Have You Checked Your Estate Plan? Details Matter...

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I had withdrawn funds right from my checking account to open the cd.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. 

 

A Trip to the Actual Bank Anyone?

A Trip to the Actual Bank Anyone?

Making a Difference

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I did not even know that Tom Brokaw was of Irish descent – look it up. But isn’t he right? I mean there are so many ways to make money. And as I reflect on my business career, I realize I chose the path which meant I could help more people. I remember sitting with a colleague, Brian, and saying we want to serve the middle class – that is who needs to hear what we have to say. The wealthy can pay for a host of experts. We can make a difference with the middle class who have never learned money facts.

Speaking is a way to serve many folks of all income levels. Writing is too. Whether I write a blog piece, email newsletter or article, my goal is for someone to learn something. I believe everyone can make a difference. We just need to know where and how our skills can be used to serve.

There is a special lady that you have heard about before, my maternal grandmother, Nanie. She made a difference in so many lives.

Nanie did not have an easy life, but she had a good life. She had five children and seventeen grandchildren. She left Ireland with one sister and one trunk in 1926, never expecting to return.

The very trunk she transported for her travels from Ireland sits in our living room, reminding me of what is possible. For this I am grateful. For her presence and learning at her knee I am eternally appreciative.

I was fortunate enough to give her eulogy. I wondered out loud about her trunk and what she packed in it for a voyage across the ocean from Ireland. What would she take for a lifetime journey? Would it fit in a trunk? More than that, I encouraged her loved ones present to share a bit of her legacy: hospitality, Irish Bread and family traditions. That would make a life well lived.

What difference do you want to make? What do you want to leave behind as a legacy? It may not be the riches you imagine. The wealth is in the lessons and time together. Set your sights on what is essential to your life rather than following a trend.

This St Patrick’s Day, you will find me making Irish Bread and tapping my foot to Irish music. May you too, find some fun and family traditions that bring out the best in you.

Great Financial Ideas Start with a Vision

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“A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of Hell.”

- George Bernard Shaw, The Horror of the Perpetual Holiday, 1914 Parents and Children

This quote should be in every retirement book there is. I know it will be in the book I write. George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright among other talents.

He captured the truth in 1914 in this brief saying. He knew something few people know today. The value in life is having something to do and a useful purpose in life. Without that bigger vision, life is empty. My first tag line for my business was, “Great Financial Ideas Start with a Vision.” I still believe that important fact. I encourage my clients to move toward something. This makes your financial life better. Yes, even those who want to get out of debt need a bigger vision than simply the clear task to make it happen. Otherwise, the numbers trip you up because they are not enough. They are only facts. Numbers are not powerful enough to move us to be proactive and consistent. We need a vision of what is going to be accomplished in our life after we are debt free or in our retirement or whatever our goal is.

I first experienced this in my early twenties. Experience is a great teacher. I had reached a milestone in life after college graduation with my first job. Like many millennials today, I was itchy and not content with the 9-5 situation. There was something more I wanted, but I had not even fully conceived of what I wanted for my career direction. I had inklings and I was exploring, but nothing was clicking in.

There was, however, something I always wanted to do. That something was to go out West to live and ski. My roommate was making plans to do just that before she headed to graduate school. She was looking for someone to go with and I quickly volunteered. “But you have a job,” she protested. “I can leave it," I said "I've always wanted to go out West and be a Ski Bum.”

Plans were made and systems put in place. Joining her and then her sister was easy even when a few snags threatened along the way. This was something I really wanted to do.

Being out West and skiing every day was a dream come true. Yes, I worked two jobs most of the time so I was not a true “Ski Bum.” But skiing was the goal. The days were sunny, the snow glorious and the small time ski vibe was perfectly inviting. In summary, I loved it.

I met people at work, in town and on the ski lift. Always practical, I did ask visitors what they did for a living. Being Irish, I guess I had two things going for me: the practical perspective and the gift of gab. I wanted to know if they liked their job and if it was something that might appeal to me. Even as I enjoyed the sunshine and freedom, I was still reflecting on my next career move though I had no plans beyond the next week’s work schedule. Aside from these interactions, the local conversation was always around weather and snow and skiing. And fun.

Then, one sunny day after a great ski morning, I was walking home from the post office and heard the life changing news on January 28, 1986. The Challenger had blown up. I remember being equally stunned by the immense loss of life and the invasion of the “Real World” into this tiny mountain town.

I'd loved the space program ever since I'd visited the location as a child. One could say that I had NASA pride. Added to that was the New England pride of Christa McAuliffe's mission. Christa was from New Hampshire.

Later in the day, I wanted to talk to friends about it. After a comment or two they would change the subject. …”How was skiing today?” “Did you have good runs?” “ Which ones were best?” Another day in a ski town. Short-term pleasure was the focus.

The same happened the next day. No one around me seemed to value the immensity of this loss. I wanted to be somewhere and do something that impacted more than the current day.

At that point, I remembered an older UVM alumni I'd met who was a kind mentor. When I'd told him my parents’ horror of my choice to go West, he'd been so helpful. He had told me at the Parker House in Boston over lunch a few months earlier, “Go and enjoy. Just know when it is time to leave.”

That day in Sun Valley, I decided it was time to leave the idyllic town. It would be so easy to be there still, yet I wanted more out of life than sun, ski and snow. I began to make my exit plans. To where I was not sure, but I knew what did not work anymore for me.

In that short time, as I was in the West less than a year, I learned more than I ever imagined. That took me to an understanding of clients as my career progressed. Because I had lived a semi-retirement of sorts without a bigger vision, I had an understanding of others who inherited money and could do nothing but needed more in their life. None of this made me envious. Rather, it made me thankful for the experience I had out West. Life is multilayered and complex.