How to Create a Solid Financial Back-Up Plan

Why the Plan B tips can save you in tough economic times

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Even when people do create back-up plans, it’s often in their heads; not on paper. Worse still, many of the options people come up with to deal with potential dilemmas simply aren’t realistic—or may not be the best alternatives.

For example:

  • 61% of those surveyed by State Farm said that in a financial emergency they would take money from their 401(k) or retirement savings as part of their Plan B
  • 34% said they would sell their homes in order to downsize
  • 22% said they would move in with family
  • 68% of people 55 and older say they’d take on an additional job

All these scenarios, however, are fraught with major pitfalls.

Someone planning to raid his 401(k) would suffer tax consequences as well as jeopardize their long-term financial security. Those planning to sell their homes may be willing, but unable, to do so—especially since home prices have declined dramatically and many buyers are having trouble getting mortgages.

Meanwhile, a Plan B that involves moving in with relatives can be dicey at best. You may be welcome there; but how will you contribute financially and what if you have children? Are your relatives prepared to take in numerous house guests, and for how long?

Lastly, the idea of anyone (including some north of age 50) simply thinking they’ll get another job is probably far easier said than done, especially with unemployment above 9% and 14 million Americans out of work.

Clearly, most people need to better strategize and come up with viable options concerning how they would stay afloat during a major life challenge.

Here are three suggestions to get you started on a realistic financial Plan B:

  • Communicate now with your loved ones. Talking about money matters can be tricky and engaging in conversations about long-term planning is even thornier. Still, such conversations are vitally important. Discuss everything from what treatment and care you’d want in a medical emergency to where you keep your important financial records.

“Ask yourself this: ‘If someone had to step into my shoes, would anyone know where all my assets are and what my debts are?’” says Behrens.

  • Get financial help. Seek out a qualified professional – such as an insurance agent or financial planner – who can review your current situation and help you develop a Plan B. You might think you’ve covered all the bases, but an expert may be able to point out gaps in your plan or pitfalls in strategies you assumed were perfectly logical.
  • Put your Plan B in writing. A plan that’s only in your head isn’t a real plan at all. Only by documenting your plan in writing will you have a legitimate financial back-up plan. Another benefit of documenting your financial plan: if something unforeseen does happen to you, your family members will know your wishes.

Above all, don’t procrastinate and don’t fool yourself into thinking you or your family members are immune from life’s setbacks.

“People always think it (tragedy) happens to other people,” says McCurrie. “But what are the odds I would have 3 losses?” she asks.

Having a Plan B, McCurrie says, “obviously doesn’t alleviate the grief. But it does alleviate the stress.”

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