You want to finally retire from your job or your business? The end game is accumulate money and move on? Begin with the key points of what you want in mind. Align with your values - Why are you selling? Why are you retiring? Two pieces remain to look at from your point of view. First, the “Why now?” and second, “What are You Retiring to?”.
The Hidden Staircase and Anne Frank’s memoir will in my mind for a long time. Today is the anniversary of Anne Frank starting her diary and I got to thinking…..Her book may have begun my fascination with World War II stories. Not the battles or the war strategy. The stories. The people who lived through it. Whether they were on the front lines seeing action, living in their hometown in terror or taken as POW or worse to concentration camps, I read them all.
What I am searching for I do not know. But the tales of resilience and strength and human kindness in the midst of brutality somehow empower me to live on. These people no matter where they were or which side of the war, had parents, spouses, lovers, children and family. In their dire circumstances, they built family. They persevered beyond some things humanly inconceivable.
I never thought about going to Anne Frank’s house when I read the book. I envisioned the house. The house that was so far away in a foreign country that no one I knew had been to. I had the canal and brown clapboard house clearly pictured in my mind.
Then, three years ago, I found myself in Amsterdam. Her very city. Where Anne Frank lived. That was simply amazing to think about. More than forty years before I had read a book that changed my thinking and shifted me into much more appreciativeness. And now I was walking the streets of Anne Frank.
I went to her house. And there it was along a canal: brown and nondescript. Walking up the hidden staircase, gave me an airy feeling – it wasn’t the steepness or the narrowness – it was what these stairs had seen and who had walked there. I was just a tourist, a passerby but so many had paid dearly by walking these stairs.
Nothing prepared me to enter the attic rooms themselves. They were left as they were in the forties. Peeling wall paper. Bare minimum necessities for even that time. The iron sink and sparse décor. A whole life was lived here. Many lives were lived here. The rooms were decent size until you consider who lived there. And how long they had to stay put in a handful of rooms.
When I got to Anne’s room, I felt reverent. Here is a young girl, an author who held strong and focused on something beyond her current situation. She shared her story. She dreamed of a future. She made her best of her time hidden away. I was honored to share the space she had lived, written and slept in.
I wondered who had turned them in. And why? For food? Benefits? Life? Whatever it was, that was their story to tell. Their life to live. I can only imagine what strain brought them to that point in life. Where they were willing to trade a handful of people for something, anything.
Like so many, I wonder what would have become of Anne Frank had she lived. That was not to be. A blessing that her Dad lived and had the foresight and tenacity to get her diary published. That may be the only thing that saved him through the postwar years of loss and loneliness. I bless the woman who saved their personal items and Anne’s diary. She loved them and remains nameless as far as I know in all this. But that is the human side of the story. There is a human side in every WWII story. And I continue to treasure humanity. An anniversary of hope is worthy of mention.
The teller handed me the paperwork and I left the bank with a smile. Mission accomplished. I was taking care of the details in life.
I felt great. I was at the bank to set some money aside in a certificate of deposit. They had a special interest rate. The term was just about the time I would be buying a new car so this was a great opportunity for me.
I had withdrawn funds right from my checking account to open the cd. So I was thinking it was more a transfer. Then, I signed the prepared paperwork and headed home.
Here is the thing. None of us are perfect. And certainly I include myself in that fact. So it was not until an hour later when I was telling my husband what I did, that I pulled out the paperwork to look more closely. The cd was opened in my name. My name alone. Oops! That was wrong for two reasons.
First, no one but me could access it if I was to get injured, die or disabled and needed the money. This was not a good plan for the realities of life which I discuss often.
Second and most important, if I did die, this money would go through probate court, delaying my estate settlement. I can hear someone now saying: “Who cares? You will be dead.” But I do care. You see, my husband and I spent money and time making sure our estate plan and the documents were in order. All of our bank accounts were either in joint name or the name of our irrevocable trusts. Now, there was one outlier and I had caused the issue. This Certified Financial Planner had goofed. I signed documents without thinking it through and confirming the title of the new certificate of deposit. I saw my name and signed. I had also made an assumption that the new account would be in the same title since I just transferred the money in. I know better.
Verify. Verify. Verify. I tell clients to do this every day. And yet, here I was. Luckily, I had done this mid-day and the bank was still open and I called. Ellen, the teller, was very helpful when I explained the name on the account was incorrect. She offered to redo the paperwork and call me later in the day to sign it.
I knew she had the trust documents – so important if a bank or investment company is to put your assets in a trust name. So at least, I knew it could be simple from there. Or so I thought.
Remember, the bank consolidations that have been going on and on over the years since the Great Recession? Well, this bank had merged five years or so ago. So now, I got a call from Ellen, telling me the paperwork would take a few days because the system had to be updated at many stages to open the cd on every level. I almost said I would take the money out and put it in my other bank! But that was the impatient me speaking. The part that also was mad at herself for doing wrong. So I told her to keep me posted.
That was Friday. This is Monday. My task is still not checked off as done. I’m deflated but grateful to have this opportunity to remind you that if you have an estate plan, be sure you have all your financial business aligned with the estate plan. If you do not have an estate plan with documents drawn up by a lawyer, get on it. Sometimes we can all stray, just when we think we are on track.