Disclosure: We may receive compensation from ads or affiliated companies. This doesn't add to your costs, doesn't influence our opinions/reviews, and keeps the website free.

Her tide just went out

I feel like I let someone down. As an American financial advisor and as a friend, I could have helped this person weather a significant storm in her life, if only I had known the secrets of her financial situation. 

Swimming naked when the tide goes out

Warren Buffett famously wrote in 2001:
 You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.
Some companies look strong and solid until you find out they are swimming in debt or the CEO gets caught for insider trading. Everything looked fine until the tide went out. The same can be true of any one of us. Everything may look fine on the outside until a major life event rocks our financial world. Suddenly it is clear to us and to others that we were financially ill-prepared, swimming naked when the tide rushed out.

The tide went out today

Someone I know fairly well just went through a major life event (she lost her job). She drives a BMW. She has two beautiful daughters and a husband. She wore all the latest fashions, plus Botox, nips, tucks, a huge house, etc.

While I didn’t have those things in common with her, I never judged her for them either.

However, today I found out it was all a sham. They are broke. She’s been bouncing car payments for months. They are at risk of losing their home. She has a shopping addiction. A bad one.

Her tide went out today

If only she would have asked for help

I feel like I let her down because I sort of knew everything probably wasn’t right in her world, but I kept her potential problems at arm’s length. I did try to help where I could, but I’m disappointed that someone this close to me could be in that kind of shape.

I understand people are responsible for their actions and I can’t shoulder those burdens, but I’m such an advocate for fiscal responsibility that I’m disappointed and feel like I failed her.

Do your colleagues have their swimsuits on?

Because you are US expats, perhaps it is worth mentioning that your situation isn’t any different than the average American in this. We all have friends and colleagues who are living it up. My friend had a BMW and a huge house which outwardly showed her apparent wealth and success. Your friends and colleagues might not have luxury cars and homes, but some of them seem to travel Stateside for every holiday, fly business class on weekend excursions, and never seem to eat a meal at home.

They show apparent wealth and success, but the tide goes out for everyone sooner or later. Are you sure they can afford a swimsuit, or are they rolling in debt and not planning for the future?

You may or may not be able to help them, but you certainly shouldn’t try to keep up with them. Many of us know expats who returned home in relative poverty. Don’t let that be you. Prepare yourself for the ebb of your own tide.

Will you ask for the help you need?

Why do I share this? Well, I’m guessing some of you, my friends, are having your own financial issues in some form or another. I’m not an expat myself, but I know that living overseas brings a myriad of additional stressors and financial complications. Don’t let the tide going out expose your lack of financial preparedness.

Ready for the tide to go out
It doesn’t have to end badly!

Many of you are teaching and serving in areas that desperately need what you have to offer. Don’t find yourself packing your bags and heading back to the US because you were ill-prepared for some life-rocking financial event.

Vagabond Finances was written to help you with your finances so that you could remain in your vital role abroad. This blog exists for you. Mark and the rest of us are available through the contact form and through Facebook to help as we can.

I don’t have magic wands or potions, but I do have two ears and a small brain. They are at your disposal!

I feel like I let someone down. The tide rushed out and all of her problems were revealed to the world. We don’t want that to happen to you. Live within your means, save regularly, invest wisely, plan for the future, and come to us for help. Let’s be ready for the ebbs and flows of the ever-changing sea.

Mark Mason also contributed to this article.

Josh Johansen

Josh Johansen

Josh Johansen (pen name) is an American financial advisor with a heart for missions and for making the investment process clear, inexpensive, and sound.