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At a farm convention in Chicago, I was approached by an audience member who explained that gifting a working farm to her children was preferable to selling and leaving them each $5 million. When I pressed her for more details – such as – “what do your children think of your plan?” She snapped her head back and proclaimed, “why would I tell them?”
I have to confess it wasn’t the first time that I had heard someone say that silence was going to be the key ingredient of their estate plan. It got me thinking how many beneficiaries – children especially — truly know the contents of their parent’s wills?
When I put the question to my audiences, “how many people hold a copy of their parents’ wills?” Only 10% on average acknowledge they do. The more interesting question is: “how many in the audience will play a lead or significant role in providing care for an aging parent?” The response — an average of 75% — agreed they would. I find the disparity between these two pieces of data, striking.
The relationship between inheriting money and the provision of health care is an issue moving into the media and cultural spotlight for two major reasons – we’re living longer (a lot longer) and the cost of health care and assisted living are rising faster than inflation and saving rates.
For some who live much longer than the average age of 76 for men and 81 for woman, many will turn to family for financial support and care when their savings are fully depleted – the same family from whom secrets were kept when a surplus seemed assured.
Why do so many people keep secrets from those who will likely be providing them with late in life care? How do secrets serve beneficiaries or add to relationships before we become old and dependant? Talk to enough estate planning professionals and they’ll tell you it almost always comes down to a lack of trust and a debilitating fear of death.
For those who view their money as an absolute source of power and control you can see how the aging process and the concomitant relinquishing of power and control makes dying and death such a wretched, fearful experience. Compare that to individuals who seriously prepare family, friends and charitable organizations to receive not just their wealth but their wisdom and you’ll find some extraordinary relationships built purposefully over a lifetime – even when years outstrip savings.
Sharing the contents of a will requires judgment – some might call it wisdom nurtured over time. A wisdom both taught and harvested through conversations with intended beneficiaries not in the last year of life, when death seems imminent, but precisely the opposite, when death is a distant abstraction.
A will doesn’t need to be seen as a solo “end of life document” but rather a collaborative work of art monumentally improved by living in relationship with our intended beneficiaries.
It is the act of collaboration, supported through frequent and deliberate conversation about the future that we leave something more valuable than just our money. This is, in part, how our fear of death recedes when we know with confidence that our beneficiaries—our emissaries — will take our ideas and perhaps our surplus assets at death and live purposeful lives themselves.
Have you shared the contents of your will with your intended beneficiaries – the ones likely to be providing late in life care for you?
My Vet sends me reminder letters … Why can’t my lawyer when it comes to my Will?
Leading up to the release of my new book Willing Wisdom, I paid extra attention to the mail I received. Delivered to my home over the course of three months, were reminder letters from a host of personal service suppliers, including my accountant to file my taxes, my window cleaner, my lawn service, my insurance provider and my veterinarian.
What I didn’t receive, in fact what I’ve never received over the course of my 51 years on the planet, is a letter from my lawyer reminding me to up-date my will. Curious to know if I’m special (and not in a gifted way) I recently asked my audience – about 200 business owners from across North America assembled at a convention in La Jola California – how many of them had received an annual letter from their lawyer reminding them to up-date their will? Only seven hands shot up.
The results confirmed my suspicion that, like me, 193 people in that room had windows and pets receiving better regularly scheduled maintenance than their estate plans. So what’s the deal?
More alarming is that when questioned on the subject, half of that room acknowledged they didn’t have a will at all. When pressed further, 50% of those who did have a will confessed that it had been more than 5 years since it was last up-dated. When questioned even further almost the entire room confessed to having clean windows, healthy pets and weed free lawns.
Approximately 125 million North Americans over the age of 18 have no will and will eventually die intestate. The resulting financial and relational devastation to families is incalculable.
When I asked my veterinarian how she could be so organized and proactive in scheduling my pet’s annual check-up she tilted her head side ways (kind of like the way my dog Goblin does when I say “treats”) she blurted out – “auto-scheduler”. She might as well have added …“duhhh.”
Asking her for detail on this cutting edge 25-year-old technology she noted it was free — as in it doesn’t cost anything.
Below is the letter I received from my veterinarian word for word.
To: Tom Deans
Annual physical examinations and a personal health consultation is integral to maintaining Goblin’s health. Please call our office to schedule an appointment. We’ve missed you and look forward to seeing you soon!
Dufferin Veterinary Hospital
If you’re not receiving a letter from your lawyer reminding you to up-date your will, would you consider forwarding this article to your lawyer and help them get acquainted with the power of “auto-scheduling” and helping clients keep their estate plans up-to-date? Here’s a sample letter for them to consider sending annually to clients like you.
A will is one of the most important legal documents for you and your family to consider. If one or more of the following apply to you, please call our office and schedule an appointment.
In the past year have you experienced?
- the birth of a child, grandchild or other close family member?
- has someone close died?
- have you acquired or sold a business?
- has your financial situation materially changed?
There are many other changes in your life that may affect your will that we would be pleased to discuss, including Powers of Attorney, Advanced Health Care Directives and the selection of Executor(s).
I look forward to meeting with you.
Your Lawyer Who Totally Gets that You are Busy and Reluctant to Think, Talk and Up-Date Your Will.
And while you’re at it, please remind your lawyer that no less than four US Presidents died without a will — two were lawyers.
To Book Tom Deans, a Lugen Family Office Speaker and The LFO 2013 Speaker of the Year Award Winner, to speak to Your Clients, Donors, or Employees at one of your events, please click here.
Fortunately, there are a number of techniques for handling risks. The nature of a specific risk and the circumstances (extent of exposure, available resources, and so forth) often dictate which technique, or combination of techniques, is most appropriate. Basically, there are five methods for dealing with risk. It is easy to remember these by thinking of the acronym STARR.
Sharing—Sometimes, when a risk cannot be avoided and retention would involve too much exposure to loss, we may choose risk sharing as a means of handling the risk. By sharing risk with someone else, an individual also shares potential losses. That is, the individual’s own loss may not be as great if it occurs, but the individual may have to pay a portion of the losses experienced by others.
Transfer—Risk transfer means transferring the risk of loss to another party, usually an insurance company, that is more willing or able to bear the risk. Some non-insurance transfers of risk occur, such as when one agrees to assume the risk of another under the terms of a written contract.
Avoidance—As the name implies, this technique deals with risk by avoiding the risk in the first place. This usually means not undertaking an activity that could involve the chance of loss. For example, by never flying, one could eliminate the risk of being in an airplane crash.
Reduction—Sometimes, when risks cannot be avoided, they can be reduced. Risk reduction can work in one of two ways: it can reduce the chance that a particular loss will occur, or it can reduce the amount of a potential loss if it occurs. For example, installing a smoke alarm in a home would not lesson the possibility of fire, but it would reduce the risk of the loss from the fire.
Retention—Retention simply means doing nothing about the risk. In other words, people assume or retain the risk and, in effect, become self-insurers. For example, the insured would pay a smaller portion of the loss than the insurer, such as paying a deductible.
Warren Buffett & Bill Gates on Measuring Performance, Wealth, Billionaires, Financial Crisis
as “the process of quantifying the efficiency and effectiveness of past actions”, while Moullin defines it as “the process of evaluating how well organisations are managed and the value they deliver for customers and other stakeholders”. Discussion on the relative merits of these definitions appeared in several articles in the newsletter of the Performance Management Association.
Wikipedia – Performance Measurement
The wealth effect is an economic term, referring to an increase (decrease) in spending that accompanies an increase (decrease) in perceived wealth.
The effect would cause changes in the amounts and distribution of consumer consumption caused by changes in consumer wealth. People should spend more when one of two things is true: when people actually are richer, objectively, or when people perceive themselves to be richer—for example, the assessed value of their home increases, or a stock they own goes up in price.
Demand for some goods (especially Inferior goods) typically decreases with increasing wealth. For example, consider consumption of cheap fast food versus steak. As someone becomes wealthier, their demand for cheap fast food is likely to decrease, and their demand for more expensive steak may increase.
Consumption may be tied to relative wealth. Particularly when supply is highly inelastic – or in the case of monopoly – one’s ability to purchase a good may be highly related to one’s relative wealth in the economy. Consider for example the cost of real estate in a city with high average wealth (for example New York or London), in comparison to a city with a low average wealth. Supply is fairly inelastic, so if a helicopter drop (or gold rush) were to suddenly create large amounts of wealth in the low wealth city, those who did not receive this new wealth would rapidly find themselves crowded out of such markets, and materially worse off in terms of their ability to consume/purchase real estate (despite having participated in a weak Pareto improvement). In such situations, one cannot dismiss the relative effect of wealth on demand and supply, and cannot assume that these are static. (see also General equilibrium).
However, according to David Backus, an NYU economist, the wealth effect is not observable in economic data, at least in regards to increases or decreases in home or stock equity. For example, while the stock market boom in the late 1990s (q.v. dot-com bubble) increased the wealth of Americans, it did not produce a significant change in consumption, and after the crash, consumption did not decrease.
Economist Dean Baker disagrees and says that “housing wealth effect” is well-known and is a standard part of economic theory and modeling, and that economists expect households to consume based on their wealth. He cites approvingly research done by Carroll and Zhou that estimates that households increase their annual consumption by 6 cents for every additional dollar of home equity.
The wealth effect and the Paradox of Thrift are contradictory. The paradox assumes, incorrectly, that people will spend when they feel wealthy, based on the wealth effect, but not when they are actually more wealthy.
Wikipedia – The Wealth Effect