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YOUR TREE OF LIFE: Health & Wealth

How do your health and your wealth impact your estate options now?

I went to a creative workshop last weekend in Austin TX, and we were given nature objects to free-form create an art installation. Purely by accident we created something that looks just like a Tree of life, symbolizing rebirth, growth and development.

This is a wonderful metaphor in my mind, for how we can plant the seeds for a better financial future. As in all things, some of our old ideas need to be reborn.

Your choices and abilities around money come from a surprising place; your deepest sense of self worth and self care. It's not that you won't be able to make tons of money or build a great analysis. It's whether you can hold onto your gains or make good choices that stick that is the rub. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

He was a man who was deeply aware that we cannot escape a heart and a soul that has not been fully understood.

Before you undertake any planning exercise, whether it's estate planning, life insurance or investments, you might want to take a beat, so to speak, and have that, as we say in the south, "Come to Jesus moment" with yourself about your sense of self love and self worth. Last, but not least, are you truly at peace with death? Yours in particular? If you are afraid of the word life insurance, ask yourself why? Some of the wealthiest, mega mega millionaires have multiple, even in the double digits worth of life insurance polices. Why? Tax free growth, Long term Care riders. Many many benefits.

However if you are afraid of death, if you cover your ears and run away, scared, you cannot even begin to see the possibilities. Only a zen person can take advantage of the things that life insurance has to offer. Bet you did not see that one coming?

It is a well known fact that those who are happiest fully acknowledge the fact that death happens. In Bhutan where people are reportedly the happiest, especially when you consider how poor a country it is, part of the national curriculum is to think about death at least three times a day with peace and acceptance, rituals are all around to support this. Studies show that this immediately makes people happier.

On the contrary, here, Covid has increased anxiety and depression and led to a 76% increased risk in Opioid use. Perhaps this is because Covid rattled our death denying cages here in the western world as we lacked a death acceptance practice. Suddenly, with no preparation, it was all around.

A shaman in Bhutan said, “Everyone will die. You are not singled out. Do you know this? To not think of death and not prepare for it … this is the root of ignorance.” Here, our estate plan combined with our written words is our greatest and most long lasting form of communication.

People who hope to defy the odds somehow, are avoidant estate planners. But if you are still alive, this can be resolved. The best examples can be found in the worst failures. I witnessed one last summer.

Recently, we had a Covid era renter in our rural, ancestral home out in the rural America. At one point when prices skyrocketed, we even thought to sell that home and pay for everyone's college and invest the rest. It was a bumpy ride but we were mostly grateful for the tenant who ended up paying a better rent after a while. Then we got a call from his company over 4th of July weekend that he was in the ICU and then 9 days later, he passed.

Failure to plan is an awful sight to behold in the end; A lot of kind words from high school friends, a distant family member with whom he hardly spoke called in from a remote corner to the state to preside over his affairs, and a family of 4 left doing a gofundme and then grabbing at straws and rummaging through boxes, for last words of wisdom and only finding unpaid invoices from the lawn service. There was nothing left in the estate despite the fancy cars, the yacht club, and the many, many trips with girlfriends. All of it leased or rented. It has taken almost 6 months to clean, clear and restore the house, removing all the dog waste, human waste and bottles, bottles hidden everywhere.

The acute Covid era with it's "work" accomplished remotely, on "Zooms" or "Teams" saw a dramatic uptick in alcohol & liver disease related deaths, an alarming statistic that normally increases about 2% a year, it jumped by over 25% from 2019 to 2020, according to NIH, with the largest increase among people aged 25-44. Alcohol is a bad coping strategy if you plan on living another year.

In a week of working we interact with the entire arc of life, people in their 30s to their 80's, and encounter their deepest joys, secret loves, and hidden regrets. Those who opt to take this first step to make a better financial plan, have a bit of the Bhutanese in them. They accept that they will end. They don't want to leave a burden, on the contrary, and they care. They have a mindful attitude towards life and towards death. They realize death meant to be and it can be done beautifully.

Conversely, aging gracefully leads to longevity, joy and ironically, a much more youthful appearance. My mom is holding up really well for example. It also gives you a chance to make peace with everyone and everything. It also means that you have a chance to make a great, beautiful plan that will make the world around you a better place. I experience such profound joy when I meet people who just want to make a better, more mindful, estate plan.

The wise ones at least sit down to explore financial options and get that valuable education. What we pass on to our kids directly, or through our trusts is our greatest legacy. The more mindful we are as we plan this future, the better we till the soil in which to plant that tree of life with its rebirth, growth and renewal.

If your advisor is a "ride the stock and bond market up and down" kind of guy, shrugging his shoulders in allowing you to lose 10%-20% one year in the hopes you will make it back, you might want to see other options.

You may be only getting a limited, myopic side of the financial services picture. Bonds do not cut it any more. The bond market went down 30% -50% last year and there is a massive bond event impending as Treasury bills will be bought and absorbed by the Fed and no one knows when but experts are Buidling that extreme risk into the market. Tech No good. A lot of options in the market are simply not good at all. Explore better options.

Actions to take

1) START THE CONVERSATION to find new options.



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