Webster’s Dictionary defines medical immunity as “a condition of being able to resist a particular disease especially through preventing development of a pathogenic microorganism or by counteracting the effects of its products.” In this era of pandemics and concomitant economic dislocations, “immunity” is a big topic. How might we apply concepts of immunity to financial life planning?

The Wall Street Journal (7/11/20) published an essay by Bruce Feiler, taken from his newly released book, “Life Is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age.”

Life transitions planning has been a frequent topic in these columns, and Feiler’s observations are particularly useful in whatever your COVID-19 transition will be.

Feiler says we experience life “as a complex swirl of celebrations, setbacks, triumphs and rebirths across the full span of our years.” Fundamental to our life’s journey is a periodic “disrupter, an event that impedes the everyday flow of life.”

COVID-19 has been a mega-disrupter for many, an inconvenience for some, but for everyone a wake-up call that personal and societal black swan events periodically make a mockery of our best laid plans and assumptions. Much hope rests on the search for a vaccine that will confer immunity.

In medicine, there are several types of immunity. We are born with “innate immunity,” some level of ability to resist and overcome bodily invaders. As to external threats, a perceived danger triggers an instinctive fight or flight response which sharpens common sense as we age.

Adaptive or acquired immunity develops as our body adapts and learns to fight off invaders and limit damage. So too, we learn not to repeat mistakes and how to handle threats in ways that avoid or minimize harm.

Passive immunity is borrowed from another source, such as receiving antibodies from mother’s breast milk as a baby, or annual inoculations for seasonal flu. Passive immunity is not permanent. Conversely, lifetime immunity may stem from certain types of immunizations.

Feiler’s research concluded that “each of us will experience around three dozen disrupters in our adult lives...one every 12 to 18 months.” These may “range from changing jobs to caring for a loved one, from getting divorced to facing addiction. The largest percentage involve our relationships, followed by our identities, beliefs, careers, our bodies.”

While he did not say so in his article, virtually all life transitions involve money issues in some way, which is why “financial life planning” is a focus for experienced and client-centered financial advisors.

No one is immune from the bumper sticker reality, “stuff” happens!” What’s key is how we plan for challenging eventualities, and how we respond when they arise. A financial plan is not “one and done,” it’s a living exercise with periodic reviews and revisions, recognizing course changes as inevitable.

Insurance in all forms is a way to shift risk and minimize the possibility of financial ruin for self or loved ones — life, health, disability, property and casualty and liability. You are not immune from lawsuits. Adequate levels of umbrella liability insurance and malpractice coverage in certain professions commensurate with your net worth and earning power is basic.

In any type of business or complex venture, skimping on qualified legal or tax counsel can be an expensive omission. Agreements to handle death, disability, divorce, disagreements, and/or disaster (distress) minimize damage to your economic immune system. Just as you get booster shots, how often do you check to see if key documents are in accord with current conditions — will, trusts, powers of attorney for assets and health care, medical directives, legal agreements, insurance policies including adequacy of protection levels — as net worth grows? What do you have languishing in drawers or filing cabinets or in digital form that demands a recheck or redo?

Investing wisely and often so as to reach a condition of “low to no debt” along with financial independence increases immunity, minimizing worry and stress. Investing in education and the development of innate talents along with skill and knowledge confers a certain degree of immunity from career and job reverses bound to pop up on your road to retirement freedom.

Feiler, in his own life beset with potentially life-altering transitions, learned that “we can master life transitions, but only if we take time to learn the necessary skills and develop a healthy mind-set.”

Texas evangelist Charles R. Swindoll preaches that “attitude is more important than facts.” You can’t avoid periodic crises. You can prepare and have the tools and resources to “roll with the tide of life.”

First, you gotta learn how to swim!

Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-3553;lewis@lewwalker.com. Securities & advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA, otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He’s a Gallup Certified Clifton Strengths Coach and Certified Exit Planning Advisor.

Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-3553;lewis@lewwalker.com.  Securities & advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of  SFA, otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He’s a Gallup Certified Clifton Strengths Coach and Certified Exit Planning Advisor.

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