Too often in the world of wealth management, estate planning is about splitting up the money after people are gone. But is that all it should be?
When you think of estate planning, maybe you should focus on what makes a good life and what the things are that shape such a life and create value in it. A worthwhile approach is to think about how you can share your wisdom with those you care about and give them a picture and a memory of who you are for years to come.
Here are some ways to do that:
Write a letter to each of your loved ones. If you have a spouse, a couple of kids, grandchildren, good friends and some others who are important in your life, that is a lot of work. But please take the time to do this. You should personalize each letter with stories that have meaning for each person. I believe spending time reflecting on what your family and friends mean to you is an activity you’ll enjoy.
Make a video of yourself. If you’re over 60, you might not have the opportunity to directly talk to your great grandchildren. Thanks to the technology, an easy way to let your future generations know something about you is to make a video. You can share stories about your life, values that you want to pass on, and hopes and dreams you have for them.
Record what you’ve learned. Over the past couple of decades, you accumulate enough wisdom. You can talk about, either in written or electronic form, your view of life. You can talk about what mistakes you made personally or generationally, how you feel about the mistakes and what the takeaways are. I think this is a great gift you can give to your future generations.
Tell people you love them while you are alive. One of the problems with estate planning is that your loved ones don’t find out what is on your mind until you’re dead. Don’t forget to tell people how much you love them. You never know when the last time is that you have the chance to say that.
Some people think life does not end until you are not remembered. There probably is some truth to this. I hope that you are willing to start planning for a legacy that includes passing wisdom to those that you love. I think they will appreciate the effort you spend.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT ABUNDANCE MEANS
Brooks offers three pieces of advice on how to rid this attachment. Thinking through these concepts is a helpful exercise to help us find ways to add more abundance to life every day.
Each year, my children ask me what I want for Christmas. In the past, I usually gave them a list of books. This year, I asked them to plan a day for the four of us. As they mature and spend more time away from home, I treasure the moments we have together.
This is a reminder to slow down and savor each moment of my life. To pause, breathe and focus on just one thing. Meditation is a big help here. This year, my goal is 30 minutes daily, rain or shine.
- Collect experiences, not things. As time marches on, experiences are what we remember the most. A lot of psychology research shows experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions.
- Steer clear of excessive usefulness. It’s not about the reward it’s about the journey. Brooks cites an experiment, in which the researchers gave students puzzles to solve. Some students were paid, and others were not. It turned out those who were not paid were more likely to enjoy the process.
- Get to the center of the wheel. Brooks suggests that we find out what is truly most important and focus on it. To complement this thought, I recommend a tool called “wheel of life.”
On a piece of paper, draw a wheel with nine equal spokes. They represent nine regions of life: family, health, leisure, learning, inner growth, home, community, work and finances. Rate your level of satisfaction with each region by putting dots on each spoke. When you connect the dots, you’ll see if your wheel of life rolls.
This is a helpful tool with our financial planning clients, and we encourage them to revisit this exercise every year. In 2021, I can see that I need to be more physically active. My 80–year–old father and 78–year–old mother who go to the gym regularly are my inspiration.
What are a few changes you might make to go beyond attachment and create more abundance? You will find that your emotional and spiritual life will improve.
Money is Freedom
Having insufficient money to meet needs and satisfy obligations is a major source of tension in families, in business relationships and in one’s own head. Having ample money and liquidity offers choices and removes constraints.
Financial freedom may bode good or ill. We can make good choices, or bad choices. Chronic overspending, false friends and bad influences, immoral behavior and a life of dissipation are a slide into ruin, greased by money. If our relationship with life is one of balance, our money behavior reflects similar satisfactions.
One of the most important questions a financial advisor can ask is:
What is Money for?
Hopefully, the answer will not consist of things like: “I want to buy a car.” Frame money in terms of relationships – what it means relative to those you love and care for, your spiritual orientation, your sense of meaning and satisfaction, your obligations to others, what makes you comfortable and uncomfortable, your legacy.
- Try to answer these questions out loud:
- How do you define money?
- How much is enough?
- What challenges do you see in the next 10 years?
- How does money relate to the alternatives needed to meet each positive or negative challenge?
- Is money a resource that can power alternatives, or a constraint?
- How does money relate to what you wish to experience, the outcome desired?
Money should not define you. Your life should run your money – your money should not run your life. Again, what is the money for? Make a healthy relationship with money your watchword.
Money & Spending Fears
In our quest to understand our relationship with money, we need to be careful that we don’t develop a fear of spending. To conquer this unhealthy fear, align your spending with what you value.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of saving, but if you cover the basics, like having an emergency fund and saving consistently for retirement, spending money on yourself sometimes is no crime.
Ultimately, money is a tool that helps us to do things and enjoy life. There is no reason to deny yourself happiness because you’re paralyzed by money fears.
As long as you are not up to your eyeballs in debt, you can allow yourself a little fun here and there. The key is to do it responsibly by creating a comprehensive financial plan and identifying what truly makes you happy.
If you have a fear of spending, take these following steps:
Create a plan. It should outline how much you bring in, your expenses and savings. Knowing what you can afford can alleviate your stress when you’re concerned about cost.
Identify your values. What makes you the happiest? Money can create happiness if you use it wisely. A general rule of thumb is to choose experiences over things. Material possessions tend to lose their luster shortly after you purchase them, whereas memories of a fun trip with family or friends last for years.
Prioritize your spending. What’s more important to you? You must prioritize your spending so that you can enjoy your discretionary income fully.
For example, if a vacation with your old friends is your top priority, you can skip a happy hour out with coworkers. Conversely, if building good relationships with coworkers is more important, then allow yourself to spend money on events that bring you closer to your goal.
Spend your time. If you can’t think of anything you’d rather spend your money on, maybe it’s not about the money.
Think about a cause that means a lot to you and offer your time and skills to it. For example, most animal shelters need volunteers to walk dogs or clean up the facilities, and other causes might need your help to fundraise. Be open to whatever they want you to do.
Sometimes, what makes you happy costs very little, but sometimes, you have to spend more to realize your goals. By determining what is important to you, you can enjoy life and take care of your future at the same time.
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