Financial Perspectives: Reflecting on the disaster in Japan

This week I am taking a week off from my usual financial column to discuss the tragedy in Japan.

In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the utter devastation those people have suffered, I was taken by the story of survival of the 60-year-old man from Sendai who was washed out to sea with the tsunami. He was found in the open ocean two days after the tsunami destroyed his home and killed his wife. He was found clinging to the debris, possibly from his own home. His comment to the ship that rescued him was that he thought that today was going to be the last day of his life. Talk about having a will to live. This guy will be on Oprah before her show ends.

This coastal town, and the others like it, have been essentially washed away, possibly killing tens of thousands. It is winter in Japan where the temperatures get down into the 20s at night. To think it possible that someone could survive in open seas in those types of temperatures is nothing short of a miracle. It seems likely that God let this guy survive for a reason.


For this man and the many others like him, what do you do now? Rebuilding your life after such tragedy seems almost impossible. Very likely everything these people held dear is gone – family members and friends, place of work, place of worship, etc.


In the coming weeks these people will not be worried about trivial things like whether the Flyers will win the Stanley Cup, how the Phillies are doing in Spring Training or deciding what weekend they will make the trip to Ocean City or Wildwood to pick their summer rental. They will be thinking about things like, Where will we live? How am I going to support my family? What are we going to eat tonight?


Working together towards the common goal or rebuilding is essential for the people of Japan. This is what they did after World War II. They are a disciplined people and hopefully their leadership will be able to keep the people focused on the common goal. In the short run food, water and shelter are the most important things that are needed for survival. Nations from around the world are responding the same way they did with the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. If you can afford to give a little I encourage you to call the Red Cross or the charity of your choice to help these people.

Finally, the point of all this is that you should never take things for granted. Unfortunately, it is always situations like these, or when we lose someone close to us, that we are reminded of this.

Jim Heisler is a Certified Financial Planner with Family Wealth Services in Holmesburg. You can read all his Financial Perspective columns here.

Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., A Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC and Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc. a Registered Investment Advisor.  Family Wealth Services, LLC and Cambridge are not affiliated.

Jim Heisler, CFP®, CDFA™, CASL™ Family Wealth Services, LLC is located at 8275 Frankford Ave. (215-332-4968)


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