Previously published in The Bulletin, Bend Oregon on July 18, 2023
Having been in the financial services industry since I was 22 and rapidly approaching 60, I often spent time with my parents talking about my job, the industry, and lessons I’ve learned over the years. The importance of knowing and controlling investment costs, diversifying your investments to reduce risk, understanding, and minimizing taxes, tracking your results relative to appropriate benchmarks and perhaps most importantly, planning.
None of us can predict the future which is why it is so important to have a plan. Not just a plan for your investments, but a plan for your life. We run illustrations for clients called, “What ifs.” What if you retire tomorrow? What if you moved to another state, bought a second home, purchased a boat or plane? What if? This exercise can be very powerful in showing what is possible, and often assists in illustrating clients can achieve much more than they ever imagined. But what about a plan for your life and health?
Planning for life transitions can be stressful. Thinking about the “What ifs” can be daunting. What if we cannot stay in our home? What if I become ill, incapacitated mentally or physically? What if I die, what if my spouse dies? For many of us, having these conversations or even thinking about these topics can be paralyzing. So, they often just get put off.
My dad recently passed at almost 94 years of age. He was a great man and an amazing father. He lived a full life, staying in his home by Pringle Falls in La Pine with my mom until a few months prior to his death. My mom has been suffering from memory loss for over a decade and my dad was her primary care giver for much of that time. When asked how they were doing, Dad used to say together they barely made up one person. They were very codependent. It worked, not great, but it worked. That is, until he was diagnosed with cancer.
I tried many times over the years to get my parents to discuss “What ifs.” My dad's usual response was they were staying in their house and there was no need to plan because it would be my problem when/if something happened. Not a great plan, but it was his plan. As my dad’s illness progressed, he finally came to the realization he was not going to be able to take care of my mom or himself anymore and we needed to act. Fortunately, I had been planning. I had them on several waiting lists for assisted living and memory care. The cost of in-home care is significant if you can find it. Most facilities tend to have months-long waiting lists. Dad did not qualify for hospice care and what would happen to my mom once he passed? We were lucky. We were able to move them together, get assistance for them both, and put a plan in place for my mom once dad passed.
Discussing long-term financial goals, end-of-life wishes, and the division of assets can help avoid potential conflicts and can ensure a smooth transition when the time comes. Seeking the guidance of professionals, such as financial advisors, and estate attorneys, can also be beneficial during these discussions.
Topics to Consider with Your Parents or Kids
- Future Care Plans – conversations about living arrangements, medical care decisions and financial considerations.
- Health & Well-Being – engage in discussions about parents’ overall health, understanding existing medical conditions, medications being taken and required check-ups.
- Financial Planning & Estate Management – understand your parents’ financial situation, retirement savings, investments, and any existing debts or expenses. Inquire about the existence of important legal documents such as wills, powers of attorney, and healthcare proxies.
I encourage you to have a conversation. A conversation with yourself, your siblings, with your spouse or loved one, your children, your parents. Discuss the plan, discuss the “What ifs.” We don’t know how our lives will play out but have the conversation and write down your plans. Revisit them periodically and share them with the ones you love. You’ll all be glad you did!