These are unprecedented times, horrific times. And while we may be facing a once-in-a-generation, or once-in-a-lifetime issue, we will see something unwelcome and unforeseen again. This is a call to action to do everything we can to figure out how to deal with the unexpected.
The unexpected comes in all kinds of forms—it can sometimes be worldwide in nature like this pandemic, or sometimes it can be very localized like a personal health issue or losing a job. Any of us can experience something that changes our lives in an instant. But there’s a way to soften some of it. This is about the value of having a safety net because sometimes, through no fault of our own, we may need it.
As a manager, I’ve always tried to help my people manage and grow their net worth. Building security was something we discussed in our 1:1s. Traditional advice is to have six months-worth of living expenses in emergency savings. I’m not sure that’s enough, especially in these uncertain times. And yet, studies show that the majority of employees are living paycheck to paycheck. Nearly three in 10 adults have no emergency savings at all.
Living so close to the fault line increases stress, which science reveals has a negative impact on your happiness, health, and longevity. As leaders it’s our job to help people find a way to build security and to inspire them to take action. Having a safety net affords some peace of mind, which eliminates some of the stress that happens with unexpected events. Help people see that there’s more in their control than they might believe. Show them how to get out of “worry mode” and into “do mode”.
For most of us, this is a time to “reset.” It’s possible that nearly everything we thought we were going to achieve got cut by some significant number. That feels horrible, but the goal is to not let it be catastrophic. This is where the safety net comes in, maybe it will take two years to get back to where we were, but we can get there. Human potential is broad and vast. I have seen so many people do more than they ever thought they could. The more you push on potential the bigger it grows.
Building a safety net starts with understanding where you are. When you stand on the scale to weigh yourself you may not be happy with the number you see but at least know where you are. That’s important here too. You need to get an honest assessment of what you have, establish where you want to be, and then figure out the definitive measures to get there.
Where do you start? Answer the following:
- What is my current net worth?
- Am I happy with that?
- Am I building it every month/every quarter/every year? Or am I getting further behind?
Once you have a picture, it’s time to come up with a plan:
- What is my goal for the next three years? The next five years? (It’s good to have ambitious goals, but don’t make ones that are unattainable.)
- Do I have solid steps on how to get there? (You have to find ways to increase what you are bringing in or ways to decrease what you are spending.)
Then you have to monitor and measure:
- Am I making progress, or not? In many ways, it is like a diet, it’s about choices you make. Just as you count calories and write down what you eat, scrutinize what you’re spending and what’s really necessary. Can there be equal satisfaction at less cost?
There’s satisfaction that comes with building a secure future. In fact, I think it’s the secret to happiness. Even in these dark times it’s possible. And it happens one day, one step, at a time.