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Dave Sather's Money Matters: The Instruction Manual for Life

Nov. 16, 2010 at 5:16 a.m.


Many years ago, as I learned the financial planning trade in Victoria, I worked with a husband and wife.

"Bill" neared retirement and he and "Janet" tried to make some critical decisions.

When would they retire? Where would they live? Was their estate plan in order? Did they have enough money to retire? These questions were just the tip of the iceberg.

It was obvious that Bill was the "financially dominant" partner. He handled all of the bills, made the investments, coordinated the insurance, etc.

Janet was not ignorant or incapable; however, I could tell financial issues were not her strong suit. As such, she always left those matters to Bill. So far, that plan had worked just fine.

Then I received a distraught phone call from Janet. Bill had a massive heart attack and died.

As of anyone in this situation, Janet's world spun out of control. Not only was she mourning the loss of her spouse, she was now forced to quickly make a host of logic-based financial decisions at a time of extreme pressure and emotion.

Bill and Janet reminded me much of my parents, as well as me and my wife. In most relationships, there is one financially dominant partner.

I started thinking about what would happen to my mother if my dad passed away. Although a very bright woman, she had very little to do with the overall financial planning in their house.

The same was true of my situation. Every time I tried to get Carol involved in our financial planning, she replied, "No, no, no ... That is why I married you." Somehow I don't remember that being in our wedding vows.

From that moment forward I realized I needed to do something to help our clients deal with this situation.

The goal then was to produce an outline, an organizer, a file or something of this nature to help people make rational decisions in a time of crisis.

Hence, The Instruction Manual For Life was born.

Although everyone's manual should be customized, there are certain commonalities we all need.

Who is your professional team and how do we get ahold of them? Who is your lawyer, accountant, insurance agent, investment manager, minister, executor, etc? Some of our clients even list their doctors, medications and veterinarian.

Where are your assets and important documents? Where is your safe deposit box, wills, insurance policies, bank and brokerage statements, trust documents, real estate titles, car titles, jewelry, firearms, birth certificates, death certificates and funeral instructions?

When you think about it, you realize in a moment of panic there is quite a bit of information that may need to be readily accessed in an orderly and logical manner. You want to leave an easy-to-follow roadmap to make decisions in your absence.

Obviously, a husband and wife both need to know where the manual is kept. However, consider who else might need to know where this information is kept in case you both are in an accident at the same time.

Although my wife says financial planning is my job, she knows we have a manual and where it is located. Carol also knows who to call if I kiss a Mack truck on U.S. Highway 59.

I usually update my manual about once a year or as circumstances require.

For a full checklist on the manual, visit www.SatherFinancial.com and click on "Financial Planning Documents."

Dave Sather is a Victoria certified financial planner and owner of Sather Financial Group. His column, Money Matters, publishes every other Wednesday.

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