The electric power went off in our home, along with approximately 9,999 others in St. Cloud, Minnesota for a good half-hour on Sunday evening. We scrambled for flashlights and candles. Our pet birds were out and we gathered them up using a flashlight and put them back into their cages, while observing their questioning looks and unusually quiet concern.
One thing about outages… at the time they are happening, we have no idea of how long they will last. So we are uncertain and don’t know if we need to continue to find and light more candles, or just go about our business as best we can, with little light, no heat or cooling, while noting the many reminders of how much of our modern life is tied up in activities requiring electricity.
My recurring thoughts during that time were along these lines: “How can we be more prepared for an outage the next time one occurs? What do we need to have in place if the outage lasts for more than a short time? Why is it so easy for us to put off these kinds of preparations when we know that being prepared is vital and the only time we actually can prepare is when everything is working just fine?
Much of our success in life revolves around these very issues. Retirement is a good example. Upon reaching some age, it is likely that we will no longer wish to work. And even if we do wish to work, we may no longer have the physical and mental acumen to be able to continue working.
We also know that a paid off home along with our retirement social security benefit, (if it is there for us in the amounts that are currently being projected), will be insufficient to give us enough for our health-care, transportation, utilities, food, clothing, insurance and other required expenditures to be met. And if we want even more than this - some travel, educational enrichment, leisure recreation, replacement for vehicles and maintenance for our homes – it is paramount that we save and invest while we are working, so we can live independently and fully into our old age.
Then there are the unexpected and unplanned events, along the lines of power outages, such as serious or chronic health issues or accidents that prevent us from working, uninsured losses or downturns in our personal or the country’s economic condition, leaving us short of income, but with just as many or even more personal expenses.
As you read this, consider that it is easy to tell yourself that you ought to do something, but much harder to act on those thoughts. It’s easy to put off taking action, especially when it seems that there are so many areas to prepare for.
So here are three action-oriented ideas you can do right now:
If you haven’t done so already, gather up your batteries, flashlights, matches and battery-operated radio and store them in a place where you can easily find them in the dark. If your supply of any of these items is insufficient, immediately write a note to yourself, so you remember to purchase more of them, the next time you are at a store. (7 – 12 minutes)
2. Find a jar with a lid and stick a Posti-note on it that says: “Save and Invest!” Gather all of the loose change that is sitting around on your dressers and counters and place it into the jar. Keep it out to remind you that a little saving and investing on a continual basis will increase your happiness and wellbeing in the present because you are taking care of your future. (5 minutes)
It may also be a prompt for you to call your bank and arrange for a small amount of money to be automatically transferred each month from your checking account into a tax-deferred retirement plan, such as an IRA.
3. Have a conversation with your mate or family members about some easy-to-implement ways that all of you can prepare for sudden unexpected events. Even simple ideas, such as stocking up on sale-priced grocery commodities, personal care items, gasoline and paper products will be helpful in the event of sudden spikes in prices or shortages. (5 – 15 minutes)
So even if a power outage only lasts a half hour, because a squirrel worked his or her way into the power company’s equipment, as happened here in Saint Cloud, you can feel more confident now, and grateful in the future, when the next unplanned event occurs, because you took some small actions in the present to secure stability rather than suffer through a stressful, chaotic and predictably painful future.