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Be thankful and be an agent for change

Reflect and prepare: this is the month when many people’s thoughts turn to giving thanks. It is a useful time to reflect on what you are grateful for in your life, and to be prepared for any challenges that might come along

November is traditionally the month for giving thanks. Each year, the Money page provides some thoughts on living today and taking the time to reflect on the positive values within ourselves and our community.

Imagine being forced to survive after horrific life-threatening journeys to safety without:

• any clothes except the ones on your back;

• no food except handouts from strangers and relief workers;

• no transportation of any kind;

• no verifiable address;

• no protection from the elements;

• no sanitation;

• no facilities to wash or clean;

• no job;

• no family documentation, passports, birth certificates, home deeds, insurance, photographs, mementoes of lives lived fully;

• no (or little access) to your remaining bank accounts, if they still exist or are already cashed out just to survive;

• no way to keep liability payments current or prove what your account balances are;

• no credit cards;

• no internet or phone to immediately contact any relatives or friends;

• no town;

• no community;

• vulnerable with no protections against assaults, theft, and endangerment;

• no pride and no hope that things will get better — not at least, for a very long time;

• no way to go home because home no longer exists.

We could be talking about any of the catastrophes of the last century and regrettably, current events as well. There are the never-ending flight of refugees seeking asylum from war, oppression, ostracization, and decimation of a way of life and the communities within. Then there are natural disasters, the most recent the destruction of an entire town by a wildfire — the town in California was once home to 27,000 people.

Also, let’s not forget the financial and natural disasters in our own personal family space. It’s all there. Every day it seems harder to avoid the constant cacophony of bad news.

We feel so sympathetic, but we are unable to help those thousands of unfortunate people.

What we can do is focus on being grateful for where we are, what we have, what we can do, and what we can become in the future. We can still have hope, a home, a community, and a sense of belonging to a gorgeous place and people we know well.

Is our community facing financial and demographic challenges? Of course, but consider that very careful planning, a doubled dedication from our public officials to work for the common good, and with a community spirit of co-operation, these challenges can be overcome.

We’ll avoid the catalogue of inveterate Bermuda issues for this article — there is enough repetitive documentation in media already.

Besides, the best place to effect change is to start with yourself and family at home.

• Communicate: get your life in order by planning for what you can control. We can take our own responsible actions to prepare ourselves as best we can for any life event: spiritual, emotional, physical, political, financial and familial.

• Know where you are, spiritually. Reliance on the power of a higher being is of enormous comfort in times of great stress and grief.

• Define what is really important to you by revamping your thinking. What do you care about the most? What would your priorities be if you had only a few days or months to live? What would you do if you faced any of the adversity listed above?

• Take better care of yourself. Walk, meditate, consume in moderation, avoid negative people and thoughts, convey the truth in all things you do.

• Be an agent of change for your family. Complaining, avoiding issues and decisions, accepting information without independently verifying the sources, and the like perpetuates negativity.

• Become your own research team. Learn everything you can about your economic community and political environment. Then, take a stand for what is right, proper and what you truly believe.

• Review your own finances and then offer to assist your extended family’s financial contingency preparations. Is it adequate? You would be amazed (or maybe you wouldn’t) at the number of couples and families who do not discuss money. They have no idea what each person earns or what each owes (very dangerous). They have little understanding of a team concept or inclination to set family goals.

• Practical disaster preparation is important, too. Develop a box, a briefcase, an encrypted set of computer files on an internet cloud, a back-up disk or related safe storage for all of your important documents, passwords, contracts, deeds, and pictures that prove who you are, what you own, and where you are connected.

• Write up a written plan to accompany these files, to be taken out and used when disaster strikes and financial situations dramatically change. It may never be used, but it is there if you need it. When you know the worst thing that can happen, and how to handle it, you can make logical appropriate decisions, avoiding complete helplessness.

Remember, too, shouldn’t it be our collective responsibility to rise to the challenge of helping ourselves, and our duty as residents of this beautiful island to help our community remain financially stable.

This means the process starts with you.

Martha Harris Myron CPA CFP JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services. Dual citizen: Bermudian/US. Pondstraddler Life, financial perspectives for Bermuda islanders and their globally mobile connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. Finance columnist to the Royal Gazette, Bermuda. All proceeds earned from this column go to The Reading Clinic. Contact: martha.myron@gmail.com