The Painful Cost of Waiting

July 11, 2014

A client called me recently with the horrible news that she had been diagnosed with cancer. Over a year ago, we worked diligently on her estate plan. The plan included a sizable life insurance policy to protect her daughter at her passing. She called me with the distressing news, but was so grateful for my assistance and the vision of preparedness. In her case, the cost of waiting would have meant an insurance denial, precluding her daughter from receiving a significant tax-free legacy benefit at her Mom’s passing. We are prayerful our friend will recover and grateful she feels financial peace because of her resolve to prepare.

I have received several of these phone calls over the years, all with clients expressing gratitude that they took prudent, forward looking action to mitigate perceived risks that later became unfortunate realities in their lives. Fortunately for them, they took action to prepare.

Sadly, I could tell you a host of heart breaking stories of individuals who experienced the negative cost of waiting. A client recently sought options on a protection strategy for long-term care. The best course was an asset-based approach, which required a medical evaluation. At 76 years old she was denied due to a very recent medical condition. She was so upset with herself. She repeatedly said to me, “Oh why did I wait so long? I have known I needed to do this for years.”

Another client on the dawn of putting together an effective legacy strategy for her children had an unexpected fall. This event precluded her from qualifying for the best solution. I met with another person whose brother was abruptly admitted into a skilled nursing facility. He is on a feeding tube and can’t communicate. They did the important work of obtaining a financial power of attorney in 2007, but not a physician’s healthcare directive. This oversight is now causing them problems in communicating with healthcare providers.

I have been working with a senior client for several months whose brother died unexpectedly without a will or trust. This has created numerous financial and legal challenges for her even thought she is the only heir. Why people put off important planning until it is often too late?

Over the last 30 months I have conducted over 100 educational events on the topic of Estate Preservation. At the events, attendees take the acclaimed Estate Preservation Wellness Check-Up! This formal wellness check up provides an opportunity for individuals to score themselves on 10 important estate preparedness questions.

The check up gauges one’s level of preparedness on topics like the fear of running out of money, staying ahead of inflation, combating taxes, mitigating market risk, earning more competitive rates of return, replacing income when a spouse passes, dealing with that pesky IRA, protecting assets from a catastrophic illness and the benefits of having a living trust. At the end, attendees add up their scores to determine if their estate is healthy, needs a doctor or needs to be rushed to the emergency room. We do have fun at the events!

Awareness and education are important first steps towards financial peace, but we must be deliberate. If we just educate ourselves on what we should do, but never take action, it avails us nothing. Let’s not be like the two lions, who sitting on the side of a mountain saw Noah and his company sailing in the distance. One said to the other, “Oh, was that today?”

Unfortunately, procrastination is ever present. I have met hundreds of people who tell me privately they wish they had gotten out of the stock market before a big downturn. They all note that they felt uneasiness before the market crashed, but did nothing. They recognize they have moved from the accumulation to the distribution or spending phase of life. They agree this later phase employs different tools and strategies and yet they are unwilling to step away from the proverbial slot machine.

The cost of waiting negatively impacts our lives in many ways. When we drag our feet we can become ineligible for some of the best estate planning strategies due to advanced age or health problems. In addition, some strategies take time to place in motion. Indecision wastes valuable time, time that is often needed for appropriate financial stratagems to mature.

Understandably, a financial problem left to fester can costs more to remedy than if corrected years prior. Furthermore, this inaction can also create or contribute to other complications. Consider the financial boomerangs that exist when a spouse passes such as the loss of income from Social Security or a pension. It’s time to make important issues more urgent in our lives.

On the topic of procrastination Benjamin Franklin said, “You may delay, but time will not.” Will Rogers noted, “Even if you’re on the right track-you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” If you are plagued with questions or concerns that are holding you back, then reach out for answers. Doing so and then taking action will give you a credible claim on financial peace!