Preparing to Die, So You Can Live in Peace

Those of you who I work with on a regular basis know that I spend time discussing topics outside of the logistical nuts and bolts of finance. How our financial system works and how it applies to you is important, but based on feedback I have received from clients, figuring out how a Roth 403b functions, setting up automatic savings, or protecting your income with proper insurance isn’t usually the most valuable part of a comprehensive financial strategy. Small ideas, introduced at the right time, can significantly alter how we think or how we feel about our finances and life in general. Let’s discuss one of those ideas.

There is nothing more important to me than the close relationships I have in my life. A combination of my own personal experience and the professional experience of working with a lot of happy and unhappy people has solidified that strong relationships are the most important factor in leading a happy life. Health, career, money, heck even your daily commute, all factor in as well, but the relationships with family and friends are at the core.

You’re probably with me so far, but let’s take a sad turn. What happens to those relationships when you die? I understand it’s awful to think about, but I believe it’s important for all of us to plan for an event that we know is impossible to avoid. There are three things I’ve done for my family to ensure that when I pass away there won’t be any unnecessary pain, hassle, or regret.

#1 – I financially protected them

There are people who depend on me for financial support and I love them, therefore, I have term life insurance. This is simple and straight forward, so I won’t spend more time on this topic. If you have dependents, or plan to in the near future, and don’t have term life insurance, please contact me (or a different independent advisor you trust) to evaluate your options.

#2 – I won’t be a physical or emotional burden

I have an advance directive and I’ve had conversations with my family about my health care choices. In my opinion, the most important reason to complete an advance directive isn’t about you even though you are the one in the not-so-great medical condition. It’s about your loved ones and not placing a large burden on them when they have to make decisions on your behalf. There are too many stories about people living with the regret and uncertainty of not knowing if the healthcare decision they made on behalf of a family member was the decision their loved one wanted. My mom, brother, and I have been in the situation of having to make a decision regarding life support for my dad following an accident. Thankfully, my dad was very clear about his wishes so while it was still a very difficult situation, the burden and potential guilt from the decision were not put on my mom’s shoulders. I’ll never forget walking out of our final meeting with the palliative care physician and the trauma surgeon after the decision was made. I felt so grateful that my dad was explicitly clear about what he would want us to do in a situation like this. Put your wishes down on paper and have the conversation with loved ones, especially your parents, so you know what they want when the time comes for a decision.

#3 – Notes to remember me by

I’ve written letters to my loved ones and stored them securely with my life insurance policy. The letters talk about my favorite memories with them. The letters describe how much they mean to me. The letters tell how much I love them. I want my daughters, my nieces, my wife, my mom, and my brother to have something final to remember me by. For my daughters I have also created email accounts that I periodically send pictures and notes to. I certainly hope I am still alive when they are old enough to be given the username and password, but if I am not I hope that clearly seeing how much their dad loved them will help them lead a happy and successful life.

I want to make it very clear that I am not suggesting you write down all your true feelings about a person, tuck it away in a closet for 40 years and never tell them how you feel. That sounds like a recipe for regret. What I am saying is that by choosing to responsibly plan for your inevitable death, and acknowledging that it could happen at any point, I believe you can enjoy the present more and worry less.

It’s a small thing that doesn’t take much time or effort, but I can’t tell you how much better I feel knowing these things are taken care of. If my life ends up being much shorter than anticipated, no one is going to have to make horribly difficult medical decisions without knowing what I want. No one is going to financially suffer. Most importantly, no one is going to wonder how I felt about them. By properly planning, I’ve shown how much I love them by not leaving a mess behind.

Justin Berry

Author: Justin Berry

Justin is an independent financial planner who believes in building relationships with his clients based on financial education and blunt honesty. His goal with everyone he meets is to reduce their financial stress and help them avoid costly mistakes.

Registered Representative of Cetera Advisor Networks, LLC and Investment Advisor Representative of Cetera Investment Advisers, LLC.

Life insurance products contain fees, such as mortality and expense charges (which may increase over time), and may contain restrictions, such as surrender periods. 2065881 / DOFU 03-2018