My family and I just returned from a trip to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, a journey we’ve made three times over the last two years as we’ve tried to get a handle on why Emily hasn’t been feeling well. During our last visit the team of specialists we met with gave her, in my words, a “non-diagnosis-diagnosis” of a “non-differentiated” auto-immune illness. They realized something was going on, they just couldn’t say what.

When I think back to when Emily’s symptoms first began, I’m reminded of how quickly things can change. I’m sure the progression wasn’t this dramatic (or maybe it was), but it seems like one-minute Emily was up and about, all systems go, the next she was having a hard time getting out of bed and complaining of migraines and flu-like symptoms. With hardly a moment’s notice, we had to completely reshuffle our lives.

I share this with you to stress the importance of getting things done while you can. You see, I planned on getting life insurance on Emily. Our desire was always for her to raise the children and so it’s not like I was concerned about replacing income, but I still wanted her to be covered in case the worst happened. That way there would be money to help Jack and Gwen with college, offset other expenses that might pop up (child care, therapy, etc.) and relieve a bit of financial discomfort. Unfortunately, I procrastinated, and while it’s not impossible to imagine her being approved for insurance, it certainly won’t come without additional hoops to jump through and higher premiums to be paid.

If I could go back in time, to before Emily started showing symptoms, I’d tell myself: do it now. But we can’t change the past, only the future. We can ask ourselves; what’s one thing I will certainly regret not doing now, if things don’t work out as I expect?

Maybe you need more money in your savings account. The economy is humming along, the job market is tight, the stock market is at all-time highs. All these things can lull us into complacency. Do it now. Build up a safety cushion, even if it means reducing or even completely stopping what you are saving to retirement for a period of time. (Be mindful of any employer match, of course.)

Maybe you’ve been putting off completing your will, power of attorney, and health care proxy. Do it now, especially if you have kids. You must put in writing, in a legal document that is witnessed and notarized, who will care for your children if you’re gone. Don’t leave that up to the courts. Do. It. Now.

Maybe there’s a vacation you’ve been wanting to go on. One of those bucket-list-kind-of-trips. You’ve thought and thought but it’s never felt like the right time. If you can pay in cash and still have adequate reserves, do it now! I promise, you will never regret using your money for something like this.

I understand why many of these things take a backseat. Work can be stressful, family/relationships can be draining, our kids can be driving us mad, stuff around the house needs fixing. Shoot, as I type there’s a brigade of ants coming into my kitchen through a light switch and it’s darn near all I can think about!

Yet, these things are important, and we can either take action from a position of choice or a position of need. It’s too late to build your emergency fund when your job is on the line and it’s too late to pick guardians for your kids when, you know, it’s too late. Do it now. Do it on your terms.

Back to Emily’s health. Thankfully, the last 12 months have brought about some positive developments, and while there’s still a lot to be done and more to learn, the good news is that we have a firm diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or POTS, for short. (If you are interested, you can learn more about it by watching this video.) Even better, they’ve removed all diagnoses associated with an auto-immune illness and, thanks to the new diagnosis, this was our last planned trip to Baltimore as there is POTS expert right in our backyard at Duke University Medical Center.

Obviously, I can’t go back in time and get that life insurance on Emily before she started feeling ill. But I won’t forget the lesson it taught me: Do it now.

Author Ryan Smith, CFP®, RICP®

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