“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” –

George Bernard Shaw.

I liked that quote, especially after reaching a benchmark birthday which, as expected, led to me being deluged with birthday cards. All of them (with the exception of my mother’s) poked fun at my advancing years. Fortunately, I give as good as I get, so no lasting damage from this year’s onslaught. There was one card which made me, and those I shared it with laugh out loud. I have recreated the front page below.

Retirement Planning Retirement Will Power of Attorney Powers of Attorneys Some people find growing older difficult. I know a few folks who really struggled with hitting their 40th birthday. I must say I can’t remember that far back. Many years ago, I was very active, fit and healthy. While I retain the ambition to regain a higher level of activity and fitness, what I am more aware of now is the length of time it takes for me to recover from even the smallest injury. It seems my recovery time is months when it used to be a couple of days.

I decided late last year that joining my local parkrun would be a sensible plan. I hate jogging or running for the sake of it, but give me a gaggle of grandkids, anything that can be thrown, hit or chased, and running is no problem. I was welcomed into the arm of the parkrun family and set off full of expectation that a 5K jog would be fine. Not so. I decided to substitute jogging for walking after about two hundred yards.

However, I persevered, and ran then walked until I completed my first event. The next day my body reminded me that while age isn’t the issue, my lack of physical fitness and preparation is. I managed to forget that completing a 5K run for the first time needs preparation, even stretching beforehand would have been a novel idea. But no, I felt I could easily manage a short jog.

It was three days before my legs could get me out of a chair without wincing or making that noise older people make when they stand up, the one that sounds like a creaking door, you know the one…it seems to start as a grunt then ends as a sigh.

I have now recovered sufficiently from the most recent injury, (a near fatal Achilles tendon strain) and plan to re-enter the race for youthful vitality fairly soon.

Looking back at my birthday pie chart, I can see the reality behind the humour. I often find myself thinking, “Why did I come in here?” as I enter a room. If I drop something, I look for anything else I can do while I’m down there. Efficiency of movement personified.

The “I can’t remember what this bit is for” actually did remind me of something important. A few years ago, my father’s health was failing. Despite his short-term memory loss and general physical frailty, he could remember in vivid detail his childhood, the school he went to, friends and adventures he got up to as a teenager.

As a family we were concerned about the decisions we would soon be facing, and I suggested my mother get a power of attorney for my dad while he was capable of understanding and agreeing to it. Interestingly, my mother took the opportunity to do the same. Our family conversation got her thinking about the difficulties the family may have if she became unable to make important financial and family decisions. For the record, my mum is approaching 90 and as sharp as the proverbial tack, so we are confident the papers will stay in the drawer for some time yet. But I think that’s the point. We don’t know when that time may come. Perhaps the ‘Noah’ model might help here, he built the ark before the rains came, he didn’t wait until it started, he had everything ready beforehand.

We know family conversations about death and money are difficult. Culturally we are not particularly good at talking about money and financial provision within the family. The ‘who gets what and when’ is an emotional, potentially messy discussion to have. That’s why having your financial planner facilitate or support the family conversation really helps. It ensures the family appreciate the provision, and the thought and planning that went into it. It lets the important information get delivered clearly and in language people can understand. You will be aware we always raise the subject of wills and powers of attorney during our planning conversations. It’s important to have these in place to protect the wishes of the individuals concerned.

Having someone who knows the family and can clearly explain the situation is key to successfully communicating sensitive and detailed information. Arguably there is a responsibility to make sure sufficient effort is made to communicate and explain any decisions regarding inheritances. As John Walter Bratton, the music producer and composer said, ”The best inheritance a father can leave his children is a good example.”

It’s always better to be prepared. It removes the ‘if only’ reflections, which are undoubtably the most painful part of missed opportunities.

We have helped people deal with what can seem overwhelmingly difficult conversations. If you have some concerns about your own preparations, please just call us. We’d be happy to help.