50 Shades of Risk

Jonathan Clements

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST financial risk we face? Today, many folks would point to the possibility of a recession, a stock market plunge and perhaps both. Indeed, those are perennial perils—but perhaps they shouldn’t be our biggest worries. Looking to lose sleep? Here are 50 other dangers we face:

  1. Really, really long-term care.
  2. Your financial advisor turns out to be a crook.
  3. Your spouse leaves.
  4. Double-digit inflation.
  5. Your new neighbor specializes in personal-injury lawsuits.
  6. Your son just got his driver’s license.
  7. Your fellow fund shareholders panic and sell en masse.
  8. Your employer is the 2019 version of Enron.
  9. Social Security benefits get slashed.
  10. Your children are ages two, three and five—and your spouse dies.
  11. Your financial accounts are hacked and emptied.
  12. Your home’s foundation is sinking—fast.
  13. It turns out he wasn’t the next Warren Buffett.
  14. Your retired parents run out of money.
  15. Your 42-year-old is still living in the basement.
  16. Your job can be done cheaper and faster—by someone else.
  17. You were about to put your home on the market, but piping plovers took up residence on your front lawn.
  18. The 4% rule doesn’t work.
  19. When you’re out of town, your high schooler throws a wild, booze-fueled party—and somebody gets injured.
  20. A disability prevents you from ever working again.
  21. Congress decides to tax Roth accounts.
  22. Your insurer jacks up premiums on your long-term-care insurance to an unaffordable level.
  23. You lend money to your sketchy cousin, and it seems he’s even sketchier than you thought.
  24. Your 20-something kid gets seriously ill—and hadn’t bothered to buy health insurance.
  25. It’s been years and your cash-value life insurance still doesn’t have much cash value.
  26. Self-employment proves to be a bust.
  27. Your life’s savings went into rental properties—and the properties attracted a string of deadbeat tenants.
  28. Your child has a medical condition that means she’ll always need financial support.
  29. The U.S. electrical grid is hacked.
  30. Your new boss takes an instant dislike to you.
  31. We discover the economy won’t function if everybody keeps retiring at 62.
  32. You become a grandparent—when your daughter is 15.
  33. You belatedly find out about your spouse’s gambling addiction.
  34. U.S. stock prices don’t just plunge. They also stay down for three decades—just like Japan’s.
  35. Your elderly parents are scammed out of the inheritance you were counting on.
  36. The biggest local employer collapses—and so do local property prices.
  37. Your father leaves everything to his children, which is when you learn you have three half-siblings.
  38. Vanguard Group decides to become a for-profit company.
  39. Medicare’s funding problems finally catch up with it.
  40. Your brokerage firm has a massive computer failure—and all account records are obliterated.
  41. It turns out Treasurys aren’t the world’s safest investment.
  42. Your kid takes out hefty college loans—but never graduates.
  43. The index-fund naysayers turn out to be right.
  44. Termites, cockroaches and mice.
  45. Your 10-year-old likes to cook—when nobody else is at home.
  46. You should have invested in canned goods.
  47. Your employer finds out about that thing you did in high school.
  48. Deflation.
  49. Your neighbors tear down their house and build a monstrosity.
  50. That gloom-and-doom financial prophet who’s been getting it wrong for decades? He’s finally right.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @ClementsMoney and on Facebook. His most recent articles include Show Me the Money, Timely Reminder and Declaring Victory. Jonathan’s latest books: From Here to Financial Happiness and How to Think About Money.

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