taken this as a cue to leave the company I was working for and move to another organization that would be able to compensate me for my value — instead, I panicked. I felt lucky to have a job at all, so I was desperate to prove my value as an employee each and every day. I was working harder than ever but getting paid less and the math didn’t add up. The problem was that my mindset was focused on scarcity instead of abundance, so I couldn’t imagine coming up with any other solution.
Today, I look at things differently. Ideally, it is best to have have enough money saved to weather a recession while maintaining your financial stability. However, it is also important to remain confident in your unique value proposition and realize your company cannot afford to lose its best employees during challenging times. In fact, those are the times when companies need their best employees the most.
If I did it all over again, I would spend my time asking myself, where in the middle of difficulty lies the opportunity? Whether it is the chance to purchase real estate at an all-time low or finding new offers for debt consolidation, there are always sectors that are booming during a recession. It is up to us to find those opportunities. I believe it is important to keep your head up and look for opportunity rather than looking down from failure and defeat. This is often the factor that decides whether you will be able to stay afloat during a downturn or if you will be going down with the ship.
Another thing I realized during this time in my life is to be honest with myself as to how much I will realistically be able to cut my living expenses. I believe that a better solution to an income shortage is to create more revenue. Bringing in additional revenue solves a lot of problems, plain and simple.
Today, I make it a priority to focus on where I can increase my revenue, which increases my value as a result. For me, creating additional income is a more sustainable and realistic plan for improving my financial standing. Cutting back on my living expenses to a point in which it makes a substantial impact on my bottom line is more work and more painful. I’d rather implement an additional revenue stream, because I prefer to focus on growth instead of scarcity.
These are the questions I ask myself when I’m looking to discover sources for additional income:
- Where are the growth opportunities today?
- What are the business opportunities that no one else has implemented, perfected or identified yet?
- What is the unique value that I bring to the equation, which makes me an asset in creating revenue?
If you can answer these questions, then I believe you have the ability to find your way out of any challenging financial situation. Keep in mind that you might not have all of the answers today, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find the answer tomorrow. There is always a solution out there and it is up to each one of us to find it. When I’m facing a challenge, I believe in taking action and putting myself out there. Reaching out to my network often helps me to discover the solution that will keep me moving forward.
We can’t predict what is going to happen next, so we need to do the next best thing: learn how to prepare for and handle the unexpected. When tough times occur, formulate a plan and stay focused on your goal of financial stability. You will hit additional bumps in the road along the way, but don’t let it throw you off course. Recalibrate your route and keep moving forward. Ultimately, your financial stability does not rely on the economy, your relationship, or your employer — it relies on you!