woman stressed out waiting for things to return to normal

What to Do While You Wait for Things to Return to Normal

Life on earth has never been perfect, but you’d have a hard time convincing some people of that. It’s not that they are ignorant. They have selective memories.

Perhaps you can identify if you long for the way things used to be—when jobs were plentiful, mortgages were simple, retirement accounts moved in only one direction (up) and students could carry their 100-percent-financed college degrees straight into six-figure jobs.

woman stressed out waiting for things to return to normal

Now that it appears things are no longer quite so perfect, you’ve put your life on hold. You’re anxiously pacing the floor trying to hold on until the stock market rebounds, retirement accounts bounce back, your loan modification comes through or some TV advertiser offers a debt-settlement scheme that returns your life to the “perfect” way it was.

Can We Talk?

Stop looking back. “Normal” may be a setting on your clothes dryer, but it is not an economic condition. Every moment that you mourn the passing of the way things were, is a moment lost in the present. Concentrate on where you are and plan for how you will face the future.

Accept what you cannot change. As hard as it is for some of us to accept the fact that we cannot control everything, that is the truth. If you’ve lost your home or business or filed for bankruptcy—as terrible as these events have been for you—you cannot change what has happened.

Change the things you can. Thankfully, far more aspects of your life fall into this category.

These days, it seems that, for every letter I get from a reader who is filled with gratitude that I nagged them to death to get out of debt, to build a Contingency Fund for emergencies, to fund a Freedom Account for irregular expenses, and to make that shift to living below their means, I get one from someone who is beside her/himself with regret for just not getting around to it. The old “it could never happen to me,” has happened.

Create Your Plan

If you are still in credit-card debt, now’s the time to get serious. I mean it! Revisit Chapter 7 in my Debt-Proof Living book. Create your RDRP today, and commit to it as you’ve never committed before. (What? You’re not familiar with Debt-Proof Living—the DPL textbook? That’s a change you can and need to make right now. Check your local bookstore, library, or Amazon.com for a copy.)

Save More

Start beefing up your savings—your CF, retirement account or other savings vehicles. Even if all you can save right now is your pocket change, do it. Get serious about cutting back even more than you think possible so you have more to save. I predict that in years to come if you have one regret it will be that you did not save more money.


If you find yourself in over your head in a house you cannot afford, it’s time to move. You need to downsize into a house you can afford. Of course, I do not know your exact situation, but if you are hanging on by a thread, hoping that a loan modification will suddenly make your home affordable, think very carefully. And, weigh every issue.

Get a Job

If you are not working because you’ve given up, or you’re holding out for something that fits your idea of “normal,” let that go. Reality means a job you can get right now. Find a job. Then work at upgrading to a better job.

Headed for college? The days of a fully-funded “free” education that you can pay back at a more convenient time, are gone. Let me say this again: Get a job.

“F” words

Say them often and let them become part of your reality: faith, family and friends. Without my faith, family, and friends, I don’t know where I’d be. Develop these things in your life.

I have noticed over the years that winners accept their realities. They don’t sit around and wait for things to change. They do what they must to make things happen.

Even more than that, they don’t whine, they don’t complain and they don’t make excuses.

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2 replies
  1. Linda Brady says:

    So true! Started reading your column over 30 years ago, and it changed my life in so many positive ways. I really believe it is your attitude about money that is just as important as how much you have. Thanks Mary

    • Mary Hunt says:

      So lovely to see you here, Linda! Wow … 30 years? We should get some kind of longevity of friendship award! Thanks for our kind words. If there’s one thing these years have taught me it is this: Teaching teaches the teacher. Oh, so true and I say that with so much gratitude.


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