25 “What If” Finances Questions

         The economy is on life support. Times are hard and the vast majority of American’s finances are simply limping along. If you are fortunate enough to have a steady income and money to spare after a paycheck, it’s time to ask yourself the tough questions. Are you saving all that you can be? Are you casually wasting money in the present on things you want but don’t need? Is your future secure in the event of a lost income stream? Here are 25 questions to ask yourself to determine if you are where you need to be financially or if you belong somewhere in the “Needs Improvement” category.

         1. What if the government seized your assets and froze your accounts? Emergency funds in a secure, FDIC insured account are wonderful. But those accounts get insured because the government is involved. They can put a lock any one’s account at any time, even giving sketchy reasons behind it. If those accounts are frozen, you will need a temporary fund source to survive. Ideally, you want to keep about $1000 emergency cash at home, in a safe. This will also benefit if something immediate occurs that doesn’t allow you to get to the bank, or if the power grid drops and ATM’s are no longer an option. It’s also wise to keep about $300 in your car in case you become stranded on the road and have no access to your accounts.

         2. What if the economy does not recover? We should all develop the skills to tighten our wallets and find ways to save money. Constantly update your resume and keep yourself available for work. If you have a job, do whatever you can to maintain it. If they try to lay you off, ask if you can take a cut in hours or pay instead. Bargain shop and save as much as you can from whatever you make. Remember the golden rule: save 10% of your income.

         3. What if a sudden, unexpected medical emergency comes up? Not everyone can afford health insurance. That is one of the many challenges facing this nation. Our medical industry is not made to benefit the people who need it most. If you can afford health insurance, be sure to cover yourself and everyone in your immediate family. If you can get benefits through your job, do not opt out. If health insurance is not an option, consider this staggering statistic: the average bill from just a standard emergency room visit is $1500. Do you have that much tucked away? If not, and you are without insurance, you better start your emergency fund account pronto.

         4. What if the cost of food continues going up? Food is getting more expensive then ever to grow, transport, manufacture, and sell. Taxes have gone up on food sales. To counter the cost of production, most companies are raising prices and lessening volume. You should stockpile long lasting foods now, not only for emergencies, but in case those items double in price later on. Starting a small garden at home is a great way to lessen the damage food does on your wallet. Start buying generic products now so that when the name brand companies raise their prices, you will already be used to the taste of generic outlet brands. Find ways to save money on food by eating at home and packing your lunch. Avoid fast food as it has the least nutritional value of any food you waste money on.

         5. What if a loved one dies and you suddenly find yourself needing to pay for funeral arrangements? Research shows that the typical funeral costs any where from $4000 to $6000 depending on what services you require. A lot of people buy plots and tombstones in advance to avoid unnecessary financial burden to the loved ones they leave behind. Creamtion is also a much cheaper option. Many city services will bury your loved one for a small fee. But a lot of municipal councils are doing away with that service. Think about this stuff now, as it’s going to happen.

         6. What if you or a spouse loses a job? Any financial expert will tell you that you should at the very least have 30 days worth of expenses saved back for emergencies. Some will argue that 6 months is better. And still others will tell you that in the current economy saving for a year isn’t too far fetched. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Some people have been out of work for years. Do you have extra skills to take on a side job? Are you prepared to take a pay cut to get a job at a fast food restaurant? Are you mentally prepared to cut out monthly expenses such as cable and other services? Get your wallet and your mind ready for the possibility that you won’t always have a job.

         7. What if you are in a car accident and your vehicle is destroyed? This is possibly one the most devestating things that could happen to a large family. Suddenly the parents can’t get to work, the kids can’t get to school or extracurricular activites. Aside from any medical bills, now you have to pay for the cost of replacing your car. Ensure that your insurance covers whatever your car is worth. On top of that, always drive safely and follow the rules of the road. Keep your car well maintanenced and check fluids. Prevention is the key to avoiding automotive disaster.

         8. What if your home is burglurized, burns down, or gets ruined in a natural disaster? Everyone should have some type of home owner’s insurance. It’s cheap and can cover a large amount of expenses. Even if you live in an apartment, you can get a $25,000 policy for about $300 a year. That is nothing compared to the peace of mind you’ll feel knowing that you can get help if all your belongings are destroyed.

         9. What if cash becomes a comodity nobody wants? Some advice here would be to stockpile at least $250-$500 worth of coins. Nickels, dimes, and quarters. It would be wise to invest in some gold and .99 silver coins. Learn how to trade and barter so that if no one wants to take your cash, perhaps they will swap items with you. Learn the value of your items so you can know what you have to trade with. Develop haggling skills and frequent flea markets to see how this type of business is done.

         10. What if you were forced to retire today? This question is more for the seasoned readers. If you are getting up in years and the prospect of retiring is looming in the distance, you should be prepared for this life changing event. Do you have enough saved? Is your porfolio and 401k ready for the transition? Can you live comfortably for the rest of your life and what you have? If no, you have some serious work to do. For the younger crowd, start saving for retirement now.

         11. What if you could change ten things about your finances? What would they be? A learning exercise. Get a slip of paper, make a list, and then act on your desires. Things will never be different if you don’t get real with yourself and make a change. Start today. You are in control of your financial destiny.

         12. What if you could write a letter to yourself ten years in the future and ten years in the past? What would you say? Another training exercise. Write both letters and be honest. You might surprise yourself.

         13. What if your finances took a turn for the worse and you had to move to a smaller place? Prepare yourself for the possibility. This will help you figure out what’s most important to you. What items do you keep and take with you? What would you force yourself to leave behind? Honesty is the best policy would it comes to the future. You may at some point have to downgrade your life. Are you mentally and emotionally prepared for that?

         14. What if you physically lost the ability to work or care for yourself? Who would you rely on? How would you cope?

         15. What if you never took the steps to right your ship? Pretend you stayed a slave to debt. Pretend you kept living paycheck to paycheck. Pretend you never disciplined yourself to do better and to get ahead in life. Now imagine what the outcome of such a life would be. Look into the future, say around your retirement age. Are you content, living comfortably with money to spare? Are are you still working, maybe two jobs, probably for someone younger than you? Do you want to work until you die? It’s time to get your game face on and make whatever necessary changes you need to for a happy, successful, and secure future.

         16. What if you had to immediately come up with $5000? Could you do it? This is important to consider. Thing about ways you could raise immediate cash. Pretend you had no emergency funds or cash. What could you sell to raise money? How could you pull the funds together? Side jobs, donating blood, selling belongings, and even asking relatives for help might have to be considered. Are you prepared to do these things?

         17. What if you suddenly find yourself in legal troubles? It would be wise to always keep an attorney on retainer just in case. Find one with a cheap rate and make sure they are available when you need them. They might not be the best long-term lawyers, but for something immediate and brief, say perhaps a bail hearing, they will be handy to have just a phone call away.

         18. What if you find yourself in need of major home repairs? A water pipe bursts, flooding a whole floor; a beam cracks and part of the ceiling collapses; the roof starts leaking; the refrigerator stops working. These are all things that can and might happen. These types of things are exactly what emergency funds are for. Be prepared for the worst and you’ll never feel the stress of an unexpected expense.

         19. What if you had abslutely no calvary coming to the rescue? Say something horrible happens and you suddenly find yourself without friends or family, completely alone and without any assistance. Could you mentally cope? Could you financially survive? Do you trust yourself enough to fix your problems? If not, you had better start gaining the knowlede you need now. Learn how to write a check, pay a bill, obtain a loan, file an accident report, or keep a budget. There are somethings you need to rely on yourself for. Your own finances should be one of them.

         20. What if a friend or family member unexpectantly asks you for money? You should be financially wise enough to know whether you can afford it or not. If you can spare it, do so responsibly. Don’t over extend yourself or cut into your savings or budget. Only give if you have extra. If you can’t lend the money out, then learn how to honestly and politely tell them “No.” So often we put ourselves at risk to assist those we love. To be financially stable you have to learn when to not give in. This technique helps when dealing with children who want, want, want.

         21. What if you find yourself on the verge of becoming a new parent? This is a scary idea. Children are expensive. Especially in the first year. The best advice you can get on this matter is to save in advance and plan when to have your children. Use contraceptives and some form of birth control. Avoid unexpected pregnancies. Suddenly having another mouth to feed can be a daunting task. Don’t take it on unless you are prepared to deal with the consequences.

         22. What if the stock market crashes? This question is for my investment readers. You can read numerous nightmare stories onlne about investors who put all their money into one nest egg. For some stocks, for some mutal funds, for others a company 401k. You should never put all your money in one place. It’s good to expand and keep many options open. A person should have a diverse porfolio. Invest in stocks, put money into a 401k, have a retirement high-yield savings account, maybe get a few government bonds, or put cash into a CD. Physical investments are a good idea to. Gold and silver coins will always be valuable. Keep yourself spread out to avoid losing everything at once.

         23. What if you died today? Let’s face it, everybody is going to die. When don’t know when or how. So if this happened, are you prepared to leave your loved ones behind with a secure future? You should have a Will in place to delegate left behind real estate, finances, and belongings. Write “In the event of my death…” letters to everyone close to you. Tell them how you feel and leave them instructions. Be sure to leave behind access codes, keys, and the location of anything you might have kept tucked away. Get a life insurance plan so that your family will be financially stable without you. Make sure any health insurance, work documents, or financial options have the beneficiries clearly listed and defined. Don’t leave anything to chance. Tie up the loose ends now and rest easy knowing your family is taken care of.

         24. What if your bank starts charging for the use of a debit card? If you are with Bank of America, you might have already jumped ship. The news is full of other banks thinking of falling in line with the BoA $5 charge. The thing to remember here is that banks are hoping you will abandon the debit card and take out a credit card. Don’t fall for the trap. Recent law changes modified how much banks earn for debit card transactions. They make more money off of credit card transactions and interest rates. They want to charge you for the debit card to make you interested in credit cards. It’s a scam to make money in the dirtiest of ways. You’d be wise to either try to change banks or to just pay the fee and stick to using the debit card. $60 a year is a hell of a lot better than paying insane interest charges on a credit card every month.

         25. What if you won the lottery? We’ll end this post with a bit of fun. Get out a sheet of paper and just write down all the things you’d do if you won a megamillions jackpot. Keep the list tucked away somewhere. You never know, you just might get lucky someday.