Big-deal financial things we should talk about but probably don’t

April 9, 2019 by David Riedel

Since writing for this blog, I’ve touched on, among other things, what to do with tax refunds, how to avoid credit card debt, how to stop freaking out (which is a technical term) about your financial situation, and whether your food budget is killing you. Here’s something less pleasant, but necessary, to think about, especially if you’re married or have children: Making sure your family is taken care of financially in the event of your early death or incapacitation.

Like I mentioned, it’s unpleasant. But things—bad things—happen. When I was 30 years old, I came down with bacterial meningitis, the kind that kills you or forces doctors to start paring back your limbs. Through some medical miracle I still don’t understand, I kept all my fingers and toes and recovered completely (I was laid out for about four months). I was single at the time, so it didn’t occur to me, and it probably wasn’t necessary, to have a plan in action for anyone else’s financial well-being. Now that I’m married with kids, I think about my mortality all the time.

When our first son was born, my wife and I drafted a will that left him everything in case we were—and this is what I mean by unpleasant—killed in an accident or were struck down by fatal illnesses. We assigned guardians. We made him the beneficiary of every financial account and insurance policy we had. And now that he has a little brother, we redrafted everything to be split between the two of them.

Children aside, we’ve done all the other things no one wants to do: We’ve named family members who may make medical decisions for us, and who may be granted power of attorney. And on the old-school end of things, we’ve stuck all our important documents in a particular place and let a couple family members know where they are in case my wife and I are no longer able to access them.

On the non-financial end of things, I’ve started taking my health much more seriously in the past six months. Since our second son was born, I’ve changed my diet completely (no more fast food; no more eating late at night; no more dairy except as a rare treat; no adding sugar to anything), I’ve lost a bunch of weight, and I’ve begun distance running for the first time in a decade.

Those steps above may not seem like they tie into family finances and preparedness, but keeping myself healthy is a big part of me sticking around a long time so all those unpleasant decisions my wife and I made are nothing more than a precaution. Death is a part of life. I think it’s wise to be be ready.


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