Sunél’s Blog | Planning for failure should be part of our plans

Sunél Veldtman, | 19 February 2020

Disruption is here to stay. And the pandemic has just shown us how disruptive disruption can be. It has brought whole industries to a standstill, grounded aeroplanes, halted travel, left rental cars in parking lots, stopped conventions and elective medical procedures. Some of these industries may recover, but many will have changed dramatically. Secure jobs have become obsolete overnight.

Like tsunami waves rolling in to disturb our careful planning and career trajectories, there are even more disruptive forces on the way. The speed and volume of these disruptive forces are likely to dwarf anything we’ve seen in our lifetime.

Although the four-decade career has been endangered for a while, it is now becoming extinct. The idea of choosing a career in your teens, studying towards that career, and then making progress towards the top of that career ladder, must be shelved.

People feel like failures when they have been side-swiped by retrenchments in dying industries. Many never recover either psychologically or financially.

We should anticipate that these events become the norm, not the exception. We should accept that retrenchments and continuous learning will become part of most careers. We should change the way we plan. There is too little ‘what if’ planning. Too many plans still span four decades of uninterrupted change. If we don’t change the way we plan and think about career trajectories, we are already planning to fail. We should encourage bigger savings pools for the ‘what ifs’ right from the start, discourage straight-line thinking in the midlife and reassure fresh starts after mid-life. We should learn how to contract our spending quickly, and carefully consider commitments with long-term implications like private school education or expensive debt. Change management, continuous learning and resilience are skills that will become as key to our financial wellbeing as it is for our physical and mental health.

Planning for failure and starting over should be part of our plans.

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