Leave Nothing Unsaid

A gentleman came to me some time back for financial advice. He had recently been diagnosed with cancer. He told me his prognosis was good, and that he would probably die of old age, but it was the impetus to look at how he wanted to use his financial resources to accomplish what was important to him. He talked about his life, about what he enjoyed doing and what brought meaning to his days. He envisioned his future after his treatments as well as facing the unpleasant what if scenarios.

We dug into cash flow, asset allocation, tax implications, social security strategies, IRA distributions and what he wanted to do with equity in his home and other tangible assets. We discussed stretch IRA’s, options of ROTH conversions and the tax advantages and disadvantages of his heirs inheriting different assets. We conversed about his philanthropic intentions and opportunities to implement some creative lifetime as well as legacy giving strategies. He told stories about his family and the fun times they had experienced. He revealed how proud he was of his kids, and his hopes and dreams for them. I asked if he had shared this with them. “No” he said “They know – we have great times.”

We put the financial life plan together incorporating the hoped for longevity, tempered with the present health diagnosis. We updated beneficiary designations and clarified “how much was enough” for his heirs. If you love your kids equally, you will treat them uniquely. We talked about how to have conversations with family members about his intentions. How to help educate them on what a “stretch” IRA was. We looked at where to take cash flow to maximize what he would take now in order to be tax-efficient in leaving potential inherited assets and worked with the attorney to up-date and fine-tune estate planning desires.

Before we were able to fully implement his plan, I received a call from his son. Things had taken a turn for the worse and he was moving out of state to be closer to family and receive medical treatments. He passed within the month.

It hit me hard. I was so sad that he was gone. Had the timing been amenable, we could have modified his finances and put all the tools into place for his family. But that isn’t what pierced my heart. I was disappointed that I didn’t encourage him more fervently to let his family know how special they were to him. People don’t regret not converting their traditional IRA to a ROTH to maximize lifetime distributions, they regret relational connections (and more dancing).

Mid summer, I was introduced to a woman through one of the professional associations I am affiliated with. Jody Noland, from Atlanta has been featured on NBC and Fox News has a powerful, personal story herself. You can check her out at www.leavenothingunsaid.com. Jody facilitates workshops regarding relational connections. She walks you through a simple, yet powerful approach to writing letters of encouragement and affirmation to the people that are important in our lives.

Have you thought about doing this? You may have even sat down to do it, but your fingers fumbled at the keyboard, or pen stood still on the paper. Do you say “they know”? We just celebrated Easter – what a beautiful, memorable gift and lasting legacy for family members and treasured friends.

Yes, the financial life planning is important. Don’t wait until a “trigger” event makes it a necessity.

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