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The Best Laid Plans...



December 29, 2008 – Comments (7)

I've spent some time over the past couple of days thinking about what I wanted to write about in my next blog posting.  I was thinking about our economy, and the steps the government has been taking to try to influence the economy - about how the government in general, and Presidents in particular, get too much credit when the economy does well and shoulder too much blame when the economy goes poorly....

I can't bring myself to write about any of that this morning.

Upon arriving in the office I learned that a colleague I've worked with for some time suffered a brain aneurysm over the holiday break and has since passed away.  My thoughts and prayers are with her family this morning.

I hesitated for a moment as to whether or not I should write about this here.  After all, this is CAPS - a place dedicated primarily to stocks and investing - and it seems that lately I've been writing more about personal happenings than I have about the market.  When it comes down to it though, this is a community, a collection of people.  While we gather together primarily to discuss stocks and learn from one another in the hopes of becoming better investors, I try my best to always remember that there are real, live human beings behind those thumbs-up and thumbs-down calls - people facing challenges and experiencing joys in their lives.  Stocks and investing are both a hobby and passion of mine, but only one of many - and writing soley about money matters at the exclusion of personal ones would, in my mind, paint a rather incomplete picture of who I am not just as a person, but as an investor too.

Our personal lives and our lives as investors are inexorably intertwined... and while there's no way I know of to prepare for the emotional trauma that the sudden passing of a loved one causes, we can, at least in part, prepare for the financial impact.

If someone depends on your income, do you have life insurance?  Is it enough?

What about a long-term illness?  Do you have long-term disablility insurance?  Is it enough?

Do you have a will, living trust, or some other form of estate planning?

Do you have an advance directive?

Does your spouse or other next of kin know about all of the family finances?  What accounts you have?  With which financial institutions?  Account numbers, balances, passwords, and where to find the important documents?  Do you know where all of these things are?

While I know the answer to the questions above for myself, I am realizing that there are one or two I could do a bit better job of (it's been a while since I've gone over all of the specific account information with my wife) -- something I plan on fixing right after we put Little Eldrehad to bed tonight and before my wife and I settle in for an evening of television or movie watching.

These issues are hard to think about and talk about for some - and one always thinks that there will be time for such things 'tomorrow'.  I know I've certainly put some of these things off when I shouldn't have (it took adding our daughter to our family before I finally got around to doing my will).  But if you, like me, think you could be doing a bit better job of planning for the inevitablility of your passing, or that of a loved one, I encourage you not to let too many more 'tommorrows' come and go.

None of us know, for sure, just how many more 'tomorrows' we will have.


Russell (a.k.a. TMFEldrehad)

7 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On December 29, 2008 at 5:51 PM, BravoBevo (99.97) wrote:

Russell, thank you for sharing your thoughts from this morning.  When someone we know faces a terminal illness or a sudden unexpected death, it is always correct to reflect on the bigger picture of what our lives mean, and to what extent our lives have shaped even a small part of this universe. Didn't Forrest Gump's mom say that death is a part of life? 

The opportunity to take time from our activities to remember the deceased is a blessing wasted is we refuse to think about death. We will all die if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet the God of all creation is folly. From both the Bible and the Torah, Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.

How can we lay it to heart if we won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering our days means thinking about how few days there are in a lifetime and that they will come quickly to an end. How will we get a heart of wisdom if we refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.

Sincere condolences to your colleague's family, your co-workers and you. Blessings to you all.

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#2) On December 30, 2008 at 1:23 AM, kathleentcob (< 20) wrote:

Russell:  I have lost a beloved spouse to cancer.  He was 51 years young, and the very best gift he ever gave to me was the time he spent preparing a will.  It was a difficult job as it was done while we were both healthy 40 year olds. My spouse did not want to spend his valuable recreational time with a lawyer and accountants and life insurance agents devising a will and estate plan, but he did just that over the course of one summer and 9 years later he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He has been gone now 10 years, but I often think of what a tremendous lasting gift he gave to me and our family in preparing for the day we hoped would come many years in the future and instead came too soon.  Your comments are right on about keeping records in order, and making information available to your spouse.    One never knows what life will bring.  My condolences to you on the sudden loss of your colleague.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.



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#3) On December 30, 2008 at 3:10 PM, BigFatBEAR (28.44) wrote:


Yesterday, I learned that a 22 year-old family friend of mine that I basically grew up with was shot and killed the night before. Life is fleeting, and sometimes much more so than we can expect or know...

I also try to spice CAPS up a bit, throwing some of my personality into it. I appreciate that you share personal things, and agree that it is important to paint a fuller picture of the people behind the thoughts/money.



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#4) On January 01, 2009 at 4:08 AM, trurl9 (73.01) wrote:

Woah. There is more to life than investing, Fool and bogus markets. Good thoughts and excellent advice to start 2009. I empathize with you losing your colleague. Lost my folks a couple years ago. My sister and I recently shared our "life inventory" lists. Since joining Fool my investing has become more "interesting" (complicated), so I felt compelled to document it for her and myself.

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#5) On January 02, 2009 at 5:02 AM, minifesto (77.84) wrote:

Excellent post. When I invest I am always aware that I am buying or selling a piece of a company where people work. I invest a lot in biotechs and when drug trials fail it is much more important to people afflicted with disease than to me who has just lost some money.

When I was working poeple always came to me when there was a change in the pension plan as they knew I would immediately calculate the impact. I retired at 50 placing time well above money and have never regretted that decision.

My mantra is TIME - tenacity, imagination, money and experience - but I think the tenacity should be replaced with trust.


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#6) On January 03, 2009 at 11:33 AM, tenmiles (31.93) wrote:

Heartfelt post. Planning for the worst is one means to enjoy anything better. 

On a more global scale, the best investment any of us can make is to ultimtely try to leave the earth a little better place than we found it.  I try to invest in my family, invest in my community and, because I'm lucky enough to find myself an American in the 21st century (by which I have already won the "lottery" within the context of world history,despite all of our obvious near-term challenges), invest some financial capital in the hopes of growing that sum to a meaningful amount that can do some good for future generations.  My attitude, and I appreciate it sounds somewhat cliched, it to find something to appreciate and enjoy every day I'm on the planet - recognizing that while there are no guarantees, as long as I am "vertical" rather than "horizontal" it remains a wonderful life. 

Good luck to you and your family. 


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#7) On January 03, 2009 at 12:48 PM, BravoBevo (99.97) wrote:

Jesus believed there was such a thing as a wasted life:

"Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (16) And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, (17) and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ (18) And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. (19) And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ (20) But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ (21) So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21)

The fool didn't commit any major crime. He was just sitting on his pile.

What then is the essence of the unwasted life? It is a life lived to magnify Jesus Christ.

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored [magnified, made to look great] in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21)

You and I are on this planet for a few years, all for the same ultimate reason but in various forms. This reason is that we would live and die to make Christ look valuable, as he really is.

When the Apostle Paul says that to die is gain, he means that Christ is more valuable than anything this world can offer. It’s like what the psalmist said in Psalm 63:3: “Your steadfast love is better than life.”

The key question then becomes, How can I use my possessions and body and time and career, etc. to show that Christ is precious beyond everything?

We are to magnify Christ, not like a microscope magnifies things but like how a telescope magnifies things. Microscopes make small things look big; but telescopes make seemingly small things look like they really are: Huge!

You and I exist to display the majesty of Christ because Jesus Christ is God. The universe exists to make Christ known. That’s why God made it. And we have been called to join Him in His self-glorification. 

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