While returning to NY recently on a flight, I was settled comfortably (an oxymoron?) in my aisle seat before takeoff, and at the last minute, a person filled the middle seat next to me. He was a kid (hey... at our age, they're all kids!) dressed typically for the day: hat turned sideways, lots of bling, etc. Upon takeoff, he asked the flight attendant for a double scotch, and proceeded to nod off on my shoulder... two times. After some time, he awoke to politely ask me to let him pass to go to the restroom. Upon return, he noticed the movie I was watching, and commented that he had seen it, and that I would enjoy it. He extended his hand and introduced himself, and I went back to my movie. Once finished, we talked about the movie for a couple of minutes, and moved on to general conversation. As it turned out, he was visiting his Dad in Brooklyn, getting ready to leave for his 8th deployment. It turned out he was a naval officer on leave, and judging from our conversation, a very experienced individual. I was very surprised to learn that his occupation was not what I expected: you can't judge a book by its cover.
If there's one thing I've learned in my many years, it’s that the one thing you can count on in life is the unexpected. Not unlike a sudden detour on a routine trip, we are constantly surprised with the unforeseen: and usually handle it, as we really don’t have a choice. It does tend to be unsettling, but we muddle, grumble and see it through to its finality, and move on from there. Perhaps if we had some warning, it may have been a bit less taxing, but nonetheless, we make it through. Wouldn't it have been easier if we had fair warning and had time to prepare? Welcome my friends to the January edition of Rivertown: the first of the year... let's make this year different- let's get prepared!
Let's talk finance. Have you been opening your statements, and reviewing your investments? The markets have changed in the past few years, and with all the talk of tapering and interest rate change, have you consulted with your Certified Financial Planner™ to talk about the adjustments to be made in the changing interest rate environment? Now is the time to review your goals and objectives, and to see if you are on track financially. You may have to adjust your savings or contributions to meet your goals. If you've gotten a raise at work, did you also raise your 401(k) or 403(b) pro-rata? With inflation taking a bigger bite of your of your future income via your savings, if you don't raise your contributions, you're falling behind in buying power. Do you have an emergency fund equal to 3-6 months of your monthly household expenses in a local savings bank in the case of an emergency? It's all a part of the planning process, and if you have not consulted with your advisor recently, or if you don't have one, now is the time. You go to a dentist to have your tooth pulled- you don't do it yourself. The same goes for financial management- the stakes are high... doing it yourself can have dire consequences.
Let's chat about legal documents- wills, powers of attorney, living wills, health care proxy, trusts... everybody's needs are different. If you haven't reviewed your legal documents in at least three years, pull them out, dust them off and read them. Do they comport with your current wishes? Do they include the new grandkids? Is there anyone in there who has passed on? I can't begin to tell you the mess you leave behind with outdated or a lack of legal documents. Do your kids a favor- either update them, or get them done. Don't leave a disaster behind for your kids or executor to clean up.
Insurance. Believe it or not, taking care of your wills or insurance will not cause an early end to your life! Last month, we talked about disability insurance, and the needs and advantages of having a private plan. Call your property and casualty company agent and review your car and home insurance. Review your life insurance to see if it is adequate: are you over or under insured for the benefit of those you leave behind? If you are above the age of 55, it's time to talk Long Term Care insurance, the "devastator of wealth." If you need elder health care, or know some who has had to pay for their own, you know that a few years of paying for care out of pocket can wipe out a lifetime of savings. It's a small price to pay to know that you won’t deplete your savings, leaving your spouse for their remaining years to fend for themselves sans savings. It's not pretty- and completely avoidable.
So, when you hear that there is a snowfall coming, you run to the market and buy six gallons of milk and a dozen loaves of bread. You get out the snow shovels and place them strategically along with the salt. You plan for months for a vacation. Honestly... how much time are you putting into preparing for the unexpected?