I've had a number of realizations that aren't entirely new for me, but rather I've felt in a new and intense way. As I look around my environment, I recognize that there is virtually no physical possession that holds more value to me than a lived experience. We're living in these bodies for a short duration of time, and at the end of it, the most important things are ultimately the people we loved and the experiences we shared. Personal finance is a bit of a game in some ways. Oftentimes, we have some sort of goal in mind and set to learning as many rules as possible so as to achieve them in the best way possible. I of all people enjoy the game of money, and that's a beautiful thing. But let's not forget, our money is here to support our life experiences, and those life experiences are meant to support our relationships. Doesn't that sound simple?
To be perfectly candid, some of this has been drawn into focus for me during this time for a couple of reasons. I've experienced the passing of three very important family members in the past 15 months (all non-Covid related), and this slower version of life leaves ample time for reflection. Though I recognize their spiritual selves are eternal, I grieve the loss of the physicalized versions of those I love so much. Experiencing life after loss, alongside my family members, compels me to share something with you.
Our experience as a physical being is limited, and when it's complete, we will leave some people behind. If we've touched the lives of others, there will be people that will grieve for us, and we would like to make things as simple for them as possible. We cannot dwell in the past, nor can we live in a future that hasn't happened yet, but we can do a few simple things right now as an act of love for those closest to us.
Down the road, we'll discuss wills, living revocable trusts, among other documents. For now, I would like to start extremely simply. Sit down and make a list of everywhere you are holding assets. This list should include banks and credit unions where you hold accounts. Document places where you have life insurance policies. List any retirement accounts (401k, 457, 403b, IRA, pension, annuities) that you have. Ideally, document addresses, telephone numbers, and account numbers associated with these assets. You might also include information about the title of your car, your house on this list.
The purpose of this list is twofold. The first is that you want your beneficiaries to know where your assets are, which brings me to the second. You need to verify and update the beneficiaries associated with each and every asset you listed. If you haven't updated the beneficiary on an account for ten years, you may still have your brother listed as the beneficiary. Your life may be very different than it was when you opened the account, and you may need to make some updates. Make sure you remember to check on houses and vehicles as well. You want to be sure these things can easily pass to the appropriate family members.
Once you've generated a list and updated your beneficiaries, you have one more task. You need to have some conversations. They don't have to be long, but you need to make sure you tell your family members where this list could be found if needed, and inform them of your decisions regarding beneficiaries of your accounts, and any special instructions that may be necessary.
As I look around me and witness so many life transitions happening within families, I recognize that we can't overly focus on future events that haven't happened yet, but there are a few simple acts of love that we can take in the now. I hope that this year of reflection has been good for you all and that perhaps you too will find some small, simple inspired actions to take for your family.