The Unknown Variables of Life

unknown variables of life

Walking Along the LSU Lakes Contemplating the Unknown Variables of Life

As I walk around the LSU lakes to escape the daily grind, so many thoughts flow through my mind. On the surface, these scattered thoughts appear to be unrelated, but I soon recognize a pattern.

These thoughts are about certainty in life. What do I know with absolute certainty? Is planning for the future futile?  Should I make spending projections based on my current reality? Am I walking through the right doors in life?

My brain seems to come up with answers to these questions, but then I start wondering if I can trust my own thoughts. Have I just unintentionally mastered the art of self-deception?

Would you like to take this stream of consciousness walk with me? Come, let us explore what I believe are the unknown variables of life…

Absolute Certainty

Have you ever wondered to yourself what do you know with absolute certainty? At 31 year of age, I must confess that there are very few things I know to be true definitively. The only certainties in life are death and taxes, right? I often wonder about the former. “How much time do I have left?” is a question I ask myself every now and then.

While I have looked at a few life expectancy charts to find an answer, I do not place much faith in them. They do not take into account my family’s history, on both sides, of cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.

I have seen these diseases snatch a few members of my family way too soon. Their children left behind to grow up without a father or mother.


Because of this, I have made sure to enroll in my employer’s short-term disability, long-term disability, and critical illness programs. I forget what short-term disability covers (will look it up), but my long-term disability will cover ” either 50% or 60% of your monthly earnings to a maximum benefit of $6,000 per month“.

In the unfortunate but possible event that I have a stroke or receive a cancer diagnoses, I’ll receive a payout of $10,000 from my critical insurance plan.

Health Savings Account

On top of that, I have almost $4,000 in my HSA. At the end of last year, I began to think that I contributed too much to my HSA. Maybe I should have put all of that money towards paying off my student loans ($5,000 left).

But then again, maybe I was trying to protect myself against the unknown variables of life.

As a single guy, I only have to worry about myself, but what will happen when I add Mrs. Peerless to the mix?  Should I make financial independence projections based on my current reality?

Financial Projections Based on My Current Reality

I sometimes think that I am wasting my time trying to determine my financial independence number (25x your current expenses).  Since I am a single guy who desires to have a wife and possibly a baby Peerless one day, I do not know what my future expenses will look like.

Last year I posed the question on Twitter, “Is it worth it to calculate your FI number if you are single?”  I got several well-thought out responses from some wonderful folks in the personal finance space.

While I cannot recall what everyone said (should have saved the responses), the gist of it was this:  No, you can always adjust your number. None of us truly know what our future expenses will look like.

The question I was really asking was if financial planning was necessary, and we can answer that affirmatively.  Yes, the fact that we cannot know what the future holds with absolute certainty doesn’t make planning less important.

Before I ended my walk along the lake, I contemplated one last question.  Am I walking through the right doors in life?

Walking Through the Right Doors

I often wonder if I am walking through the right doors.  What I mean by this is, am I going down the right path in life?  In life, there are several doors that we choose to walk through.  We never truly know what are behind those doors unless we walk through them.

For example, a year ago I decided to document my journey from Broke to Financially woke here.  Walking through that door led to writing opportunities (unpaid and paid), experiencing FinCon,  and becoming digital friends with amazing people in the personal finance space.

If I would have never created this blog, none of that would have happened.  But what if I would have chosen a different path.  Should I have followed my first mind and enrolled in an MBA or CFP program?

After spending countless hours researching personal finance topics, I could have certainly made some progress towards a MBA degree instead.  But why pay for education when I can teach myself the things I want to learn online?

Of course, the answer to that is to signal to employers that I am a highly qualified candidate.  I just don’t think I should take on more debt to do it.

However, maybe I should pursue the traditional path instead of trying to go it alone?  Who knows?  The unknown variables of life…

As I wrestle with these thoughts, the sun starts to set, and I think to myself like Louis Armstrong, what a wonderful world!

Watching the Sunset 

I have come to the conclusion that on some level, we all have to embrace the capriciousness of life.  If the lives we lived were highly predictable, that would probably lead to a boring existence.

There would be no pleasant surprises.  And no unpleasant ones either.  But that’s life.  It’s a beautiful tragedy.  Instead of focusing on those unknown variables of life, maybe I should focus on making the most of my precious nanoseconds :-).

“Never come in second, make the most of your seconds
They so precious
‘Cause if we could buy time every store would sell it”

-Lil Wayne

Community Feedback

  • How do you protect yourself against the unknown variables of life?
  • Do you think short-term disability, long-term disability, and cancer insurance are necessary?
  • What are you doing to ensure that you are making the most of your seconds?
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Author: Jerry

Jerry is a Business Insider Contributing Writer who is obsessed with personal finance. He believes you can improve your financial situation by applying principles taught by the financial independence community to your financial life.

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4 thoughts on “The Unknown Variables of Life

  1. I think your ultimate conclusion is right, Jerry. We don’t know anything with absolute certainty, but that doesn’t mean we throw planning completely by the wayside.

    With respect to your questions: (1) My husband and I protect ourselves by planning, including building savings and having insurance. (2) We have short-term and long-term disability insurance, but I don’t think cancer insurance is necessary. (3) We balance our financial goals with living in the present. We take vacations, go to restaurants, and do other activities we enjoy, but we also have a plan to pay off our debt and build our savings and investments.

    Nice post!
    Rho recently posted…The Money Rundown – January 19, 2019My Profile

    1. Thanks for commenting, Rho! Yes, we can’t fail to plan. That’s a good strategy. With respect to cancer insurance, I am not sure if I need it either. The policy costs $! per pay period I believe; it is ridiculously inexpensive. I probably could do without it though.

  2. These are such great questions! So, I’m in a little bit of a different boat because I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about 7 years ago – I suddenly lost the vision in one eye, and that kicked off a slew of testing that led to the diagnosis. I’ve been lucky to have a great course since then; I regained my vision and have never had any other problems. BUT – it’s a good reminder to live for the day, because it’s impossible to know what the future will hold. So for me (and I think for everyone else!) disability insurance is a must. Also, living life enjoyably now instead of JUST planning for the future is crucial!

    1. Hey Kate, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Wow, it sounds like you have been through a lot. I am glad you regained your vision. Is that something that normally happens or was it due to some treatment?

      Yes, we never truly know what till happen tomorrow. That doesn’t mean we go crazy with our spending, but it does mean we should try to live more balanced lives. To be honest, being balanced is something I struggle with every now and then.

      I agree with you about disability insurance. Everyone who isn’t a multimillionaire should look into getting it.

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