The year 2013 has seen the passing of the final members of my extended family’s oldest generation. Born near the beginning of the previous century, the final two lived well into their 90s. I am including in this group various in-laws and step-relatives, which many of us have and fits the general understanding of what it means to be “family” at the beginning of the 21st century.
The lives, and ultimately the deaths, of this generation exert significant influence on my own life and how I advise clients, as I think our experience is largely typical. It can be best summarized as follows:
A. At some point, everyone slows down, a lot. One of my relations needed full-time nursing care, and another relied on the Herculean efforts of his younger spouse. Chronic conditions that move slowly appear to be the rule. The decline is mental as well as physical.
B. All interested persons benefited from good management systems, by which I mean that each person had some one to help them (or step in for them) to manage their business affairs. It’s never anything huge: it’s always one million little things. Who is going to make sure the cable bill gets paid? Who found a home for the dog when grandma could no longer look after him?
C. Their interest in investing and growing their money largely ceased years (if not decades) before they did. If you find yourself pre-occupied with this subject, my guess is that it will quickly recede around the time of your first significant medical “procedure.”
D. My guess is that “C” above was aided by all of them having reasonable mixtures of stocks, bonds, and cash. “Reasonable” in this case is probably a wide range, but none of them were convinced the Federal Reserve was trying to take over the world or that we need to hoard gold coins in a fallout shelter. No, a bland, diversified portfolio took care of their needs.
The economist Keynes is famous for saying “in the long run, we are all dead.” Despite all sorts of advances in medicine, human mortality remains at 100%. It is instructive for me to see, and to pass along to my clients, that virtually all of the planning needs in later years had nothing to do with investment decisions.
I hope I am able to be as useful for when the next generation passes.
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Twenty one years ago today I graduated law school and was released upon a largely...