Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Natural Part of Life

Apologies in advance to those of you looking for my usual "eat/sleep/think/train like an athlete" blog posts. This isn't going to be one of those.

My stepmother passed away exactly one week ago. It still doesn't feel real.

I hate that word by the way. "Stepmother." Fairy tales and Disney haven't done right by the stepmoms out there, portraying them as something inferior or evil. Not Becky. She has always treated me like her own daughter.

I had hoped for a different outcome for her and the rest of my family. And though her death prompted me to take a hard look at my own health habits, I still couldn't make an immediate commitment last week. Italian families grieve over food, Irish families grieve over drink, and - lucky me - I claim heritage from both.

Sleep was hard to come by, but tears were plentiful during my last ten days in NJ. I knew that if I didn't want to continue spiraling downward, I'd have to return to Florida as soon as possible. Leaving my father yesterday was one of the most painful things I've had to do, but I hope he took some comfort in knowing that I will be returning a few times in the next month for business travel.

But besides work... I foresee a lot of spontaneous travel back to NJ in my future. Which means I need to build it into my healthy routine and no longer treat trips home as an excuse to go nutritionally offroading.

Becky's death has made me contemplate my own mortality. I know my untimely death would be emotionally trying for my husband and parents, so I'm going to do whatever it takes to ease their burden by planning ahead. If you have others that are dependent on you (spouse, children, etc.), I don't care how old you are or how uncomfortable the conversation makes you, get the following straightened out RIGHT NOW. Wait, and it may be too late. You just never know. (Quick disclaimer: please speak with your financial professional about all of the below. This is not meant to be dispensed as advice for your specific financial situation.)

  • Life insurance - get it. A financial professional can help you figure out how much you need. Even if you don't need it for income replacement... funerals are $$$$. And your loved ones are going to be way too emotional to make pragmatic decisions about how to send you off. Speaking of...
  • How do you want to be sent off? Tell a few people, not just your spouse (prepare for the unfortunate case you both end up in the same accident). In the past week, I've seen two very different approaches to celebrating the lives of loved ones. And neither really resonated with me. So I'm going with being donated to science. And maybe someone will recount the tale of how I finally achieved a sub 2:00 half marathon at a party somewhere. But I digress...
  • Wills - No, you aren't too young to have one. Most of the time, your assets will go to your spouse - but what if you aren't married? Or what if you are, but you both end up in an accident? A will directs what should be done with things like your house, cars, etc. Otherwise, a judge is going to end up deciding for you.
  • Naming (and updating) beneficiaries - speaking of, make sure things like retirement accounts (401k, IRA, etc) have a current beneficiary named. I'll give you two problematic scenarios:
    •  If no beneficiary is named, your dollars go into probate, and those dollars could be used to pay off creditors first. So say you die from a really horrible illness, leaving a huge hospital bill behind. You are no longer around, so you don't have to pay it. Great! However... you don't have a named beneficiary on your 401k plan, so it goes into probate... which means the hospital can have at it, not leaving much left for your loved ones. Not so great, and something that could easily have been avoided by naming a bene.
    • Your bene was your first wife/husband... and you forgot to update it when you got remarried. Even if your first spouse was a stand-up guy/gal and wants to sign over the check to your current spouse, they can't do that without tax implications.

There's more to think about, for sure, but that's enough morbidity for today. Just needed to bring some closure to the last week and thought this would be a good way to do it. While I would have liked to create a post for Star Wars Day yesterday, my heart just wasn't into it. Tomorrow I'll get back to the stuff I usually write about.

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