Marie Burns, CFP

By Marie Burns, CFP

Are You the Chicken or the Egg?

Are You the Chicken or the Egg? 150 150 Marie Burns

What is your answer to the age-old question: which came first, the chicken or the egg? We each may have different answers but I know for certain your answer to this next question: which were you first, a person with a family or a person with a business? We were all people with a family before our business ever came into our lives. Yet we are typically so focused and caught up in our business that we often put our family, or responsibilities related to our family, on the back burner. That being said, a lot has changed since the recent pandemic. Recent research indicates that one good coming out of the pandemic is the awareness of the need for a little more work-life balance.


Planning Across Generations

The Everplans COVID-19 Readiness Sentiment Survey, which surveyed 1,000 Americans on April 27-28, 2020, found that a strong majority of people (65%) say that the Coronavirus pandemic has made them realize the importance of sharing important information with family, and that planning for the future is more important than ever (64%). Half (50%) said that COVID-19 has made them realize how unprepared they were for a serious emergency. These sentiments are especially strong among Millennials and GenX, those with children, men more so than women, and Northeasterners and Southerners (corresponding to regions with COVID hot spots).

Those eye-opening stats should have us asking ourselves some important questions – What have you completed and have in place for times of emergency? How do you feel about sharing information with family? Compare your answers with these and several other questions in the survey results on the Everplans website.


It Won’t Happen to Me

“When the unexpected happens, people look for ways to regain a sense of control — to feel more prepared. The Everplans COVID-19 Readiness Sentiment Survey demonstrates this need,” said Abby Schneiderman, co-founder and co-CEO of Everplans. Everplans is a secure digital platform that guides you through organizing, storing, and safely sharing critical information and documentation you and your loved ones may need in case of emergency, from your will to the unlock password for your phone. “These findings, and the Coronavirus crisis in general, are a reminder of how important it is for all of us to be well-prepared for unexpected events, and a wake-up call for those who have not yet organized for the future. Resources like Everplans make it easier than ever for everyone to take the first steps to protect themselves, their family and their loved ones.”

The most common sad stories I hear have to do with families not having powers of attorney in place. Too often families assume that if a loved one is sick enough to be unable to make health care and/or financial decisions, that someone in the family will automatically be able to step in and help with those decisions and actions when needed. Legally, if nothing is in writing in the form of a Power of Attorney document about who that sick person authorized to act on his/her wishes, the family is often forced to go to court to go through the guardianship and/or conservator process. Estate planning attorneys recognize that families have no idea how difficult, intrusive, time-consuming, and expensive those court processes can be.


A Strong Motivating Factor

I recently read the May issue of Kiplinger’s Retirement Report and the theme of several articles was related to losing a loved one (spouse, parent, sibling). A common thread across all of the stories shared was a family member’s retrospect feeling of “I wish I would have…” known more about the finances, asked about his/her wishes, understood where to find information, or considered the scope of his/her estate. COVID-19 has been a motivator to Americans, prompting many of us to think more seriously about the actions needed in case we or a loved one get seriously ill or die, while at the same time motivating us to complete these tasks.

According to the survey, many have gravitated toward planning activities that are more doable independently – 40% have written down account logins/passwords; 36% have written down account details, and 36% have talked to their children about death. Almost everyone agrees that it is important for parents and adult children to talk about long-term life planning, but this is true especially for more tangible tasks – such as sharing “important household information” and the “location of important documents.”


Taking Action Today

My experience in helping families over the last 20 years with this procrastinated area of life includes the realization that part of the reason it is so hard to take action is that we are acknowledging that there will be an end to our life…not a pleasant topic. And our brain avoids negative feelings so we often don’t get past that uncomfortable feeling to actually take any action.

The good news is that we can change our attitude from negative to positive by recognizing it is truly a gift we are leaving our family by making the time to get our financial affairs in order. Then, just like any project you tackle, break that gift down to several small tasks (make a list of assets, make a list of where documents are located, update/draft estate planning documents with an estate planning attorney, etc.) and once those tasks are complete, your gift is done! To help make those tasks more manageable, I have several fillable worksheet lists to help you get started today on my Mind, Money, Motion website.

Remember, family came first (not sure if that’s more like the chicken or the egg) and will be with you in the end, even after the business part of life is long gone. So don’t forget to prioritize your time to still enjoy some work-life balance while you are chipping away at your best last gift to your family.