Author Topic: Dealing with unplanned big expenses  (Read 2400 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Dealing with unplanned big expenses
« on: March 05, 2017, 09:13:59 PM »
I've done well and built up a respectable nest egg. Was tracking for "retirement" or doing whatever I wanted within the next 3 years.

We now have very large expenses that will continue for the foreseeable future. I don't want to focus on the expenses. They are unavoidable and I'm still coming to terms with the whole situation. I can afford them, but I'm no longer padding my savings (going from saving 60+% to spending every penny) and this makes my lifelong plan of retiring at 40 a pipe dream.

I'd like to ask the group - what have you done when life takes a hard left? 
I know I need to buckle down and do it. But any advice on mentally facing reality?

Could be medical, could be family emergencies, could be divorce or anything else. Did anyone find a way to come to peace with their new reality?  Anyone somehow find a financial silver lining?


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Dealing with unplanned big expenses
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2017, 11:03:05 PM »
As we go through life, there are many bends on the way. Having had more than my fair share of bends, I think it is very important to make the time to step back and evaluate your new direction. I know it's difficult initially to just get through the new paradigm daily. It takes quite some time and effort to get enough space to stand back and assess the situation. And usually, it is difficult to assess, because of all the unknowns.

For example, when I was at university a fire destroyed everything I possessed that I wasn't wearing at the time. I was doing research, and I lost 6 months worth of material completely. But I had also lost where I lived, all of my clothes, and it takes a while to get back your basic needs. I should have put in to defer until the next year, but I was too involved for the remainder of the year in just living day-to-day to even think about the alternatives.

I never stepped back and reassessed things. And I should have. This experience meant that I didn't get the marks to pursue the academic career I had wanted, and that should have been a walkover. However, I have lived a different life, and the academic life probably wouldn't have been the most suitable for me.


  • Bristles
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Re: Dealing with unplanned big expenses
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2017, 11:22:32 PM »
I too had a major upheaval that also upended my FI plans and I lost most of my savings.  To me it's the non-financial losses that hurt the most, by far. My life changed 100%. Financially, I'll just work my way back since I've no choice.

Healing is a journey and a learning experience. I don't have much wisdom except take it one day at a time and don't forget to enjoy the little daily gifts you still have.

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  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Dealing with unplanned big expenses
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2017, 01:20:02 AM »
I recently read about about getting less stressed. One of the things it advised was learning to accept the things you cannot change. Don't let frustration eat you up and wast energy on it. Focus on the things that you can change, e.g. your way of looking at the event.

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  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Dealing with unplanned big expenses
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2017, 04:39:13 AM »
18 months into FIRE I became a full-time carer for two relatives.  I think when hard things happen you do whatever you have to in order to minimise your later regrets.

Two other thoughts.  Firstly, unavoidably difficult situations are made much better by having got your life in order beforehand.  For instance, you are much better off for having your nest egg already in place than you would have been without it.  (Sort of like keeping your house clean enough that unexpected visitors don't send you into a panic.)  Secondly, nothing lasts forever and situations are always changing even if you can't see that at the time.   Problems always resolve themselves one way or the other, given time.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Dealing with unplanned big expenses
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2017, 06:09:51 AM »
I had a period in which everything seemed to be going wrong, from job changes with massive paycuts to miscarriages to unwanted interstate moves.  In retrospect, I should have gone to a therapist, so that's my advice #1.  You are dealing with a big change, and it is ok to talk to someone who is skilled in helping people adjust to big changes.  If you have an EAP at work, you may even be able to access this free or at very low cost.  And take the time to do whatever it is that brings you joy or relief -- long walks, hugging kids, hobby, whatever your magic button is.  Your body and brain can't handle all the stress all the time.

The mental shift that helped me get through it was when I woke up one morning and, instead of asking "why me?" I suddenly thought, well, why *not* me?  Yes, the issues I was dealing with sucked, but at least I had resources to deal with them -- we had two jobs, we had supportive families, we had access to good medical care, we had savings to get through the financial tight spots and pay for the medical treatments, etc.  I thought of all of the other families who dealt with that sort of thing without my resources, and, boy, did that give me a new perspective.  The problem is that you can't force that; it took me probably a month of being so rage-filled that I literally could not find words for my feelings, and then suddenly I woke up one morning and it was like the dam broke, and I could talk and reason and get a little perspective back. 

You are dealing with a loss -- maybe not the loss of an identifiable thing or person, but the loss of a dream of what your life was going to be like (which, frankly, is what we all grieve even when we do lose a specific thing or person).  It is ok to grieve that loss.  And that means accepting that things are going to feel sucky for a while, and giving yourself permission to feel sad about it while you adjust.  But you have the resources (internal and external) to get through this, and you will get through to the other side.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and make an effort to think about the good things you still have, even if it feels forced for now.  Because one day, it won't feel quite so fake any more.

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  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Dealing with unplanned big expenses
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2017, 07:14:09 AM »
I don't know how major your expenses are, but we had an unexpected $20k need to be paid immediately.

Quite honestly, at the time, the money was the least of the problem.

I merely was very very thankful I was in a position where we could pay it.  So I did, and we moved on.  Yes, it pushes back FI- but in today's world, I was thankful it didn't bankrupt us.


  • Stubble
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Re: Dealing with unplanned big expenses
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2017, 08:38:03 AM »
Try to stay as positive as possible, and remember that your current reality doesn't have to be your future.  There is always a path to happiness and getting what you want.

Two and a half years ago following a bitter divorce I had a negative net worth, a house in need of tremendous repairs, and a low income.  I never would have imagined that today I would have a gorgeous baby girl, and a wonderful fiancee, and a positive net worth with passive income exceeding my expenses.  Some frugal living, a lot of hard work, and some lucky surprises created a totally different reality for me.  Things change all the time.  Whatever is happening now doesn't have to cause future unhappiness.   


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Dealing with unplanned big expenses
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2017, 08:51:26 AM »
...I think when hard things happen you do whatever you have to in order to minimize your later regrets...

This!  It is very likely we will not be able to retire until late 50s or early 60s due to unplanned continuing big expenses (life long medical expenses).  So we plan to try to do some of those things we were looking forward to during retirement now.  This might mean taking a sabbatical from work for a month or two, it might mean spending a little more on a trip than we would if we could be more flexible with dates, or it might mean that at some point we go to part-time (with benefits) instead of fully retiring.  Either way, instead of focusing on what you had planned that can no longer be, focus on what you can do to enjoy life more now. 

We cut back some of our savings and do not plan to accelerate debt payoff on some debts in order for us to enjoy life a little more now.  My DH has starting his own business to allow himself the ability to adjust his schedule for doctor appointments or days that his body will not allow him to do as much.  We don't anticipate that business to ever make the type of money he used to make but by making this change it drastically decreases his stress level, which is a major concern for his condition.  I have also found a new job that is closer to home and has a much better work/life balance.  I was always the main income provider so we remind ourselves that if one of us had to be dx'd with something it is (financially) better that it was him, always try to think of the positives.