Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Man Plans, G-d Laughs

Tip #62 - Realize That Man Plans And G-d Laughs. This is a favorite savying of mine because there is a lot of truth to it. Now this is not a religious blog by any stretch of the imagination. So if you don't believe in G-d, substitute whatever it is that you do or don't believe in. The point is that no matter how much you plan your financial life (or your life in general, for that matter), things will happen beyond your control that even an emergency fund won't cover. Companies close, twins are born, couples get divorced. People get sick, houses burn down, spouses get relocated.

I'm not saying that you should not have an emergency fund for these types of events. You absolutely should. You should save about 3-6 months' worth of expenses to cover changes you don't expect - a job layoff, a broken leg, a car accident, or a flooded laundry room . But what I am saying is that your lives may still change completely even if six months' worth of expenses are covered. If you hoped to go back to work 6 months after having a baby, and you find out you are having twins, it may not be worth it to you to return to work when you realize that the cost of two in daycare isn't covered by your paycheck. And suddenly the life you have for the next few years may be entirely different than what you had planned. Or your spouse finds out that he has a job transfer and you are quickly trying to sell your house, find a another one and look for a job in a new town. Or a family member becomes chronically ill and has to move in with you and you now need to add on to your house, cover extra expenses, and provide nursing care.

You can plan out your life to the finest detail - how much money you will put away each month, what you will be doing in 10 years, and at what age you are going to retire. But sometimes your plans will end up just being plans and what really happens will be your reality. It is important to realize that we are not in full control of our lives. Things will happen around us and to us over which we have no control. So plan your budget, set your financial goals, and prepare for retirement. Also, prepare for the unexpected by creating a fund for emergencies and having a backup plan. And then realize that while you plan, and G-d laughs.*

*In the Jewish religion, we are taught to write out the word G-d with a hyphen, since we are told that we are defacing His name if we write it out completely and then throw away the piece of paper on which it is written.

In Real Life (IRL) - I am a planner by nature, if you haven't guessed that about me already. When I met my husband, we planned to have at least two children -hopefully 2 or 3 years apart. After having saved money all of my working life, I wanted to stay home with my children while they were young. But living in a city with a very high cost of living, I had hoped to go back to work full-time after 5 years, when the youngest was 3 and could go to preschool. That was my plan. I had a bit of trouble getting pregnant, but with the help of some medication, I was able to do so, and I had a daughter 9 months later. Not quite 2 years after my first child was born, it seemed that my plans were falling into place. I found out I was pregnant with child number 2 after taking the same medication as I did the first time. I figured my younger child would start preschool when he was 2 1/2 and I would go back to work.

Then a few weeks later something happened that I hadn't planned. I had a miscarriage. So I went to the doctor's and I was told to try again using the same medication. And we did. And I found out 5 months later that I was pregnant again. So I now figured that my soon-to-be younger child would start preschool about 3 years later and that I would go back to work full-time about 6 months after I had hoped, but not too different from what I had originally planned.

And then I had another miscarriage. And I went to the doctor who told me to go to specialist. And I was given some different medication and told to try again. And we did. And I found out about 6 months later that I was pregnant again. And I told myself the old adage that 'the third time's a charm.' So I planned my life again. I would go back to work when this child was ready for preschool. It would be about a full year later than I originally hoped but we adjusted our plans. And then I had another miscarriage. In addition to mourning all of these losses and wondering if my oldest child would ever have a sibling, I was getting very frustrated with the lack of control I had over my work plans. How many more times could this go on? And how much longer would we wait until I would go back to work full-time?

All through this difficult time, I told my husband that I would like to adopt a child. I had always wanted to do so when I was younger and it seemed like it was the right time to do it. At least we could get on with our lives. After his agreement, we completed months' worth of paperwork to adopt a child from China. I was thrilled to be getting another daughter. I was excited for my older child to become a sister, and I was happy that I finally knew approximately when I would become a mother again because then I could make my plans. I wasn't entirely sure of when the adoption would take place and I didn't know exactly how old the baby would be. But I could estimate fairly accurately when I would go back to work again.

Our child came to us 14 months after started the paperwork. And she was a bit younger than we expected. She would turn 3 a little more than 2 years after we adopted her. I was thrilled -with my new baby, with our complete family and with the fact that I could now plan my life. I made my plans - when I would go back to work, how our budget would look in a few years, when we could take vacations, when the girls would be in college and when we could retire.

And a funny thing happened while I planned. G-d laughed. And He laughed loudly this time. Nine months after we brought our daughter home from China, I found out I was pregnant. With no medication. And I was 39 years old. Nine months later our son was born. And here I sit at home with my 18-month old, while my oldest is in first grade and my middle child is in prechool. And I still haven't gone back to work full-time. Yes, man plans and G-d laughs. And this time, I laughed with Him.

PS. I hope to go back to work in a year and a half. But I'm not making any definite plans.


Assemba said...

Love your blog!

Michele said...

Thanks so much! I plan to check yours out soon when I have a moment. I love travel writing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and your words of encouragement.

I'm so sorry to hear of your miscarriages, but you're right, man plans and G-d laughs. :) I basically said the same thing to my boys last week. I wanted girls, I didn't like boys. But guess what? Now I'm pretty much in love with boys and I'm so glad I didn't have girls. Poetic justice.