On My Mind

Dennis Friedman

LIKE OTHER WRITERS for this site, I blog often about what’s happening in my own life—my financial mistakes, early retirement, health scares I’ve had, my mother’s death and more. Here are four updates:

Spending. When it comes to parting with money, I have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. I sit home at night wearing three layers of clothing, two pairs of socks and a hat because I’m too cheap to turn on the furnace—and yet I don’t hesitate to spend hundreds of dollars to be pampered at a five-star hotel.

I guess it’s the same reason people spend thousands of dollars to ride in comfort in a luxury vehicle, while also dealing with the inconvenience of waiting in long lines at Costco to save on gas. We all pick our battles when it comes to cutting expenses. But ultimately, you need to pick at least some battles if you’re to win the ongoing war between spending and saving.

Caregiving. After my mother passed away, I found I had more time for myself. I was able to develop closer relationships with friends and family, and that brought more happiness to my life.

But that also led to feelings of guilt. I often asked myself, “Is it okay to enjoy my life after losing a loved one? Does that mean I don’t really miss my mother that much?” Of course not. I imagine that is something that’s always in the back of your mind when you lose someone close to you.

Estate planning. As the successor trustee for my mother’s trust, I’ve learned four lessons as I settle her estate:

  • Having a trust makes life so much easier for your heirs. It’s not only less time-consuming, but also less expensive for your loved ones. Why? You avoid lengthy delays in probate court and there should be fewer legal fees.
  • It’s important to consolidate your holdings. Why? The fewer financial institutions you have accounts with, the less time your loved ones will spend filling out paperwork and dealing with different institutions, each with their own requirements for closing accounts.
  • Having a checking account in your trust makes it easier for your successor trustee to issue the proceeds to the beneficiaries. Why? The checking account can be used as a holding account as funds are collected from various financial institutions. Then a check to each beneficiary can be written from the trust checking account. This is also a good way to create a paper trail for assets received and disbursed.
  • Vanguard Group is not only an excellent institution for investing your money, but also it provides great customer service for trustees and beneficiaries. It sends the required documents to your online Vanguard account. A customer representative then instructs you on how to fill out the paperwork. The rep stayed on the phone with me until all the documents were completed. I can’t say enough about the help I received.

Annual checkups. I just made an appointment with my primary care physician for my annual checkup. I often wonder why more people with health insurance don’t get checkups every year.

Perhaps it’s because they’re unaware that they should. In a 2015 survey of insured adults conducted by Cigna, “45% of Americans say they don’t know that they should have an annual checkup—and half are unaware that if they have insurance, there is no cost for the annual checkup. In fact, most Americans are more in tune with when their pets need to have their shots than when they should go for their own checkup.”

Preventative care is not only the first line of defense in combating illness, but also in protecting you from costly medical bills. That’s important to remember as you save for retirement and other financial goals.

Dennis Friedman retired from Boeing Satellite Systems after a 30-year career in manufacturing. Born in Ohio, Dennis is a California transplant with a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA. A self-described “humble investor,” he likes reading historical novels and about personal finance. His previous articles include Turning the PageJourney’s End and So Many Benefits. Follow Dennis on Twitter @DMFrie.

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