Wealth in all Stages of Life

597EF3CB-F153-4C43-8AF5-7093721039FA

My associate, Kimber, frequently points out that my bookshelves contain a number of real “downer” books on death. She’s not wrong: I have an abiding interest in what it means to grow old and how we die. My bookshelves creak under the weight of Greek and Roman philosophy texts, medical studies about aging, and financial guides for estate planning and preparing heirs. This interest goes back years for me, as part of a philosophical question about what it means to not just live, but also die well.

I’m not alone in this seemingly macabre fascination. Many others, including other philosophically minded people, ask similar questions regarding the difference between being rich and being wealthy. In simple terms, being rich is relatively easy (okay, maybe not easy – but certainly easier to define) while being wealthy asks us to consider what it is that makes us happy beyond material acquisition.

In one respect, this has been the great achievement of Western societies. By enshrining a key number of rights and making them central to our society, we have removed barriers to free association, free movement, freedom of religion and freedom from oppressive institutions. To get up every morning and know that the government isn’t going to seize your lands, punish you for your beliefs or race, or force you to pick up and flee your home in the night is the path towards building wealth. It’s possible to be rich in China, but it is not possible to be wealthy in the same way.

Being wealthy in life also grants the possibility of being wealthy in death. To know that your affairs are in order, to choose what happens to your physical remains, to be able to bequeath in confidence your assets to another generation and even help your children or grandchildren are all things that, until relatively recently, did not always reside in one’s control.

When we were choosing our new trade name, I briefly toyed with the name Walker FINANCIAL Management. But given our 25 year history, the things we’ve helped people do or try to do, limiting our scope to merely the finances of our clients seemed narrow and imprecise. While its true that my role in people’s lives is to help accumulate and save, my job is to help people save for things. I manage money so that children can get an education without leaving school encumbered by massive debt;to help people buy homes and pay down mortgages faster; to help families travel; to help retirees enjoy their time free from worry; and even to facilitate one generation helping another. We’re in the wealth business, not the financial business.

Which brings me back to my abiding interest in dying. I periodically like to point out that we, as a society, are getting older. Demographically, we will feel the effects of a population age across multiple aspects of our society. From health care to real estate, our greying society will challenge us in unique and surprising ways. How we face those challenges will determine how well we preserve our wealth, and it will mean tackling tough questions around independence, lifestyle, and even death.

So, while Kimber looks at my bookshelf and thinks I’m a bit of a downer, I look at it as the next big stage in building and preserving wealth. That’s why we’re Walker Wealth Management of ACPI.

If you have questions about wealth and aging, please give us a call! We can provide retirement planning, help you to find good solutions for Wills, Trusts, and Estates, and walk you through the different questions you should consider when considering passing on assets to heirs.

A Few Things Worse Than Dying

estateplanningforpets

Have you ever thought about how you might die? If you have you’ve probably hoped that it would be quick, painless and happen in your sleep. Though this might be the death we hope for, the reality is almost certainly going to be the opposite. Death typically provides great forewarning, can be lingering and cause great pain. Most all of us will die of non infectious diseases, starting with heart disease, including high blood pressure, heart attacks and general circulatory failure. After that comes cancer, and then a host of other diseases in various other likelihoods.

These are unpleasant truths, and not typically something we would like to dwell on. But as a clever pirate once said, “life is pain, and anyone who says otherwise is selling something.” Wise words, and a useful reminder that while we may be the heroes of our own life, it does not shield us from the most unfortunate outcomes the universe can through at us.anigif_enhanced-buzz-10974-1368553234-5But dying is perhaps not even the worst of what can befall us. While only 4.3% of people will die from dementia, it is currently estimated that 1/3 people who die of some other ailment will also have dementia at the same time. That’s a disturbing reality, suggesting that while we may still live a long life, we may not be in charge of all our faculties and could be left in an incapacitated state for an extended period of time.

Assisted SuicideI’m not going to delve into the morality of euthanasia and whether you should be allowed to choose assisted suicide. Instead I would like to shine a light on some common scenarios about what is likely to happen before we die, and why it’s important to have a Power of Attorney. A few months ago I wrote about the importance of young people having wills, to protect children, their assets and see to it that their families are cared for properly. But wills aren’t just for ensuring your wishes are carried out after you die, but before it as well.

A living will and a Power of Attorney as part of your estate planning could be counted as one of the most important aspects of sensible planning. Without it your wishes can not be carried out. If you get seriously sick, are in a terrible accident or lose your mental capacity due to illness, it is too late for “do not resuscitate” requests or to appoint someone you trust to manage your affairs. In fact, in Ontario, being rendered “mentally incapable” means that solely owned assets cannot be accessed by any other person, including your spouse. Instead you would be forcing your family to appeal to the Courts to appoint them a guardian. Outstanding bills, education funds and bank accounts may not be paid or accessed even if it’s your children’s future in the balance, and contrary to what you might think, the government does not make quick or speedy exceptions because you didn’t share bank accounts but have a joint credit card that needs payment.

Alzheimer

Long lives are wonderful things, allowing us the privilege to see multiple generations grow-up and participate in so much more than any generation behind us. But a long life also opens us to the possibility of something bad happening to us, with greater potential for life threatening accidents and illness that maim but do not kill. Like insurance and long term financial planning, a living will and a power of attorney represents worse case scenario planning that we hope never to need. But while we may hope never to be left in a vegetative state, suffering from Alzheimer’s, or incapable of running our own lives, we should not be burdening our families and stretching financial resources due to poor planning.

Please don’t wait, if you would like to get your will in order please give us a call today!