Crisis has its benefits

I have neck pain.  It’s been going on for years.  Usually, I get sore stiff muscles once a week and a headache.  This is the consequence of having a big bobblehead on a pencil thin, weak neck.  In the throes of pain, I have thought many a time about doing the right thing, and going to see a physical therapist.  But then I get a heating pad, take a Tylenol, and put it off further.  This week, however, I learned the many benefits of a crisis.

I woke up Monday, and the pain was excruciating.  I could barely turn my head.  After gulping down two Tylenol and two ibuprofen, I struggled through the workday.  Hours passed with no relief.

Over the next few days, I tried every trick in the book, and yet the mind-numbing pain and stiffness continued.

Finally, I scoured the internet and found a series of neck exercises and stretches (the shortcut to physical therapy if you don’t have time).

Crisis averted

A few days later, my pain is rapidly receding, and I am struck by the fact that not only this severe pain, but likely my years of occasional suffering will be fixed by these basic daily stretches.  How could I have been so dumb?

The many benefits of a crisis are that you often come to the other side of the situation smarter, more prepared, and far ahead of where you started.  In my case, years of struggle only came to a head (or should I say neck?) when things got so bad that I was forced to take action.

Not only your health, but your money and career work the same way.  Sometimes one has to first stumble and fall in order to not only get up and walk again, but leap and bound ahead.

Market downturns

I don’t think you can adequately judge your risk profile or investing appetite until you have lived through a major market downturn.  The many benefits of a crisis are manifest clearly when the Dow plunges.  Your investing personality shines clear.

Are you ready to pull the cord and divest, or are you jumping in hand over fist to buy a larger portion of the so-called sinking ship?  Are you really confident in that company that you bought a hundred shares of at a premium price now that the market is tanking?

The two major economic downturns I have lived through have taught me valuable lessons.  Yes, I am OK with being heavily equity-weighted.  No, I don’t believe in individual stock picking or narrow sector funds.

My investment portfolio today is more streamlined, cleaner, and much more appropriate for my goals because I now know what it feels like to be at the bottom.

Job loss

Losing one’s job has to be one of the many all-time lows we face as human beings.  There is nothing more terrifying than being given your walking papers and not knowing where the next paycheck will come from.

Yet, the many benefits of a crisis ring true in this situation also.  How many entrepreneurs out there only started that new business, created that new invention, or launched that new venture because they were kicked out of their traditional role.

Sometimes job loss is the impetus that spurs us on to greater accomplishments.

Furthermore, losing one’s income source teaches many lessons about budgeting and essential needs.  If you ever needed proof of the necessity of an emergency fund, this is it.

Could you live without television or the newest mobile phone?  This is the chance to find out.

Loss of property

Have you ever been in a car accident, had your home burglarized, or had your property destroyed by a fire?   No matter how heartbreaking,  this is just another example of the many benefits of a crisis.

Filing claims with an insurance company will tell you much information about the quality and ease of the company.  Get burned once, and you will make sure that your insurer is adequate the next time.

There is nothing like the loss of something valuable to teach you the importance of that which can’t be replaced.  Family, friends, children.  My experiences with material loss have all generated a deeper and more profound respect for the intangibles of life.

Conclusion

While I never wish a crisis upon anyone, often these are the situations where you learn the most about yourself and your needs.  Whether your health or your money, we all will find ourselves in a crisis at some point in life. If you are lucky, you will come out better than before the maelstrom hit.

“DocG” is a physician who blogs at DiverseFI.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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