As a financial advisor, I’ve heard every financial New Year’s resolution there is. Some include a new savings goal. The better ones focus on a new life goal. And yet, for nearly everyone I know—clients, friends, colleagues—the biggest financial challenge they face is not the lack of a goal. What’s missing from the puzzle for many is a plan for every season of life.
To help make 2018 a year of real financial change and progress in your own life, start by asking yourself these four tough questions:
1. What would happen to your family if you died tonight?
It’s not an easy question—which is why so few people ask it at all. My client Bill is a perfect example. A family man to the core, he adores his wife and his three young children, and he goes out of his way to give them things and experiences to create a truly wonderful life. A beautiful home. Thoughtful gifts. Even a Disney Cruise last summer. But when I asked him about life insurance, he didn’t want to talk about it. “I’m healthy as can be,” he said. “And I’m planning to live a good, long life.”
Unfortunately, as we all know, life—and death—can thwart even the best-laid plans. Luckily, Bill was able to hear me when I said that one of the best ways he could express his love for his family was to be sure they are protected, no matter what happens. We found a term life insurance policy that fits his needs and his budget, and he put it in place right away. Heading into 2018, Bill can rest assured that his family will be well provided for—even if his plan to live a good, long life doesn’t work out as hoped. Is your family prepared?
2. Will your children be able to provide a quality education for your grandchildren?
My friends Susan and Tom sent both of their children to Emory University for less than $30,000 a year in the late ‘80s. But their granddaughter is applying for next year, and fees and tuition are slated to cost about $50,000. And despite saving for years, their son and his wife simply don’t have the means to pay that kind of tuition.
What about your own children? Can they afford to educate their children as you educated them? If not, do you want to—and can you—step in to help? The rising cost of higher education caused student loan debt to soar from $260 billion in 2004 to $1.4 trillion in 2017. The last thing any of us want is for our grandchildren to start their careers neck-deep in debt. Thinking and talking about the options now can help preserve your family legacy in a very real way.
3. Will your aging parents need your financial, physical, or emotional help in the future?
Are you in the “sandwich generation”? I am. My own children are moving into their college years just when my Dad needs a little more help. At 86, he still lives alone in South Georgia. Due to his excellent planning and habits, he’s in fine shape financially, but physically he is starting to decline. I go to see him whenever I can (I’m just now back from a great 5-day visit), but I worry that he’ll need me when I can’t get there quickly enough. If money were an issue, it would be a whole other challenge to tackle.
It’s hard to think about our parents’ aging. It can be even harder to ask them the tough questions: Are you ok financially? Will you need our help? One of the best things you can do today to be sure your parents—and you—are prepared for the future is to have the conversation, and then plan accordingly. Financial surprises are rarely a good thing, and the more you know now, the better.
4. How do you want to live your ‘second half’ of life?
My client Patty recently hit her own ‘halftime.’ At the peak of her career, she’s suddenly able to see the future—a time when she’s no longer running a company, but when she’ll have the freedom to give her time, money, and passion to create a better world. We’ve just started working together on a Halftime Plan, and I’ve been asking her a lot of questions. Why are you here? What were you created to do in your lifetime? How can you fulfill your ultimate potential? Patty told me these are some of the biggest questions she’s ever been asked.
The first step, of course, is to have an investment plan in place that will provide rising income for at least 30 years of retirement. Once that’s in place (and if it’s not, let’s talk!) you’re ready to start planning for your second half. Ask yourself the big questions, and begin to set your own course for the future—including a plan that ensures you have the financial capacity to make your vision come true, whatever it may be.
No matter what your age, careful planning can help you gain financial confidence and peace of mind. Even more, it can keep you on track to achieve your goals so you can live the life you were meant to live. By exploring the tough questions today, you can help ensure a bright future—at every season of your life.
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