Dave Ramsey has a rule at his office. The rule is simple: No gossip! If you’re caught gossiping once, it’s your free warning and pass, but get caught again, and you’re on the unemployment lines. Why does he create this rule? He knows humans; we tend to complain about processes, people, and programs! Humans can just let us down sometimes, right? Today my mind has gone to our friends who never let us down, gossip about us behind our back, and seem happy all the time: dogs! Isn’t it amazing how every time you come home from work, school, or just a trip to the grocery, your dog is waiting there, ready to give you a big hug by jumping on your leg? Our dogs give us unconditional love, a gift given to them by our Creator! Ok, I’m getting a little sappy here because my dog, Poco, passed away this morning. I went home to grab him around 10:30 am because we knew he wasn’t feeling himself, and by the time I got home, he had passed away, right by the side door, presumably, I’d like to think, waiting for me to come home and greet him! Ouch! The rest of the day, I worked through meetings, my mind not 100% present (sorry if I met with you yesterday!) and I was rethinking the weekly article I needed to pen. Whatever I was going to write about seemed distant and unimportant because it felt as if God was pushing me towards another message. Death is hard… it’s ultimately harder if you haven’t done the proper planning! In the grand scheme of things losing a dog is emotionally hard but not financially difficult. But losing a spouse, child, sibling, or parent can be and thus we should have our I’s dotted and T’s crossed in regards to ensuring we’ve done proper planning. Below are a couple of must-do’s you should ensure you’ve wrapped up today because tomorrow is just as guaranteed as the stock market returns.
Term Life Insurance
This is the first step to ensuring your death doesn’t throw your entire family unit into chaos if something happens to you. I’m always surprised by the stats discussing how many families don’t have life insurance. Some people probably don’t have life insurance because the payday lending life insurance agent quoted them whole life insurance. The person probably thought, “my life insurance shouldn’t cost as much as my house payment,” or if the whole life agent was an intelligent salesperson and offered a lower death benefit to keep the premium affordable, I could understand the thought process around, “why pay $30 a month for $50,000 worth of coverage, that will hardly bury me?” However, term life insurance does exist, it’s very inexpensive for large amounts of life insurance, and it usually only takes about thirty days to put in place. If you work for an employer that provides life insurance or your government pension provides lifetime income benefits to your spouse and children, that’s great, however, you should still supplement that with term life insurance.
At some point, you should be self-insured. You should have saved enough money that if you were to pass away, your family would not have the financial burden of missing you but rather just the emotional burden. Your Financial Planner can help you determine at what point they think you’ll be self-insured to help come up with the correct term policy for you. Even when you become self-insured, you may still want to keep a little term insurance around because of the SWI factor. You’re probably wondering what the SWI factor is. Dave Ramsey still has life insurance today, even though he is self-insured 100X (my guess I have no inside information) because his wife Sharon wants it (SWI). You may decide to keep term life insurance even after your self insured because it’s cheap and it makes your spouse more comfortable having it.
Will or Trust
Same stat – so many people die intestate, which means without a will. Ramsey Solutions did an excellent article on what it means to die without a will which can be seen by clicking here. If you’re a client of Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers, we have an attorney on staff to help guide you through the estate planning process, so there is even less of a reason not to have this wrapped up. The state will determine who receives your assets if you die without a will. These may or may not be the same individuals you would have picked but let’s consider your children, if you still have young children in the house. Don’t you want to ensure their caregiver is the person you’d wish to be raising them and not take the chance that your crazy in-laws may be their primary caretakers? What about if you’re a grandparent, don’t you want to ensure that some of your hard-earned estate, if you and your spouse were to pass away early, would not only go to your kids, but some would be put into a trust for the future benefit of your grandkids? What a way to bless them years and years after you have left this earth.
Through our partnership with national estate planning firm EncorEstate Planning, we can help clients coordinate their estate plans in every state except North Carolina, ensuring that your financial plan is holistic in its approach. A lot of good being such a great planner would have been if you never touched on what if the unexpected happened. What gives me chills is how many people are the “perfect planners” and don’t button up their estate plans. Their children and beneficiaries are left with the last memory of them being a “poor planner,” when in reality they were anything but that, they just made one oversight. It’s time to have this conversation today!
PODs / TODs
This one is so easy! Do you have a bank account? Checking account? Savings Account? Money Market Account? Call the bank today and ask them to add a POD, which stands for payable on death, or TOD, which stands for transfer on death. This allows your bank account to avoid the entire estate planning process and pass right to whomever you add as the payable on death. Most banks will enable you to do this right online now. For example, my bank allowed me to go online and add my three kids as 1/3 beneficiaries to our checking account and savings account (emergency fund). Then I have a Schwab One Brokerage Account (Bridge Account in Dave Ramsey language), and I was also able to add a TOD on this for my three kids. Now, if something were to happen to my wife or I, those dollars would be available on day 1 (after my death) for my children. They wouldn’t go very long if they needed cash. The POD / TOD process can be added to car titles to ensure those pass smoothly along with many other assets. Call your bank today and get this done!
Make a Password List
When my dad passed away, I can’t tell you how easy this made things for us. Not only did we know how to log in to certain websites, but we knew which websites to even look for stuff at. We were even able to get things like some of his credit card points (my pops was not a Dave Ramsey guy but he still did a fantastic job over his life building wealth with my mom) because of this list. In today’s world, passwords may change over time, so perhaps you don’t update it every month, as that may be unrealistic, but maybe make a goal to try and correct that list once every year. One idea to make this very easy is to use a password management software, like we make all our employees use. This makes passwords after you’re gone even easier because you can give them one password to your password management software, and they’ll have access to every website to help consolidate and track down your assets.
Write an “I Love You” Letter
I can’t think of a more fantastic gift to have been given than a letter from someone I deeply care about after they pass. There are so many things we never say or don’t say enough. A letter is a perfect way to express yourself and give your family comfort, well after you are gone. Tell them how proud you are of them, tell them what they meant to you, tell them what you’d like them to do with some of the money and items they inherit from you, and tell your daughter ghosts still have shotguns, so her boyfriend better watch out. While nothing in the letter would be legally binding, it can help cure the emotional scars some folks will have when you’re gone, especially if that’s premature. Sometimes this might be an “I love You” gesture. I knew of one amazing man, who I respected very much, that sent his wife a rose every month, for a year after he died which was an, “I love you from heaven” from this sweet guy to his wife!
Thank You Poco
Hopefully, these are helpful reminders of what we should do today to ensure our tomorrow is prepared. I didn’t expect to have to deal with losing my little buddy today, and I’ll sure miss him for many years to come, but I hope that his passing will encourage you to wrap up some loose ends with your estate planning that you may be neglecting. And if you need any help with those items, please reach out to your Whitaker-Myers Wealth Managers Financial Planner.
GOODBYE POCO - LESSONS FROM MY SWEET DOG!
August 5, 2022
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