Book Review: Next Steps: A Practical Guide to Planning for The Best Half of Your Life

I recently read a book that I think is helpful for all of us as we plan for the next half of our own life or are helping our parents, in-laws or others plan for their lives. It's helpful for individuals and also particularly helpful for couples since they discuss many of the issues in relation to couples.  It's called Next Steps: A Practical Guide to Planning for the Best Half of Your Life–Trusted Advice on How to Secure Your Future and Avoid Costly Mistakes, by Jan Warner & Jan Collins. It's based on their nationally syndicated cloumn “Next Steps.”

There are all sorts of reasons why many of us avoid discussing these issues. But, given my philosophy of trying to control the parts of life we can control,it's important for all of us to think ahead and plan for ourselves, our partner, our children (if we have them), our parents (if they're still alive) and even our pets. It's actually a form of “insurance” to protect ourselves and our loved ones–to consciously and intentionally plan for the next stage of our lives. Our up-coming book, The Couples Retirement Puzzle: The 10 Must-Have Conversations for Transitioning  to the Second Half of Life focuses on many of the conversations that are important to have. This book, Next Steps, provides some legal and practical “nuts and bolts” regarding how to prepare for this next half of life.

Bottom line, in Next Steps, the authors discuss the importance of putting our wishes and directions in writing so there will be an “orderly transfer of authority” so we know that our partner, children, parents, and even our pets will be cared for. They cover issues such a putting together a team of people that is right for you, ways to understand and prepare the documents we need, and a lot of the “what ifs” in life–such as if you or your partner become chronically ill or incapacited. They also focus on issues such as health care planning, long term care issues, and understanding basic medicare and medicaid issues as well as basic patient's rights in assisted living and nursing home facilities. They also focus on issues such as divorce, 2nd or 3rd marriages when we're older, cohabitation and domestic partnerships. The final section of the book focuses on end of life issues such as funerals, burials, organ donations, planning for pets, etc. It's important to understand the issues and risks and choose professionals who can help us maximize our options. We're including this book as a resource in our book. I'm a believer that we can breathe more easily once we know that we've taken the time to prepare for some of the possible contigencies in life. My husband and I have already done many of the things they've mentioned in the book, and i found it helpful to become aware of some additional things. It's helpful reading for ourselves and also if we're in a caretaking role with any older relatives or friends. If you check the book out, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Take care.  Dori

Are you on the same financial team as your partner?

I was recently a guest on Kathleen Kingsbury's radio show, Chicks Make Cents on the topic, “Talking to Your Partner About Money.”

Here are the highlights of my talk:

1. Learn about your partner's money history. Yes it is difficult to talk about money in our society but in order to have a good marriage or partnership it is essential. With the recent economic turmoil, more and more people are discussing money matters so use this as an opportunity to talk to your loved one about his or her thoughts and feelings about money, what he or she was taught financially growing up and how these lessons influence current spending and saving behaviors. Here's a great question to start the conversation off on the right note. “What are you most proud of financially?” Yes, you can talk about the good parts of your relationship with money as well as the things you would like to change!

2. Create and develop a shared vision. Couples go through changes and developmental patterns just like individuals do. Starting out you want to make sure you discuss money matters along with having children, living arrangements and the usual dating conversations. If you did not start out that way, no problem. It is never to late to have a “financial meeting” to start the process.

Create a vision of what you want your lives to look like now and in the future. Write this long term vision down and review it periodically. Having a shared vision around money and your life together as a couple will increase intimacy and allow you to find out more about your partner, his or her dreams and how you can live a wonderful life together. Remember that you do not need to agree on everything, you just need to respect each other's viewpoints.

3. Agree to productive money conversations. Here are a few tips on how to have a healthy conversation around money. Follow these tips and make sure you take a break if one or both you is unable to follow these guidelines.

Use “I” statements. Start the conversation with “I am concerned about X, Y and Z,” not “You did X, Y and Z.” It may feel like a subtle difference but it will get both of you started off on the right foot. Respect each other and talk about your experience helps you not accuse your partner of wrong doing. And nobody likes to be put on the spot. Using “I” statements takes practice, but there is better time to start than today.
Set ground rules. It is important to agree that you will not blame each other, that you will agree to disagree if needed and you will get some professional help from a money coach or therapist should you not be able to follow the rules. We all need help from an expert from time to time and a few meetings with a money coach can go a long way in getting two people back on track and on the same team.
Set time aside. Life gets busy so you need to schedule “financial meetings” from time to time. Agree to a time to talk for 30 minutes about the topic of money and your couple hood and keep the appointment. If you have kids, make sure they are taken care of so you are not interrupted. These financial conversations make great excuses to get a babysitter and treat yourselves to dinner and movie once you are done.

You can listen to the full interview from 6/19/09 here on BlogTalk Radio .

The Movie UP is a poignant and funny “must see” for all ages

I recently saw the Pixar movie UP with my son and husband –and recommend it for all ages. In its lovely, colorful, animated way it shows the journey of life from the innocence of childhood with its heroes and dreams to the second half of life with losses and disappointments.  We share in the dreams and sadness of childhood sweethearts, Ellie and Carl, as they grow old together. After Ellie dies, Carl, a 78 year old grumpy widower and former balloon salesman sets out to fulfill Ellie's dreams. In the journey that follows, in spite of himself, Carl becomes an “action hero” who has to confront his childood hero, connects with Russell (an Adventure Scout who wants to earn his badge by helping old people), Kevin, a colorful bird,  and Dug, a wonderful talking dog, and ultimately, finds his own connections and purpose and meaning for his life. I've over- simplified this, but it's well worth seeing! I'd love to hear your reactions once you've seen the movie.

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