Seniors & Aging

Yes, we’re a lot wealthier than we think!

Can we concur about this notion? Regardless of how little or how much our worldly possessions are worth, each of us really possesses a far greater wealth: Our one-of-a-kind precious and priceless gems of life’s experience and wisdom, archived over our minds’ lifetime of learning and being.

And, if we turn off the TV, smartphone and computer, and deeply ponder this idea, what a universe of intellectual treasure will emerge! Just a few of the possibilities:

▪ Our own philosophies, worries, beliefs, joys, sorrows, hopes, wishes, prejudices.

▪ Heartwarming recollections of “That’s me, all right!” events. <Opinions and judgments about the people and everything else in our world.

▪ Fond, or not-so-fond, word pictures of family-lore and our-scene events.

▪ Techniques for, and the art of, successful living.

▪ Advice and wishes about managing our property-will bequests.

▪ Revealing portrayals of the people in our and loved ones’ lives.

▪ Divinity, faith and religion, both ours and others’.

▪ “If I had the chance to do…….over again, I’d…….”. And why.

▪ Politics, government, social issues, the economy, past and future.

▪ And handing all sorts of other wisdom down to progeny, bearing our own imprimatur.

A “this-says-it-all” quote from Susan Swan, celebrated contemporary author and presenter about our culture: “When an old person dies, a library is lost”. What a shame! And, may I suggest, not just old? Everyone!

Instead of letting our “library” wealth disappear when we expire and be lost forever, how about preserving it for the benefit of coming generations of loved ones? -- Our own precious legacy.

How to do that? It’s simple enough, and even fun and heart-throbby. After deep introspection recovering and sorting out your most profound thoughts and stories, just start talking into a video and/or audio, or typing or writing onto paper or a computer file. You’re bound to produce memorable sets of both memoirs archiving the stories, plus legacy letter ethical wills archiving your thoughts, ideas, wisdom and wishes. Bestow them upon loved ones either while you’re still alive, at death, or some of both.

Memoir stories: Like to sample the warm-fuzzies that they can produce? Try a couple of real ones from my own family, both now fascinating their fourth generations of progeny:

“Mama and Papa opened the bakery in 1907, and as soon as I was old enough to put on my roller skates I wheeled bags of bread and rolls to the neighbors’ doors. But, for two decades Papa delivered all over southwest Washington with the horse and wagon, before switching to the ‘newfangled contraption motor truck’ -- or rather, several successive short-lived ones that he crashed into things. For years he kept forgetting that pulling back on the steering wheel and yelling ‘Whoa!’ was not the way to make a truck stop.”

Another:

“My three older brothers and I all dropped out of school in our mid-teens, and left the family home in Rome, N.Y., scattering to California and Texas, rebelling against and finally escaping our father’s tyrannical parenting. I worked my way to Dallas to find refuge with Jack. Once there, I fortunately found a job with the gas company, climbing down into manholes and inspecting underground gas lines. One day, on my way down, I began to pick up an ominous hissing sound. Inexperienced daredevil me kept going, and soon discovered a growing rupture. Boy, did I scamper back up and out of that manhole in a hurry, and as I barely had lept out of the shaft onto the sidewalk it exploded with a tower of flame that even burned the tree limbs overhead!

Did I say that finding that job was fortunate? Waking up alive every day after that blast surely is!”

Then, there are ethical will legacy letters bequeathing our intellectual gems. But these also can be major estate-plan instruments, co-equal to, and at least equally important and impactful partners with, our property wills and trusts that bequeathe our worldly goods assets. They can convey our estate-plan thinking, philosophy, and instructions. Despite all of this, they generate absolutely no lawyer time or fees, witnesses and notaries public, estate and probate laws, income taxes, estate and inheritance taxes, filing fees, creditors’ claims, fiduciaries or their fees, or legal hassles!

Samples:

“My dear husband, Robert, may he rest in peace, left us with many values and principles to live by, and I hope to go to my grave in peace with the knowledge that you all are living by them. He, as do I, always aspired to achievements of spiritual and material excellence and comfort, compassionate community involvement and helpful leadership, dignity, humility and honor, not for our own gratification, but as ideals for you children, to reach for and embrace.

I pray that you will carry on the pursuit of these lofty ideals, and that you and your children will prosper and flourish as a result.

I also wish to express some very deep concerns:

Keith, you are the youngest, a bit impetuous, and not yet launched in your career or in marriage. Choose carefully, and with maturity, with a view to long-range results, and with plenty of your caring elders’ advice. Make no major decisions quickly, or without thoroughly considering all the facts and implications. Deliberation, not impulse, Keith!

Christina, you are the oldest, and already the most established in life. I hope that you’ll have the wisdom and the compassion to reach down and nurture your siblings through life, especially in the absence of your father and me.

Our family home always has been the family’s focal point. It’s brought us together countless times, and still is a strong force in keeping us close and caring. To my children, grandchildren, and siblings, I hope that you will keep it in the family, to keep it being so.”

Another:

“Beloved children, we’d like to give you our heartfelt advice and guidance about managing the assets that you will benefit from in our estate plan, especially if a common disaster deprives you of guidance from both of us.

First, we’ve left the investments and most of the life insurance and annuities in trust, with a detailed sub-trust for the long-term funding of Larry’s autism care, so that our professionals and your uncle Richard can manage them successfully in your best interests and in accord with our guidelines, until you are old enough, experienced enough, and knowledgeable enough to take over. You’d be wise to welcome their guidance, to cooperate with them, and to be open and straightforward with them about your wishes, ideas, preferences, and ambitions.

Second, because you’d be going to live with Richard and Louise, the family home that you’ve loved growing up in and hoped to be able forever to return to, will be sold. This will turn that no-longer-needed money-drain into investment assets to fund your educational ambitions.”

See? What a blessing, preserving our wealth “library” of life’s experience and wisdom! And, yes, every one of us possesses those gems; they’re just excitedly waiting for us to introspect deeply enough to retrieve them. Amazing, what we can discover about ourselves, wealth worth preserving!

BTW: For lots of info about Susan Swan, and access to her works: Google “Susan Swan, author.”

Contact Gary Newman at garynewman.clu@gmail.com. Your ideas and comments are always welcome.

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