On January 13th, I was walking through the grocery store with my mother and daughter when I noticed that I’d missed a call from my son, Devin, who was vacationing in Hawaii.
I played Devin’s voicemail and listened as he very calmly told me that I didn’t have to worry. The alert of an incoming ballistic missile, headed for Hawaii, had been a false alarm. He was safe, after spending a terrifying 25 minutes huddled in a storm drain with about a dozen other people.
LISTEN TO DEVIN'S VOICEMAIL
This was the first I’d heard about the false missile alarm, which in a way was a mixed blessing. As it turned out, Devin was never in any real danger. Had I known about the alarm as it was happening, the stress and the worry might have been too much for this father to bear.
Of course, my concern was nothing compared to what Devin went through, and on today’s show, he talks to us about how his experience impacted him in the moment, and how it’s changed his outlook on life.
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Reflections From Devin on the Missile Alert in Hawaii
Here are some of Devin’s reflections on the false missile alert that struck me as especially thoughtful and profound, especially coming from a 19-year-old:
The feeling in my stomach …
“I had woken up at about 6:00. I made a cup of coffee, watched the sun rise, it was a beautiful, peaceful morning. I had gone up to shower and after a while, my buddy that I was in Hawaii with started pounding on the door, screaming to me to get out of the shower right away. He had just gotten the notification on his phone that there was a ballistic missile inbound to Hawaii, that we need to seek cover and that it's not a drill. For me the feeling in my stomach is one I cannot really replicate with words. Just a turning inside out in that moment.”
I personally was saying my prayers …
“We all figured that the storm drain would be the safest place. There'd be at least a little bit of concrete in the way of us and all the radioactive fallout that would have been there... For those twenty-five to thirty minutes before we knew, I fully believed that I was about to die. I don't remember exactly what I was doing. My friend told me I was stoic, that I didn't say a word the entire time... It was quiet. No one was really saying much. I personally was saying my prayers, I wasn't really sure what was about to happen. I was just hoping for the best. When we found out it was a false alarm it was the biggest sigh of relief I've had in my life.”
The answer is, “No” …
“People always throw around the question, ‘If you had a day to live, or an hour to live, what would you do? Would you be happy with how you've lived your life?’ It's always an interesting question, but it's a lot different when I looked down at my phone and I truly believed I had twenty minutes to live. Was I happy with how I lived my life? With everything I had done? For me, truthfully, the answer is no. That's one of the reasons I was really distraught. Maybe my faith, or my relationships with others, there were just so many things that felt incomplete. Being able to walk out of there, no harm, no foul was a gift... What I've been thinking about a lot is whenever I make a decision, or do anything, if I were to die in twenty minutes, is this something I would still want to do? I think that alone can have a lot of power in driving me or anyone to consistently work on bettering themselves. Just more doing the right thing and being of service to others.”
Every single day …
“We live in America where this sort of thing never happens… There are parts of the world where people are going through this every single day. Where they don't know whether they're going to live or die, every day and they have to make the most of it. Just being able to have that perspective has made a very big difference for me, and one that I hope that I'm able to hold onto for as long as I'm around.”
Devin’s story is a reminder that none of us knows what’s coming tomorrow. As awful as it is to think about, you do have to ask yourself, “What happens if I don’t wake up tomorrow? Is my financial situation in order? Have I taken care of my loved ones?” If you don’t have a will or trust, prioritize making one this year. If your possessions and finances aren’t as tidy as they could be, commit to decluttering. Take the necessary precautions to secure all your online information. Talk to your loved ones and beneficiaries about your final wishes. Make sure they know where all of your important documents and contact information are filed so that settling your estate will be as easy as possible.
Maybe the most important takeaway from Devin’s experience is that we should all try to enjoy life a little more, and not take it for granted. We waste so much of our time on petty grievances and endless worries without knowing just how limited, how precious our time really is. That realization can really hit new retirees hard. But short of going through a false missile alert, there are things you can do to get clarity on what’s important. A proactive approach to planning – financial or otherwise – can help you face unpredictable challenges and feel more secure, happier and more motivated to live your life to the fullest.
Bill Keen on the Missile Alert in Hawaii...
“We should all try to enjoy life a little more, take nothing for granted, and be prepared. "
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Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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