Levin: Think of adapting to change as a full-time job

  • Updated: April 26, 2014 - 4:58 PM

I was talking to someone at a coffee shop who described her friends’ unusual honeymoon experience. After the wedding, the newlyweds had planned to fly to San Jose, Costa Rica, for a week. Once they changed planes in Phoenix, they heard that their flight time was much shorter than they anticipated. They quickly realized that the husband had booked the flight to San Jose, Calif.

The couple ended up honeymooning in Silicon Valley rather than Central Valley. But they stayed married and supposedly even had a good time on their trip.

I was impressed by their ability to handle change. All we have is change. The ancient Greeks knew that you could not step twice into the same river. But in our financial lives, we are ever trying to stem its flow.

One of our clients was getting divorced, and things were spiraling out of her control. There was going to be too much change — a new home, new schools for the children and a new life.

These changes were happening regardless of what she did, but she was trying to control change by fighting over somewhat ­inconsequential items in the divorce decree. Controlling her ex would not control change, it would actually make it more difficult. Once we could show her models that she would be fine financially and needed to move on ­emotionally, she no longer resisted change.

If you can accept that change is coming, you can adapt to it. Recently, a client’s husband died after a long marriage. They had plans for their future that would never materialize. Initially, she felt quite lost — reminders of him caused her setbacks and fear. But the fear was preventing her from spending her money on herself in ways that would allow her to move on and enjoy life. It takes time to fully acknowledge this type of change and integrate it. She knew that in order to adapt, she needed to get out of the house. She took classes, found a traveling companion, and gradually built a new life. Once she accepted the change, she could move on.

Sometimes people create change for the wrong reasons. They leave spouses or jobs or schools because they are dissatisfied with what they have. We all have certain rules that we have set up for ourselves, many of which are completely bogus.

One of our clients moved with his family to what turned out to be the wrong home for them. They had left their previous community for misplaced reasons and bought in a new one in which they didn’t feel like they fit. But some of the same problems that plagued them originally followed them to their next address and they discovered that they missed what they had left.

In their minds, though, they were stuck. They had rules regarding how long they had to stay in their home and rules around what they could afford to lose on the place they were selling. But those were make-believe. Once we could convince them of the reality that they could do something different, they were able to effect change by moving back to the area they left.

Change is inevitable. What lies in our ­control is how we choose to handle it.

Spend your life wisely.

Ross Levin is the founding principal of Accredited Investors Inc. in Edina. His Gains & Losses column appears on the last Sunday of the month. His e-mail is ross@accredited.com.

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