24 Unexpected Life Events That Can Be Financially Crippling

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It’s a financial jungle out there. While you’re simply trying to get by, thoughts of the future can be pushed to the back burner. Moreover, many of us live paycheck to paycheck and risk experiencing unexpected financial problems. No matter how much you plan, there always seems to be something that drains whatever savings you've accrued. It's frustrating, but it's all a part of life.

Luckily, you can try and get ahead of things. Knowing some common financial setbacks you're likely to experience can help you better prepare to weather the storm or find lower-cost solutions to the problems before they arise. 

1. School Supplies

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While it's no surprise that kids need supplies for school, you may be shocked to see how much they actually need. Schools don't supply the basics and in many cases, parents are left footing the bell. We're not talking about a few extra notebooks and writing implements, either. These costs can include food for special occasions, field trips, and, believe it or not, paper towels for use in the class.

2. Car Repairs

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There are few things in life with as many financial trapdoors as an automobile. While modern cars are equipped to detect defects quicker than their older versions, and roadway sensors are designed to minimize traffic accidents, all it takes is one bad day. You could be a fantastic driver with state-of-the-art accident prevention sensors, but if someone else isn't paying attention, you could face expensive repairs. 

3. Home Repairs

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Buying a property is still the most popular way for working people to invest their wealth, though the statistic seems to be dropping some with Statista noting a dip from 2022 to 2023. With the investment a home provides comes all the pitfalls of home ownership — leaky roofs, failing boilers, and anything else that drives a hole through your savings. A roof can cost upwards of $20,000 and is practically a given if you plan on long-term homeownership. Additionally, damages from something like leaky pipes can leave you needing new furniture. It's important to stay vigilant as a homeowner to try and nip these issues before they arise. 

4. Teeth

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With desserts, fast food, and sugary drinks providing temptation everywhere we go, dentists stay busy in the United States. One cavity can cost between $100 and $300, so a sudden mouth-related accident or unseen long-term problem will be a proverbial kick in the teeth. Without insurance, dental problems can skyrocket into the thousands and don't expect your dentist to offer a payment plan. Many require payment upfront or at least a sizable downpayment.

5. Losing a Job

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Depending on your industry, job security isn’t what it once was, and even the bluest-chipped company could start outsourcing labor. It's best to have your resume or CV updated just in case the worst happens. Though you're expected to give your two week notice, your company can release you without a moment's notice. And don't expect your health insurance to remain covered for a duration after your firing. Some companies may, but others will terminate your benefits as soon as possible.

6. Pension Loss

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A terrifying prospect for anybody is losing one’s partner, but worse still when their pension goes with them. If your partner handled all the finances, you could be in a bad position when they pass, leaving you to grieve with a mountain of bills you don't understand. Communicate with your spouse so you understand your financials and have a backup plan if their pension doesn't offer survivor benefits. A life insurance policy is an absolute must, but make sure it covers more than just the funeral costs.

7. Family Members With Bad Money Skills

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Large families invariably have at least one member who struggles through life without taking control of their money. Reckless spending, inconsistent employment, and criminal activity can all lead to a sibling or cousin falling on hard times. It all depends on how forgiving we are, but who doesn’t help a brother or sister in need? The key is not to put yourself into debt by helping them. Yes, it's sad that their life is scattered, but really think about the point of this list before deciding whether to help.

8. Aging Parents

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Not all humans are born with money-making skills. Even hard-working people can plan their financial futures poorly. Having parents with disabilities can be a considerable burden, especially with no Medicaid, low-quality medical insurance, or no insurance, depending on your state. Thankfully, the National Institute of Health advises that older people in need may be eligible for government help when moving into a care facility. Things get even worse when that aging parent is slowly losing themselves to a disease, making it even harder for them to take care of themselves.

9. Infant Health Problems

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The importance of watching one’s health during pregnancy can’t be overstated. However, even the most fastidious moms can find unexpected health issues with their children, such as hearing or sight conditions. Preparing for parenthood is daunting, but the more parents plan financially, the better. You likely knew that your child would be expensive, but you'd be surprised by the expenses that can arise once they're born and the number of times you may panic-run to a hospital, fearing the worst and accruing unnecessary medical bills.

10. Giving Too Much Help to Others

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As kind-hearted as some people are, our sympathy is tempered by a shake of the head when kind people are repeatedly let down by those they help. Altruism isn’t always the right thing to do, especially if money is already tight. Before you co-sign a loan or rental agreement, consider whether the person you're helping is responsible enough. If they default on the loan or rent, it's also your problem, and you will be held liable for any balances owed.

11. Living a Long Life

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It may be a morbid thought, but we all must go sometime. Of course, none of us really know when we'll pass away, but we can guestimate, and it's off that guestimate that we build our retirement. But what if you live five, ten, or even fifteen years longer than you planned? We don't discuss enough the possibility of living too long. Can you imagine planning your money for up to a certain age only to surpass it and risk going broke? 

12. Divorce

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If getting married is the best moment of your life, becoming divorced might just be the worst. Statistics database Axios says that prenups are becoming more popular among the younger generations, with 47% of Millennials and 41% of Gen-Zers favoring the fiscal agreement. Some couples are able to see their divorce coming from years away while others may leave one spouse completely dumbfounded.  Sadly, divorce settlements can ruin anybody, especially when finding new living arrangements, furnishings, and a new host of utility bills. 

13. Legal Troubles

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Any bankruptcy lawyer may warn you to keep your nose clean and stay clear of the law. The state can access your income if one bad judgment comes against you. Nothing will sting worse than Uncle Sam having a monthly poke around your pockets — you will kiss any significant slice of your wages goodbye to pay for your past transgressions. In short, don't break the law. Even something as simple as a speeding ticket can be an unexpected financial burden.

14. Delinquent Kids

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Do you know what happens when your rambunctious kid breaks something? You, as the parent, have to pay for it. It can start to feel like every bad decision your child makes is a financial hit. That's one reason it's so important to establish a relationship built on respect. If your child respects you, they won't want to do anything that makes your life more difficult.

15. Financial Mismanagement

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Whether it’s trusting the wrong people, making the wrong investment, or reneging on purchasing home insurance, you are guaranteed financial SNAFUs if you conduct business with the wrong people. A good example is a homeowner not replacing faulty plumbing, instead letting the new owners take the hit, hence why an inspection is so important. Be smart with your money-related decisions now and you won't have to say “Goodbye” to so much of it later.

16. Inflation

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2021 marked the start of a rise in inflation, which peaked in October 2022. Some like to say it is due to the Ukrainian conflict, but most people know it wasn’t solely down to the war, as it started a year before, at around the same time we all started going crazy from being locked indoors during the COVID pandemic. Regardless, sudden jolts in interest rates can cripple any household already at their spending limit.

17. The Failure of U.S. Medical Insurance

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Although medical insurance coverage in America has never been better, at roughly 92% of the country, medical bills are still terrifying. Even if you have insurance, it may not cover certain conditions, leaving the insurance holders with co-payments that can still send your savings (if you have any) into a nosedive. Sadly, those who don’t have any are living in fiscal no man’s land and may be forced into long-term payment plans with the medical provider.

18. Car Insurance Premium Spikes

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While your monthly car premium could remain stable, one accident is all it takes to push your premiums to mind-boggling prices. Forbes warns that a single car crash could increase your annual payment by 73% if you use Geico. Even State Farm’s 21% increase is significant enough to cause pain in the purse. Pay attention while on the road and drive like one mishap could set you back significantly. Because it can.

19. Cancer

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Nobody wants to plan for the hypothetical, but it makes sense to make sure your health plan covers the treatments that come with a cancer diagnosis. Check your work policies, make sure you have some contingency, and maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. Get screened regularly and don't hesitate to speak to your primary doctor if you see or feel something unusual.

20. Funeral Costs

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Nothing about losing a loved one is easy, especially the cost of burying them. People often joke about certain big box stores selling coffins, but they may not have seen the price the funeral home charges. In any case, unexpected bereavement is incredibly taxing on one’s heart and wallet. As previously mentioned, life insurance is critical if you're married or live with someone who would be financially responsible for your funeral.

21. Owning a Business

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Whether you run a cafe, run an arborist service, or work as a freelancer, getting sick or being pulled away from work for emergencies is expensive. Some businesses are just one person who isn’t on payroll with company benefits: small business owners have to work seven days a week to keep the lights on. Paid leave isn’t an option.

22. Pets

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How much is that doggy in the window? It all depends on what naturally occurring mutations or health defects it has. Tragically, for many people, pet sickness or accidents may push your savings into meltdown. People love their pets like children (at least those without children do), so buying pet insurance is crucial. Do remember that most pet insurance reimburses for medical procedures after the fact rather than covering it upfront.

23. Tax Troubles

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Imagine you accidentally underpaid your taxes for 40 years, only for an auditor to find a discrepancy and point out the problem. This mistake could ruin someone financially. If you do find yourself burdened by taxes, the IRS offers a reduced payment option to help soften the blow. So long as you work with the IRS, chances are it will not bankrupt you. Unless you owe a substantial amount, then they'll come at you hardcore.

24. Tools or Hardware Replacement

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Ask any freelancer what they dread the most, and many will say equipment failure. Just as a construction worker dreads their angle grinder failing, a programmer will fear the same for their laptop. The worst thing about losing equipment to wear and tear, accidents, or theft is that invariably, you need an instant replacement, which often means using a credit card and paying more than you should. 

Author: Ben Rice

Title: Trending Topics, News, Features.

Expertise: Lifestyle, Travel, Music, Film.


Raised in England and with a career background in international education, Ben now lives in Southern Spain with his wife and son, having lived on three continents, including Africa, Asia, and North America. He has worked diverse jobs ranging from traveling film projectionist to landscape gardener.

He offers a unique, well-traveled perspective on life, with several specialties related to his travels. Ben loves writing about food, music, parenting, education, culture, and film, among many other topics. His passion is Gen-X geekery, namely movies, music, and television.

He has spent the last few years building his writing portfolio, starting as a short fiction author for a Hong Kong publisher, then moving into freelance articles and features, with bylines for various online publications, such as Wealth of Geeks, Fansided, and Detour Magazine.