The Life Shuffle Applied to Finances

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Over the weekend I was reading Brene Brown’s, I thought it was just me, and read her section on the life shuffle. For those who haven’t read it, I included the excerpt below:

“The pregnancy shuffle is a very powerful exercise that many hospitals use in their childbirth preparation classes. Expectant parents are given ten notecards and asked to write one important expectation for their labor and delivery on each card. […] When they’re finished and proudly gazing at their cards, they’re asked to flip the cards over so they can’t see what’s on them, shuffle, and pick five from the ten. At this point they’re told that these five work out and the other five do not.” 

The question after is how prepared these expecting parents felt if five out of ten happen rather than ten out of ten. This blew me away, because it got me thinking about personal finance. 

Creating and reflecting on Your financial puzzle

While Brene applied the principle to life in general and how to acknowledge our vulnerabilities & fears and to reality check, this section also felt relevant to finance. I envision those 10 cards as different pieces of our financial puzzle. And each of those cards represents your expectations around your finances – it’s everything that’s holding your financial puzzle together. 

If I’m envisioning what some of our financial expectation cards would look like, this is what comes to mind: 

  • Hannah’s W-2 Job 
  • Nick’s W-2 Job 
  • Side Hustles 
  • House 
  • Getting renters for multi-family 
  • Paying off student loans
  • Paying off car loan 
  • Contributing to 401K

So let’s think about what would happen if one of those cards is removed. For me, this is a reality as someone who was laid-off due to COVID-19 so let’s remove my W-2 job. What happens now? 

The assumption is that you receive unemployment insurance – and that’s a big assumption due to the difficulties with unemployment – but outside of that, have you created a financial picture where your savings and unemployment insurance will keep you not only afloat, but secure?

Mitigating your risk and taking steps to be prepared

And while losing a job is a hardship, an emergency fund is a way to mitigate that risk. If you lose your W-2 job, and have an emergency fund, while losing your W-2  job is difficult, your finances remain intact. 

Adding on to that, if you have a side hustle that is providing you another income stream, your risk is also mitigated after the loss of a W-2 job. As we walk through each of these cards, we reflect on what the situation would like without one of the cards, and then think about what the situation would look like. If we’re not prepared, how can we change that? 

Your cards will look different, and this is an empowering exercise, but also one that flexes into your vulnerabilities around finances.  

I lost my job and I’m not going to sit here and say that everything’s coming up roses, but the more prepared you are the better your situation is, if/when one of those situations strikes. These cards are an opportunity for you, and if you have one, then you and your partner have an opportunity to really dive into your financial preparedness. Nick and I walked through this activity this weekend and there’s so many lessons to be learned and then steps to be taken to be prepared. This is an opportunity to build upon financial intimacy as it takes true partnership to talk through things that could happen or are presently happening in your relationship from a financial perspective.


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