Do You Have “I Wish I Would Have…” Regrets?

by | Jun 27, 2024

Are you a list maker? Or do you use them to help you move forward and stay organized? One of the most common To Dos on our “list” as we get older, whether it is written down or in our head, is the matter of taking action on the most procrastinated, back burner item related to planning… getting our financial house in order so things go more smoothly for loved ones in the end. Addressing this now can help us avoid future regrets and ensure we leave behind a well-organized legacy.

On the flip side of that list item is the perspective of our loved ones. I read an issue of Kiplinger’s Retirement Report and the theme of several articles was related to losing a loved one (spouse, parent, sibling). A common thread across all of the stories shared was a family member’s retrospective feeling of “I wish I would have…” known more about the finances, asked about his/her wishes, understood where to find information, or considered the scope of his/her estate.

Several years ago, Covid-19 was actually a motivator to many Americans, prompting many of us to think more seriously about the actions needed in case we get seriously ill or die.

What have you completed and have in place for times of emergency? How do you feel about sharing information with family? Compare your answers with some survey results from when Covid-19 made it top of mind for everyone.

It Won’t Happen to Me

When unexpected events occur (like Covid-19), people often seek ways to regain a sense of control and feel more prepared. Secure digital platforms like Everplans help individuals organize, store, and safely share critical information and documentation needed in emergencies, such as wills and phone unlock passwords. These resources highlight the importance of being well-prepared for unexpected events and encourage everyone to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The most common sad stories I hear have to do with families not having powers of attorney in place. Too often families assume that if a loved one is sick enough to be unable to make health care and/or financial decisions, that someone in the family will automatically be able to step in and help with those decisions and actions when needed.

Legally, if nothing is in writing in the form of a Power of Attorney document about who that sick person authorized to act on his/her wishes, the family is often forced to go to court and follow the guardianship and/or conservator process. Estate planning attorneys recognize that families have no idea how difficult, intrusive, time-consuming and expensive those court processes can be.

A Strong Motivating Factor

Unexpected events often motivate people to take action and better prepare for emergencies, leading many to engage in independently manageable planning activities. For example, in one Everplans survey, 0% of people have written down account logins and passwords, 36% have detailed account information, and 36% have discussed death with their children.

Nearly everyone agrees on the importance of parents and adult children discussing long-term life planning, particularly when it comes to tangible tasks like sharing critical household information and the location of important documents. But a majority of us never have those conversations.

Taking Action Today

In my experience helping families over the last 20 years with this procrastinated area of life, I have come to the realization that part of the reason it is so hard to take action is that we have to acknowledge that there will be an end to our life… not a pleasant topic. Our brain avoids negative feelings, including potential regrets, so we often don’t get past that uncomfortable feeling to actually take any action.

The good news is that we can change our attitude from negative to positive by recognizing that it is truly gift we are leaving our family by making the time to get our financial affairs in order. Then break that gift down to several small tasks (make a list of assets, make a list of where documents are located, update/draft estate planning documents with an estate planning attorney, etc.) and once those tasks are complete, your gift is done!

Look at this like any other gift you have made; you complete it in chunks of time and often leave it out in a visible area so you can see it and work on it over time. If you need help organizing your financial affairs, you can find many fillable PDF lists on my website.

And don’t forget to still enjoy life along the way while you are chipping away at your best last gift to your family. Then you or your family will not have regrets of thinking “I wish I would have…”

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What financial conversations have you had in your family? Have you already shared where important documents are located or details about your wishes? What tips do you have for other women? Let’s have a discussion!

Marie Burns is a Certified Financial Planner, Speaker, and Author of the bestselling Financial Checklist books. Find Marie on Facebook or contact her at [email protected]

This article was first published at 60 and Me – a community that helps women over 60 live happy, healthy and financially secure lives.