Planning Ahead

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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View from our deck.

I have found that some people tend to live in the moment and my hat is off to them as they do not generally live in a state of anxiety, anticipation or worry. However, while I like to enjoy the moment I also try to plan ahead. I have found that by planning ahead it saves me from anxiety, surprises or panic. Not all the time, but better than being overtaken by sudden occurrences that could have been anticipated and planned for.

Look Down The Road Of Life And Plan

When Carol and I discussed early retirement we didn’t just wait for the happy time to arrive but we planned years ahead. Some intervening occurrence could have happened to side track or delay our plans but fortunately they didn’t so we had a plan and were able to stick to it. We ended up taking retirement a little later than anticipated but within our plan parameters and everything went pretty much like we had hoped for.

Have Sufficient Funds To Carry Out Your Plan:

Our largest issue was finances. When we retired we had sufficient funds to see us through until we could file for social security which we had been paying into for over forty years. Things were pretty tight initially but as time went on our financial security stabilized. It is not surprising that now when politicians want to give social security or medicare to those who have not paid into it I get angry.

Learn From Others If Possible:

An early life lesson impacted me deeply as a young man in the military and has stuck with me over my lifetime. One of the men in my unit, a “lifer”, finally had to retire due to his age. He was well liked and when we would ask him what he planned to do when retired he would say he didn’t know. He didn’t know anything except the military and he had no plans for his future other than staying with his sister until he could get situated and figure something out.  

Having A Plan Can Minimize Stress And Anxiety:

We later heard the day after he retired that he knocked on his sister’s door and when she answered he was laying on her porch – dead from a sudden heart attack. We noted that as his retirement drew nearer he was very anxious and stressed to the point of near panic. I learned two things from his regretful experience. One, that life holds no guarantees. Two, that having a plan or something to look forward to is important.

Our military buddy let his fear of the unknown overpower him to the point he left in near panic over being a civilian. He couldn’t see any future for himself because of his extreme anxiety and stress. His situation was a vivid example to me as to what can happen if we face the unknown without some sort of a plan. By planning our retirement like we did it has provided us 21+ years of life here in the mountains.  

Planning For The Unforeseen:

Last summer we experienced the third worst wildfire in state history. Over 134 homes in our community were totally destroyed (218 total) and 108,045 acres were burned. We are now seven months post wildfire and we are already planning on how to handle our small loss of 1 ½ acres. Most of our property was untouched and we now live in an oasis of green trees with destruction for miles surrounding us. (see photo of the area 50’ in front of us)  We knew of the risk of wildfire when we moved here and we had made a plan early on. Each year we did wildfire mitigation until we felt safe. Our plan did not go exactly as expected but the plan did provide us with a general direction to follow.

Subtle Stress:

It wasn’t until after the wildfire was over and we were allowed to return to our home that we realized just how much the stress impacted us. We noticed it first in our dogs and then in ourselves. We needed another plan to cope with the aftermath of the tragedy and move forward. It has taken several months to evaluate exactly what plan we need but we now have a plan to proceed.  Had it not been for our plan, faith, friends and many strangers the stress from this incident could have easily overwhelmed us.

Be Flexible:

We have carefully evaluated our post wildfire situation and have decided the threat from an avalanche or mud slide is minimal for us. Our property that survived is green and unchanged all the way to the top of our mountain. Our home is in a green strip running from our road to the top of the mountain. All around us there are miles of burned area.

Paying Attention To Professionals:

We are planning to eliminate the risk of any mud and ash from our damaged 1 ½ acres from running down hill when the snow melts so it doesn’t block our driveway or road. We have planned therefore to do as suggested by a local forester and cut the dead burned trees so they lay on the ground horizontally to act as riffles to impede any mud/ash that would be prone to flow down the mountain.

Plan For The Small Unexpected Circumstances:

Some ash has already run down into the ditches along our road. Mixed with the road base or dirt it makes the roads very slippery when wet. We have had appropriate tires installed on our vehicles to help combat the gooey roads. We have planned and carried out cleaning the ditch along the road so if any ash or mud does get past the riffles it will stop in the ditch and not impede our access.

Pay Attention To Others Plans And Adjust To Them:

We have been cautioned by the electrical provider that next spring we could experience extended power outages. We have therefore stocked up on potable water, food, and have our generator fueled and ready to go. Since we do experience frequent power outages in the mountains we are already prepared to ‘camp at home’ for several weeks if necessary.

Looking ahead and having a plan is vital to our continued and ongoing safety and mental health. Dwelling on the past serves no productive use for us. We are firm believers in being proactive and having a plan for the future instead of always reacting to a situation that could have been anticipated and possibly prevented or prepared for.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their life in the mountains go to their personal blog site

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