Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Personal Finance Advice You Never Hear

Last July, the unthinkable happened. My father-in-law died suddenly at just 58 years old. Both devastation and reality gripped our family. For my husband (his eldest child) and I, it was probably the first time we had considered as a couple the “what-if’s” that surround mortality and the fine, yet vastly important details which frame it. The truth is, even as a professional in the personal finance industry, I hadn’t invested much thought beyond making sure we had life insurance and a last will and testament. We were like so many who never think about preparing for our demise until we lose someone close. But in actuality, at some point, this type of circumstance will hit everyone in some capacity. Either we will experience the tough decisions associated with the possible demise of a loved one OR we will leave a loved one to make such difficult decisions on our behalf.

This month’s issue of Black Enterprise features a great article, Why You Need A Living Will, by writer Bridget McCrea. According to the article, there is a recent report from the National Center for Health which estimates that 13% of African Americans have a living will in place compared with 32% of whites. The problem is that living wills are a personal finance topic rarely, if ever discussed. Because of that, most people don’t even know what it is or how it is used. “A living will, also known as a healthcare proxy, is a document that allows people to express their wishes regarding specific medical treatments in the event that they are dying, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to communicate their preferences.”

Unfortunately, it’s easy to slip into selfishness when the life on the line belongs to a loved one. Although we might make the decision to keep them alive for as long as possible no matter what the cost, knowing their true wishes may technically dictate otherwise. Creating a living will is not easy, but very much necessary. McCrea suggests that we “start by envisioning a scenario where you are unable to make your own decisions. Consider exactly how you’d want your healthcare handled.” As difficult as it may be, remove the emotion. Think about the relief your family will experience because you are clear about your expectations. For many, these type of circumstances only make an already challenging situation that much more stressful.

Here are just a few of the Living Will Do’s & Don’ts as featured in the article:

DO take some time to plan ahead and consider what your wishes would be if you couldn’t make decisions on your own.

DON’T think that you don’t need a will because you don’t have a large amount of assets.

DO consider as many “What If?” scenarios as possible when drafting your living will.

As someone who is surrounded by personal finance information on a daily basis, I’ll admit that I am not a part of the 13% of African Americans that reportedly have a living will. I will promise, however, that I will be within the next 30 days. By the time my husband or I need it, it’ll be too late to think about writing one, so I’m starting today. Will you?

Check out this simple e-how post on how to make a living will and as always, please share any information you find with other readers.

Until Next Time,

Seek Wisdom, Find Wealth & Be Blessed!


Dennis Howell said...

Good Morning Patrice,

I applaud you for being able to write such a powerful personal piece. I hope everything works out for your husband and his mom and the rest of the family. Death is never easy, even after a year or two go by.

Too many minorities just don't understand the importance of life planning. We fail to plan for our future careers in our teens and 20s, we fail to plan for our families during our 30s and 40s, and we fail to plan for our closest loved ones, our mates and our children during our 50s and beyond.

Life insurance is necessary. A living will is necessary. A durable power of attorney is necessary. But how many of us as black folks are having these discussions in the home, at the church, or at the annual family reunion.

We have to due better in this area and I thank you for starting the dialogue by sharing your families touching story.

Much Love and Continued Success,


Beyond The Political Spectrum said...

This should be required reading for the black community. I want to follow your blog regularly but my browser window will not show the option or your followers list.

jessica said...

My dad was recently diagnosed with Lewy Body Demintia. He is unable to make ANY decisions on his own. My dad was so responsible. He paid ALL of his bills.on time, his house is paid off, has no debts, and has a healthy cushion in a few different bank accounts. It was a huge suprise to find find out that he didnt have a will!!
It snapped me into reality, that even though Im currently living paycheck to paycheck, I have to get a will. I have two kids, if I were to become seriously ill, or even die, I would have no say as to how I want my kids to be cared for. I dont want my family to have to make such tough decisions during an already tough time, and I definately wouldnt want the court system to have full reign over such personal decisons.
We all have to face the reality that we will all die one day. Whether it be at 102 of old age, 52 of a heart attack, or 22 in a car accident. We cant predict when or how, but at least we can do our best to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.