June 3, 2020
As we have all been stuck living in altered lifestyles and finding our new normal, I have seen so many milestones occurring around me. There have been endless parades for birthday celebrations for the children in my neighborhood. I am watching high school seniors prepare to head off to start college. A few educators I know are retiring at the end of this school year. Yesterday I had a COVID-19 nineteenth wedding anniversary! Even in the midst of so much uncertainty time does not stop for anyone, and like many others lately I have desperately been longing for a change of scenery.
Over the weekend we took our family away quarantine style to the Adirondacks for a long weekend of camping. I am not the best camper in the world, but my family loves it and I love them so I make it work. Although I had internet access, it was nice to disconnect and not watch the news or listen to any of the horrible things that are going on in the country right now. As if we don’t already have financial anxiety from the wrecked economy and market uncertainty, now we have civil unrest and crime everywhere. I feel like the nightly news often resembles an apocalyptic movie. For the first time in a long time we genuinely enjoyed each other and spent quality time doing things as a group. As silly as it sounds, it is quite difficult to wrangle your kids together to find common ground and happiness. Teenage girls and little boys often don’t have the same choice of preferred activities, but the Adirondacks have a magical way of accomplishing that.
Just when I started to settle in and cozy up to a book next to the camp fire I got a call on Sunday that nobody wants to receive. A dear friend was on the other end and absolutely devastated as her son-in-law was in a horrific ATV accident and, at the time, his prospects for surviving were not looking good. Her pain instantly cut through me and her fear was so real. I knew this young man and her daughter are about to become first time parents and that, of course, compounded the magnitude of the situation. Literally, any day now a baby is due and I was talking about the potential for someone to be a widow far too early. I couldn’t even wrap my head around this. Thankfully, by the grace of God he seems to be on the road to a recovery, although it will likely be a long one. Getting that news felt like a Monday miracle.
There is a curse to being a financial advisor and parts of the job tend to be not so glamourous. As I’ve been talking to my friend since the day of the accident, planning-mode-Iris has been at the forefront of my mind right behind the care and concern and I have wondered if this young family have a plan. Of course they have a plan for the arrival of their baby, but do they have a contingency plan? What would happen if he didn’t pull through and these were real conversations that were circling the cellular waves. What if this, what if that? What if? The least favorite part of what I do with people is to prepare for exactly this. I often joke with clients and tell them that the Grim Reaper’s shadow may be on my resume because I have to have the hard conversations about all of the what-if’s. Let’s face it, death is not a fun topic of conversation, but it is a necessary one, especially if you have a family.
Contingency planning is not just for young families. It is for everyone and it evolves as we age and chart the course of our lives. A well-constructed financial plan not only allows you reach your financial goals, but also protects yourself, your family, and your assets along the way. We all know at some point we are going to die, but what if it happens prematurely? What if you have an accident and you cannot work for some period of time? Where would your income come from? What would happen if you were to become ill in your retirement years and need long-term care services? Nobody wants to spend down their assets if they can be protected. Some of the answers may be to insure the risk which has become much more affordable in recent years. Other solutions may be to visit with an estate planning attorney, and in many cases the answer is some combination of the two. Every situation is unique and that is why it important to develop your financial plan early, make sure your contingencies are addressed, and amend it along the way. Find a partner in an advisor that can guide you, make sure your plan is complete, and help you to understand the components of it.
Milestones are something to be excited about and these days it’s fun to see the creative ways people are bringing happiness to others. There are certain life moments where it is natural to address your contingency plan – marriage, the birth of children, divorce, retirement. Truly, any time something happens in your life that effects your money or cash flow is a good time to check in with your advisor. Make sure your plan is in place so that if you are on the receiving end of a bad phone call it is not the first thing you have to think about, and always remember to wear a helmet if you participate in hobbies that involve motorized recreational vehicles. Your loved ones will thank you, and so will your advisor.
Iris Buczkowski is the founder of Birch Wealth Management (birchwealth.com). Original content provided by Iris is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice.