The Time I Was In a Coma

For an entire year, I was in a coma.

I missed birthdays, Christmases, births, deaths, work – everything. The whole world went on without me and then one day I snapped out of it and BOOM! I was back.

And then, thank God, I woke up from the dream I was having :)

But wow, what a thing to experience… I’ve mentioned how vivid they’re getting since taking on the Benjamin Franklin schedule, but this one tops the cake. It was unreal.

And while I can’t accurately express the magnitude of how it felt, I can tell you a bunch of the questions that popped up that’ll better put it in perspective. It was freaky!

  • “What happened to me?” (No one knows. One second you were taking the SATs, and the next you were a walking zombie.)
  • “What do you mean a walking zombie? I wasn’t sleeping the whole time?” (No – you were you, only without memory. So you couldn’t do anything or remember anything, but you were still walking around trying to live your life. You were dead, but alive.)
  • “That sounds miserable! How did you guys take care of me?” (We took turns. And it *was* miserable. Your mom and I took care of you most of the time, along with your legal guardian. (More on that in a bit))
  • “Did everyone think I was going to die?” (*silence*)
  • “What time did I go to bed every night?” (7:30. And you’d wake up at 5:45 every morning.)
  • “Aghh!! I broke my Benjamin Franklin routine???!” (Yes, why is that your concern??)

Haha… And then there were the questions I was too afraid to ask :(

  • “Where are my two beautiful boys?”
  • “Did you move on? Are you dating anyone???”
  • and of course, “What happens now?”

It was pretty surreal to say the least. And I’m quite happy that it was indeed a dream or else this would have been a completely different post!

Somewhere in that virtual reality, however, I also brought up our finances and was hoping (praying!) they were okay. My wife is anything but a numbers lover, and if she had it her way she’d never have to think about money again. Which to me sounds like the real nightmare – hah. But I guess that’s why we work well together :)

Anyways, one simple question shed more than enough light on it. I asked her if she was paying the bills, and she just stared back at me in silence…

“Oh no…  you didn’t pay the bills??”

“Didn’t they shut off cable and electricity? What about water?  You had to be paying them, right?”

“Let me guess… you waited for it all to be shut down and then you paid?”

“Yes,” she replied, unapologetically.

You’d think this would be the least of my concerns considering I WAS IN A COMA FOR A WHOLE YEAR!, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it and was just amazed at how fast our situation went to shambles in a mere 12 months.

We used to be so GOOD with money! Our whole life was good actually, I hardly had a complaint.

And yet, here we were just a short while later and I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Or what my family looked like, or if we even had a penny to our name for that matter.  Everything changed in a single instance.

I’ve been processing this all morning, and all I can say is that I pray it never happens to any of us in the real world. Though I do hope it does in your dreams so you can pause and appreciate life too! :) It also puts our Would You Rather question from over 5 years ago into better perspective as well (any of you remember this from back then?):

Would you rather…

Keep the next year of your life, as-is?

Orrr skip out on it entirely but be $100,000 richer in return?

Back in 2010 I guessed I would probably say no to the idea, but now I KNOW I would hit decline. Life is too precious!! I probably wouldn’t even do it for a million… And this guy wouldn’t even do it for $25 million! (Check out that link when you’re done reading – it was a fascinating article)

All hypertheticals aside, though, I did come away with a few reminders out of all this…

  1. You never know when it’s your last day! We have to appreciate life the best we can.
  2. We also have to make sure our finances are in order so others can easily manage them if need be
  3. We need to make sure we TELL our loved ones (significant other, parents, whoever) where all our important documents are! Lists of account info, accounts we have open, insurance stuff, etc.
  4. We have to make sure to marry someone who will take care of us when we’re sick/in a fake coma ;)
  5. And lastly, we have to do our best not to let work control us.

That last point goes with another part of the dream that fit with the randomness that it all was… Apparently the guy who was administering the SATs the day “the incident” happened was appointed to be my guardian for the year since all administers are in charge of their test-takers (hah). And since I had turned into a zombie and couldn’t finish it, he had to wait around until I came to.

But here’s the sad part: he was supposed to retire at the end of that day!!!

So he was forced to keep working for another year because his pension relied on it. He had nothing of his own set aside to quit on his own terms, and even if he did he was too loyal to leave anyways. He told me he was consumed by his work.

Let’s try not to be like that guy, okay? Or a zombie for that matter. So many people are working and spending without realizing how fast time is passing them by, and one day they’re gonna wake up old and gray and hopefully not penniless.

Make sure you’re not in a coma yourself!

(And also that you’re not obsessing about money as that can lead to scary dreams too ;))

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  1. Ramona September 25, 2015 at 6:38 AM

    We have a small daughter and try to get everything in place at all time. If something happened tomorrow (god forbid), she should be taken care of. I have a friend who has lost both her parents in about 3 years and she was lucky that they had NO debt, they had a small apartment and a house in a remote village, plus a car. Since her father didn’t like the bank system, she also found more than 10K in the garage. Now that’s a proper way to set your child, not leave all your problems on their shoulders. My friend is working and earning well, she’s also a saver, so she would have been OK without the money, house, car, but it’s clearly better to have them all like this.

    1. J. Money September 25, 2015 at 10:44 AM

      That is such a fear of mine – leaving problems to my kids if/when I pass! And even more so not being there for them to love/help/guide, ugh… worst feeling ever.

    2. Lavinia September 26, 2015 at 8:42 AM

      Ramona, you look Romanian :) I am pretty sure I saw your picture on a mom FB group in Romania. Now, I need to remember which one it is.

  2. Brian @ Debt Discipline September 25, 2015 at 6:39 AM

    Wow that’s some dream, can’t say I’ve had anything close to that in awhile. No coma for me, fully awake and aware. Just gave my kids a kiss goodbye and wished them a good day at school.

    1. J. Money September 25, 2015 at 10:44 AM

      that makes me so happy :)

  3. Justin @ Root of Good September 25, 2015 at 7:51 AM

    Now way would I trade a year of life for $100,000 more! I might have taken you up on the offer at a naive age of 23 or 24, but not now. More money won’t make me materially more happy, and I’m actively turning down more work and new engagements to focus on my goals: spend time with family and friends, recreate, create, learn, relax.

    1. J. Money September 25, 2015 at 10:45 AM

      Damn good position to be in, sir.

      You can’t see me but I’m giving you an e-hand shake :)

  4. Kate @ Cashville Skyline September 25, 2015 at 7:51 AM

    Woah, what a crazy, vivid dream. There’s no way I’d skip an entire year to come back $100,000 richer. The past few years have been mini lifetimes, really. And I can’t imagine missing any of it. But you’re totally right about getting my assets in order if anything else happened to me! Maybe I’ll start attacking that this weekend :)

  5. Jason Hull, CFP September 25, 2015 at 8:03 AM

    You brought up a point that a lot of people miss in real life.

    The guardian.

    If this were to have happened in real life, identifying your guardian, having an advanced medical directive, and (if applicable) a do not resuscitate could ensure that your wishes are followed, doctors know what to do, and your family and/or loved ones aren’t forced to make an incredibly difficult decision.

    BTW, recently a guy came out of a coma after 11 years. His first question was whether or not Roger Federer was still good.

    1. J. Money September 25, 2015 at 12:19 PM

      Hahahha… mine would probably be “is my blog still around?” :)

  6. Hannah September 25, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    $100K is definitely not worth it. I could just hustle and get that much money. Even $1M isn’t worth it to me. Usually I would give up one year for $25M, but not this time- it would mean skipping the first six months of my kids life (although it also means skipping potty training and labor, maybe it would be worth it after all).

    1. J. Money September 25, 2015 at 12:31 PM

      $25M is quite life changing…. as long as you wake up alive to be able to enjoy it!

  7. Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies September 25, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    Ooh. What a dream! Nightmare, perhaps? At first I thought, there’s no way anyone would agree to any number in exchange for a year of their lives…but we do it all the time, don’t we? One more raise, one more bonus, one more year. What a terrific reminder to be more intentional with all that we do.

    1. J. Money September 25, 2015 at 12:39 PM

      Right? All workaholics are giving up their time for _____ (usually money).

  8. Frugalapolis September 25, 2015 at 8:19 AM

    I read your post with interest because this happened to my 53 yr old brother in real life. He had a headache one day and a brain bleed. The doctors did an MRI and caused a series of strokes and he lost all his short term memory. Its been 2 years now and he still can’t remember what happened 5 minutes ago. He can’t walk the dog because he doesn’t remember his neighbor hood or what house is his. He can’t read a book because he can’t remember what the page before read. He can’t enjoy sporting events because he doesn’t remember who is winning or playing. Of course he is depressed and frustrated. He is good at faking that he recalls stuff, but he must be watched almost like a toddler. His wife is going crazy and his kids disrespect him and tease him. Luckily he had a long term disability insurance policy that keeps them financially comfortable. His only joy is to live in the moment. It makes you think. Get those medical directives and power of attorney forms filled out before something like this happens to you.

    1. J. Money September 25, 2015 at 12:41 PM

      oh my gosh I’m so sorry!! that is horrible sounding :( I hope you didn’t take offense to my coma stuff here – wow… sending positive thoughts his way!! maybe there’s a chance it’ll come back one day? ever a possibility?

  9. Will at Phroogal September 25, 2015 at 9:04 AM

    I had a dream like this once. It felt like I had overslept – just for a reallllly long time.

    Time always trumps money.

  10. Kristi @ Femme Frugality September 25, 2015 at 9:06 AM

    That sounds like a horrible dream! I have pretty vivid nightmares, so I can definitely relate. I love that you were able to pull lessons in personal finance from a dream. I agree completely that one of the most important things you can do with your money is to make sure that your loved ones know how to handle them if you’re gone.

  11. Kate Horrell September 25, 2015 at 9:23 AM

    Shazaam! I wouldn’t be able to sleep after that! And no way I would miss out on the next year for $100K. It’s just money, but kiddos won’t be here much longer. (Yes, I’ve moved from the “oh, I can’t wait until they’re all grown” to “oh, they are going to leave someday” camp. It snuck up on me.)

  12. Jim Wang September 25, 2015 at 10:06 AM

    I’d keep my life the way it is now, as parents to young kids, you realize how precious time is. You don’t want to wake up one day and realize your kids are all grown and all you have to show for it is a few extra Gs.

    It’s funny how our nightmares becomes so much more psychological when we get older. As a kid, it’s monsters coming to get us. As adults, it’s missing a year of your kids growing up.

    1. J. Money September 25, 2015 at 12:42 PM

      Yes!! I’m so afraid of leaving my kids fatherless!! Or not protecting them all the time!

  13. Chris Muller September 25, 2015 at 10:09 AM

    In a dream, “if you are in a coma it could suggest that events or hurts in your life have caused you to withdraw or be laregely incapable of interacting with other people and events. It can also portray a situation in which you have become unconscious or unaware of what is going on around you and have turned inwards.”

    That’s from – pretty crazy. Dreams are incredible, man. They really make you think. Our brain is so extremely powerful, too. Right now I am reading a book called Thinking, Fast and Slow and it talks about our concious and unconcious mind and how it makes decisions and thinks. Check it out.

    I love how you spun the dream into an article like this – I really enjoy reading pieces that make you think. As to your question… I’m with you bro — there’s no way in hell I would miss a year of my life for money. Life > money.

    Awesome article J.

    1. J. Money September 25, 2015 at 12:49 PM

      love that name – dreamhawk. you’re always dropping new resources over – thanks for that :)

  14. Mr Zombie September 25, 2015 at 10:42 AM

    Nowt wrong with being a Zombie :-D

  15. Mrs. Budgets September 25, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    That’s one crazy dream. I think you need to take a day off from writing about personal finance. I wouldn’t trade any amount of money for a year of my life, because what if I didn’t wake up. I’m fully alive and engaged in life!

  16. Chris @ Flipping a Dollar September 25, 2015 at 12:05 PM

    Lmao you’re losing it. I haven’t been waking up at 5am since the baby because I need my beauty rest damn it. Only weird dream was one when I started talking in my sleep about how I didn’t put the baby on the tripod. In the dream, baby had an outfit that could screw into a camera tripod or one of those foldup stools with the three legs for camping.

    Maybe we need to go to bed earlier???

    1. J. Money September 25, 2015 at 12:50 PM

      Haha… sounds like a new business venture to me :)

      1. Chris @ Flipping a Dollar September 25, 2015 at 7:17 PM

        Shark tank here we come!

  17. Thias @It Pays Dividends September 25, 2015 at 12:30 PM

    I’m glad I don’t have dreams like that (or at least I don’t remember them) otherwise I’d drive myself crazy every morning! haha

    I don’t think I could ever trade a year for money -> Time that passes can’t be recovered but you can always find ways to make money. The thought just puts the important things in perspective and makes you think about what your priorities are.

  18. Maggie @ Northern Expenditure September 25, 2015 at 12:48 PM

    Way to ruin that poor SAT proctor’s life, ya jerk! Scary, scary dream! I had a dream once where I was totally aware of everything, but I couldn’t talk or move. It was the worst thing ever. Turns out it actually happened to a guy… FOR 12 YEARS! ( I would not take any money in the world to be stuck in a year like that!

    1. J. Money September 25, 2015 at 12:53 PM


  19. Dividend Growth Investor September 25, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    I am not sure if you have seen the move “In Time”, with Justin Timberlake.. In it, the currency is time, and people exchange time for everything. Once you run out of time, you pass away.. You have the initial 25 years guaranteed, then you have to exchange your labor for more “time”.

    The rich live “forever” and the poor die quickly..

    1. J. Money September 28, 2015 at 1:11 PM

      Yes! I’ve seen it and actually blogged about it before! Brilliant movie indeed. And I guarantee if it were for real we’d all chose to do things differently in our lives!

  20. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer September 26, 2015 at 9:36 AM

    Wow, J, what a trip!! Those kinds of dreams leave me pondering life for a long time. And, so glad it was just a dream, for your sake and for ours. :-)

  21. Andrew September 26, 2015 at 1:09 PM

    I wasn’t sure if this was real or not at first. Way to get me thinking about life insurance . Often times investing and reading about finances is fun, but getting things in order for the unexpected is something I always seem to put off until tomorrow. One day that tomorrow won’t be there.. It’s pretty awesome that you got the idea to write this from a dream. Do you keep a pen and paper next to you while you sleep?

    1. J. Money September 28, 2015 at 1:12 PM

      Nope – my dreams have been so vivid lately (literally every single night for the past two months since waking up at 5!) that they stick with me for the better half of a day. And some – like this one – for many days!

  22. Dee @ Color Me Frugal September 27, 2015 at 7:49 AM

    What a bizarre dream! I think I am most impressed that you remembered it. I usually forget mine as soon as I wake up!
    No way I’d ever trade $100k for a year. I’d miss too much of my young daughters life! That’s actually the same reason why I had to quit working for my terrible employer when she was born. Just couldn’t see myself continuing to be miserable working there while trying to be a mom. There would have been lots of “lost” time that way as well.

    1. J. Money September 28, 2015 at 1:13 PM

      That’s a hard decision to pull the trigger on too – congrats on being able to do so!

  23. Bonnie September 27, 2015 at 1:35 PM

    So…this was a dream? I usually love your posts and site, but honestly, this made no sense at all. :P

  24. Michelle September 28, 2015 at 2:34 AM

    Time is really important. That’s why I am making sure that every second is spent productively that I couldn’t afford to waste time with trivial things. When it’s time of working, I work. When it’s of having fun, I enjoy. That is how I spend my time.

  25. Steve Miller September 28, 2015 at 4:11 PM

    I can’t say I’ve ever had a dream like this before (you must be more frugal than me: ha ha). But I can tell you, it is important to live each day to the fullest because we are not guaranteed how long it will last.

    When my kids were growing up I made it a point to be at every event. Every ballgame, school event, and practice. And when I was with them, I was not on the phone or ignoring them in anyway, I wanted to be present. Now that they are in college, I am so glad I approached it that way.

    All the best.

    1. J. Money September 29, 2015 at 2:31 PM

      I want to be that type of dad so bad! So far so good w/ everything, especially now they’re at home and out of daycare, but def. looking forward to all their fun events and cheering them on :) I know that time goes by so fast!

  26. Kayla @ Kat Script September 30, 2015 at 4:38 PM

    Dude! That is a wild dream. Maybe I need to try this Ben Franklin thing too, haha.