I hope the holidays are a source of happiness and peace for you, your family, and your community.
For Jews, the story of Hanukkah begins over 2000 years ago. In the land of Israel the Jewish people were being persecuted and forbidden to practice their religion. The Jews rose up, and against overwhelming odds, recaptured Jerusalem and reclaimed their holy Temple, which had been destroyed. They cleaned the Temple, and needed to light the Temple’s menorah (a seven-branched candelabrum) to give sacred light to the restoration.
However, the oil used in the temple had to be a special, purified oil, and there was only enough for one day. A miracle occurred—the oil lasted eight days, enough time to purify more oil. Today, we light a candle for each of the eight days, and Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights.
As Stephen and I lit the candles on the last night of Hanukkah, I couldn’t help but think about 2020. A very difficult year for us all. However, like my ancestors before me, I still believe in miracles. A miracle of modern science, a vaccine, will allow us to move forward.
But we also need to do our part with masks and social distancing. It reminds me of the man who prayed every day, “Please, let me win the lottery!” After months, he cried to the heavens, “Why do you not hear my prayer?” A booming voice responded, “It would help if you bought a ticket!”
As the candles burned, my mind started wandering. Ok, my mind is always wandering.
A little bit of oil had such a large impact. Little changes you make in your life also can have a big impact. For you and your loved ones.
So, here is my holiday challenge to you. Like the eight candles, I have a list of eight items for you to take care of, each of which can make a big difference. All are related to your health, either physical or financial.
When to start? Well, we have an expression in our office when a client asks, “What’s the best way to get started?", we simply say… Start Now.
Challenge #1: Schedule your doctor appointments
People are counting on you. Pick up the phone, go online, schedule them. Here is a list of nonnegotiable doctor appointments:
- Annual physical exam
- For the gals: Gynecologist
- Colonoscopy – not a crowd pleaser but important
Extra credit: When you have made all of your appointments, schedule some special time for yourself, maybe a long walk or a yoga class.
Challenge #2: Get (or update) a healthcare power of attorney
It’s a straightforward document that designates someone (your “agent") to make decisions about your medical treatment if you are unable to do so. It also covers end-of-life decisions.
And while you are completing your own healthcare powers of attorney, complete the same for your children over 18. Trust me on how important this is. Not long ago my daughter tore her ACL. I tried to talk to the doctor, but he would not give me – the mom – any information unless I sent the healthcare power of attorney!
Extra credit: Once you have completed your health care powers of attorney, provide a copy to your “agent.”
Challenge #3: Complete (or update) an estate plan
Call your estate planning attorney. If you don’t have one, ask a trusted advisor for a recommendation.
Your estate plan provides instructions on how your assets should be distributed upon your death. It also can make arrangements to appoint guardians for minor children.
If you have an estate plan, when was the last time you updated it? Are you sure it still reflects your wishes?
Extra credit: Once your estate plan is completed, take that extra step and make sure that all your investment accounts and real estate are titled correctly and all your retirement accounts have proper beneficiaries.
Challenge #4: Consider life, disability, and long-term care insurance
Death or disability can be devastating to families. Financial stress should not be added at a most difficult time. Call a trusted insurance professional to determine how much life, disability, and long-term care insurance you need. Get it in place. You’ll sleep better at night.
Term life insurance is relatively inexpensive. Premiums are usually a set amount annually for a given number of years. An example is a 30-year, $1 million dollar policy. At the end of 30 years, the policy expires or the premiums may increase.
Disability insurance is often overlooked, yet it can be life-changing and is often needed more than life insurance. What if you were to be disabled and could not work? Would your family be covered? Living expenses, mortgage, college… The list goes on.
Long-term care insurance can be beneficial. It can also be quite expensive, so consider the costs vs. the potential benefit.
Extra credit: Review your insurance needs and the cost of your premiums every few years as circumstances change.
Challenge #5: Focus on saving
Please don’t wait until you get that raise. Until your kids finish college. Until... whatever. Save what you can, but start saving. Set an annual savings goal for both retirement and investment accounts.
Extra credit: Check that you are at least putting away enough in your 401(k) plan to receive the maximum match from your employer. An employer match is free money—your employer “matches” your contribution up to a certain amount. So take advantage of it!
Challenge #6 Track your assets and liabilities
These numbers are a reflection of your financial health. Track them on a regular basis, understanding the trends. Are you moving in the right direction?
Assets include liquid accounts (checking, savings etc.), investment accounts (brokerage and retirement accounts holding stocks and bonds) and other long-term investments. Also include personal assets, such as your home, autos, and other “big-ticket” items such as jewelry.
Liabilities represent debt to be repaid, such as mortgages, loans and credit. Don’t include credit card balances that are paid in full at the end of each month.
Extra credit: Review all your liabilities. What are the minimum payments? What are the interest rates? Pay off the highest rate loans first, usually credit card debt. Set up a plan to reduce your debt. When it is paid off, take the amount you had been allocating toward repaying debt and redirect it towards savings.
Challenge #7: Visualize your retirement
Planning for retirement is not just about financial projections. While you should have a full financial plan to guide you, there is more to it than just numbers.
Ask yourself… What do I want my retirement to look like? How am I going to spend my time? Visualizing what you want your retirement to look like is a fantastic exercise as you plan for these precious years.
Retirement is not all or nothing. You may continue to work, but at a different pace or with different responsibilities than you've had over the past 30 years. How can you explore your passions? Start visualizing your retirement while you are still working.
Extra credit: Understand and evaluate your options regarding Medicare plans, as well as when to begin taking Social Security.
Challenge #8: Organize your important documents
What would happen if someone needed to step in and take care of your financial affairs or manage your healthcare? Would they have access to the necessary information? Do them (and yourself) a favor. Download and complete our Just in Case document.
Extra credit: Share the Just in Case document with the people who will need to step in.
I am optimistic that when we celebrate the holidays a year from now, the world will look different than today. A little dose of vaccine for each of us will lead to a new reality for all of us. And if you complete my Hanukkah challenge, making a little progress in the eight areas above will have a great impact for you and your loved ones.
Happy Holidays to All!
Shari Greco Reiches
Shari co-founded Rappaport Reiches Capital Management with one goal - to maximize the return on life for her clients. Please connect with Shari below. She loves to talk about investing, financial planning, and Barry Manilow.