Monday, December 12, 2005

How Quickly It All Changes

That's how life goes: You're plugging along, sledding nicely in your comfort zone, and BLAMMO! something happens that turns it all upside down.

This evening, after my wife, daughter, and I had left my office Christmas party, we went out through town looking at Christmas lights. We got our fill of the pretty lights and the awfully-nice neighborhoods after maybe 45 minutes, and we headed home.

All in all, it'd be a real uneventful story — except for the fact that we were abruptly rear-ended in our '95 Honda while sitting at a stoplight.

The three of us are fine, as far as we can tell. But the car is a goner, as the photo attests. (In addition to its unbelievable reliability, that Accord's large trunk space always impressed me. Now it no longer has a trunk.)

I won't talk much about how your heart collapses when you've been rear-ended like that, and immediately your staggered mind wonders (1) how long you'll be in the intersection, which you just got pushed into, before you get hit again, and (2) why your 3-year-old daughter, who was strapped into her car seat in the back seat, just like always, isn't crying ... when by all rights she should be.

(The answer to (2) was that she was pretty much as shocked as we were, and only started crying when we started asking her — pretty frantically, I imagine — if she was okay.)

But now my financial landscape changes dramatically, too. The Honda was long since paid for, still as clean and dependable a car as I could hope for. We had every intention of driving it into the ground. Now, after about 10 years, I'm back in the market for a car. And I don't like the thought of it one bit.

I suspect I'll be doing well to get $1000 from the insurance company for the Honda. But, in reality, the value of the Honda wasn't $1000 by any stretch. Rather, that little red scooter of a car meant no car payments for us for the forseeable future. Which, by my math, equals way more than a thousand bucks. Not that this will matter much in the end — to anyone but my wife and I, at least.

So how much of my emergency fund do I plunder for this? Right now it hurts to think about. I'm several months removed from my last credit-card arbitrage play, so my credit score should be just fine for whatever financing might be needed. I'll buy used, of course. Preferably another Honda, but Toyota would be fine, too. Since I work at a Nissan dealership, I'll consider an Altima, I guess. But quality-wise, Nissan is a distant #3 in my book.

Working at a dealership has its advantages in this scenario, of course. If I buy our next car through my employer, I'll pay cost plus a small, pre-set premium. Plus, since the wreck occurred right across the street from my place of employment, I was able to call my manager (who was still at the Xmas party) and get a rental vehicle from our fleet within minutes. (He brought it to us, even, and helped us unload our stuff from the Honda when we were pretty obviously frazzled. Thanks again, Paul.)

Anyhow, this seemed like a good time to remind readers that Life often has a way of sneaking up on you and handing you a situation you really didn't want any part of. And remember, folks, that when Life pays an unexpected visit, it usually carries a Big Stick.

But as I had to reassure Lisa several times tonight, we were lucky. We walked away. Our daughter wasn't injured (or not that we've been able to discern so far). She didn't even get bathed in shattered glass (thanks to window tinting). Goodness knows it could have been much worse.

Financially, we're in a better position to handle this than we would've ever been at any previous time. With no debt other than our home, we can make room for a car payment for a while if we need to.

One thing's for sure:

Life can be crazy. And you just never know.

Posts In This Series
How Quickly It All Changes, Part 1
How Quickly It All Changes, Part 2
And Now We Wait ... Some More
There's Something New In the Garage
How Quickly It All Changes, Part 3
How Quickly It All Changes, Part 4

— Posted by Michael @ 12:33 AM


Glad to hear your family wasn't physically hurt by the accident. No matter how well you plan, something always gets in the way. It's good that you're in a good position where purchasing a new car won't be a major drag on your finances.


Sorry to hear that you were in an accident. I also had one myself about 2 weeks ago. I'm glad that everyone is ok. Now you start the fun process of dealing with the insurance company.


Glad to hear no one was hurt!

I completely understand how you feel about the loss of your car. Indeed, having no car payments is worth much more than what the insurance company will give you. I'm glad you're in a good financial position now.


Mike, sorry about the accident. How grateful you can be that you're not walking the edge financially, and will be able to reluctantly handle this lousy situation.


I'm glad you're all ok and sorry to hear about the loss of such a reliable and paid for "asset". I'd never really thought about this situation through the lens of "value if totaled" vs. "value of no car payments". ugh.


First and foremost, It's good to hear that everyone in your family is okay. While the money issues in this incident can be a bit depressing, they are nothing compared to how terrible the situation would have been had someone been seriously injured.

It really does throw a wrench into financial plans when situations like this happen. The car's book value won't ever reflect that you had taken care of it so that you could run it into the ground.


Michael: Sorry to hear about your accident, but really glad that everyone is ok. Take care.


I'm glad everyone is okay. Maybe your boss would give you a good deal on a used Honda trade-in at the dealership?


So sorry to read about your accident... but also pleased that no one got hurt. I realize that you will also be taking a big hit on your wallet, but I'm a firm believer that God works out all things for good. Hang in there. Big Hugs and a Merry Christmas to you and yours. :)


Thank God you and your family are okay. While it may be a financial hit right now, if you can find a reliable replacement vehicle that will last you for another 7 years or more, you can try to lessen the long term impact on your budget. I know of too many people who think of an accident as an opportunity to go buy a new car. (doesn't that seem backwards?)


good to hear that your wife and your ok. good luck with the insurance people.


As my MIL always says, things can be replaced, but people can't. Of course that's true and I/we realize a situation could always be worse. Funny that several months ago you were oogling that Altima....Kismet can deal a strange hand, don't you think?

Is the car still driveable? Can you tarp the trunk (or tear out the carpet to prevent mildew?) Nothing says you couldn't continue driving it into the ground...just a thought.


PS Want to drive to IL to buy a '98 Sienna? I did change the transmission fluid as advised!!:)


Thanks to everyone for the kind comments!

I'll say one thing: Going through this is an ... interesting ... process.

It's weighed very heavy on Lisa and I, personally, which I wouldn't have thought going in.

** Comments Closed on this Post **

Thoughts on my personal finances, goals, experiences, motivations, and accomplishments (or lack thereof).

My financial life began turning around when I took responsibility for it.
— Dave Ramsey


Start (2005-12): ~$21,900
Currently: $0
[About Our Debt Paydown]


Savings Goal: $15,000
Currently: ~$15,115
[About Our Liquid Savings Goal]