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I am an avid Cincinnati Bearcats fan. It was heartbreaking on Saturday to lose our first string quarterback, Zach Collaros, to a broken ankle. Although the players did a great job in the second half of the game adjusting to a new quarterback, we still lost to West Virginia. Zach’s out for the season and now four other teams are only one game behind our first place standing in the Big East. The Bearcats are still eligible for a bowl bid, but getting to a game like the Orange Bowl may be more challenging. I may need to adjust my expectations for post-season play.

This happens all the time in financial planning. We set goals, encounter obstacles, and need to adjust our plan when we face new challenges. This might be the loss of a job, an unexpected illness, or a precipitous drop in the stock market. While all of these events are beyond our control, how we prepare for them in advance and readjust along the way can minimize their impact on our ability to reach our goals.

Over the past 21 years, I have worked with many clients who have had to alter the original picture they had of their retirement. There were those who planned to retire from Procter & Gamble in March, 2000 when the stock tumbled from $87.44 to $61.00 in one day. Or the client going through a divorce only to learn that her husband had spent all of their savings, and they were living on credit cards. In each situation, what at first seems insurmountable is actually a temporary setback. The sooner you face a difficult situation, the less devastating its impact will be.

As we have worked through challenges, and my clients have made adjustments to their original course, they have still been able to achieve a fulfilling retirement. As we’ve often said in this blog, it’s not what happens to you, but how you respond to it that will dictate the success or failure of your plan.

While the Bearcat’s initial response to losing their quarterback seemed to be fear and panic, once they were able to regroup at halftime and adjust their game play, they came a lot closer to winning their game. Maybe I’ll need that hotel reservation in Miami after all…

Christine L. Carleton, CFP®