Thursday, March 28, 2019

Don’t Let Anything Stand in Your Way

The Heartache

Her sobs revealed the obvious; her heart was breaking. She was dealing with the unimaginable.  Her son died unexpectedly. No explanation. No advance warning. Because he had no spouse, no children, and no will, his widowed mother stood in line to inherit his large farm operation. She never anticipated this happening at her age.  Her decision could have been easy--sell everything--but it wasn’t.  Other farming children were involved. 
The Unknown

We’ll never know with certainty her son’s reasons for not having the discussions with his family or creating an estate plan.  We can only make assumptions.  He may have thought he was young, healthy, and possibly invincible.  He may have felt he had plenty of time to make his intentions known.  Or perhaps he found the decisions were too difficult and needed more time to make the “right ones”.

Let his story compel us to take action.  Let our story have a different ending.  Estate planning for a farming family will not always be “a walk in the park”. Tough decisions require meaningful conversations with family and farm advisors. Realistically, some decisions may be met with opposition from family but the opportunity must be taken to iron out the crinkles. Valid reasons may stop the process but shouldn’t stop us from crossing the finish line.   Here’s what we need to know.

Pushback from family about our decisions shouldn’t stand in the way of making our intentions known in writing. We may need to negotiate or compromise but ultimately, the final decisions will always be ours. 

Our sincere wishes are to protect and care for our loved ones and make known our charitable bequests. When we don’t honor our wishes, we cheat ourselves of our desires; and will only invite heartache, hurt feelings, and bickering into our families. Satisfying everyone may be impossible. Perseverance and courage will help fight our fears of not pleasing everyone. But when we are honest, our loved ones will know the reasons for our decisions and never be left to wonder “why”.   

The Reality

Assets alone do not determine wealth. Assets, such as investments, inventory, land, machinery and equipment may be offset against mountains of outstanding debt. Without a Net Worth Statement we clearly don’t know whether we have any wealth to distribute.    An encompassing estate plan looks at everything from insurance needs to tax planning strategies.   Only when we do our homework will we see what we own and owe.  Any potential dangers of eroding the value of our estate can be fixed with appropriate strategies to create the ideal plan.   

The Promise

Someone pointed out that anyone who doesn’t have an estate plan and a will is selfish.  Their focus happens to be only on their needs without any consideration for their loved ones.  The reasonable question is, “What would stop anyone from designing an estate plan so their family could remain united?” 

Peace and harmony, although not always achievable, should be the main objective.  When we build an empire, we have a say in how the empire is divided and shared among our beneficiaries.  An estate plan is designed to survey the accumulated wealth and decide the appropriate way to divide it.   

Although the task is daunting, we must fulfill our promises to ourselves and our loved ones. We keep our promises by revealing our intentions in writing.  When we don’t follow through with our promises, we miss the reward. 

The Reward

 Difficult tasks, like estate planning, are often shoved to the end of our to-do lists.  William James, one of the founders of modern psychology said, “Procrastination is attitude’s natural assassin. There’s nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted task.” 

Every time we hear about someone’s unexpected injury, illness, or death, we think about our unfinished tasks. We feel a weight on our minds. Our Estate Plan which includes a Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, and Will, all hang in limbo because we haven’t made the time to complete it.   Once we commit and see this task to the end, our minds will be free of this burden. 

William James also said, “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.” 

When our attitude is aligned with our motivation, we will achieve our goal.  Our intentions must be driven by our love for our families.  We will do everything in our power to have them avoid any hardships or discord…and for us, to have the comfort and satisfaction knowing our wishes will be carried out when we die.   Simply knowing this makes all the effort we put into getting it done worth it.   

If you haven’t completed your estate plan, what reason is holding you hostage?  You are welcome to share your comment below.    

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Elephant in the Room

When there’s an elephant in the room, we tend to carry on as though the elephant doesn’t exist.  We walk with him. We walk around him.  We make adjustments to accommodate him.  Often we never bother to do anything about him when he stands in the way of reaching our goals, dreams, and aspirations.

The elephant in the room is our addiction.  The list is long.  The website, Healthy Place, provides extensive articles on all addictions, from alcoholism and drug addictions to gaming disorders, and yes, even shopping.  The website’s purpose is to help us learn about addiction symptoms, causes, treatments and the struggles of living with an addiction.

The conversation is a tough one.  “What stops you from doing what you want to do?”  Often the reasons are anything but the real problem. People don’t realize the hold that the addictions have on them and the money it sucks from their bank accounts.   Their joy has been stolen.  The fun of living has vanished. Where’s the hope?  Let’s find out.

Asking for help is not a weakness. In actuality, it is a sign of strength and courage to want to improve your situation.  Seeing your money wasted on far lesser things than you would like may be a turning point. This is when progress can be made.   

If you think your life can’t change, then you are encouraged to read Johnnetta McSwain’s story in her book, Rising Above the Scars.  She had a traumatic childhood.  She dropped out of high school in eleventh grade and lived on the streets.  After years of barely getting by, she woke up on her thirtieth birthday, looked in the mirror, and didn’t like what she saw.  She writes,

“That day I woke up and realized I had absolutely nothing to celebrate–no money, no full-time job, no home, no husband, and no clue, not even the will to do better.  At last I knew it was time to make some changes.”

Her first step was to obtain her GED.  From there, she had a burning desire to go to college.  She attributed her success to her positive outlook.  “I realized I didn’t have to be smart,” Johnnetta explains, “I just had to be determined, motivated, and focused.  This came with a high price tag for me.  I had to exchange my thinking.  I had to think like a smart person.” And she did.  What about you? 

Living pay cheque to pay cheque because of an addiction or resorting to other means to support an addiction needs to end.  The elephant in your home needs to be acknowledged and talked about…

I first heard about Johnnetta’s story in John C. Maxwell’s book, The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth.  In his book, a specific chapter is written about the Law of the Mirror, which reflects on the value you must see in yourself before you can add value to yourself.  The whole principle about change rests on our shoulders.  We must have the desire to want to change.  No one can make us change against our will.   If addictions stop us from reaching our potential, then this is the very reason we should latch onto someone who will inspire us to seek help.

Johnnetta was motivated by a profound thought:  “I get a chance to be anyone I want to be.” And she discovered a way.  

Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture, offers this solution, “When there’s an elephant in the room introduce him.”

Do you have encouragement to share with others?  Please feel free to provide your perspective in the comment section below.