If You Could Time Your Last Dollar with Your Last Breath

In Articles, Articles: Kansas City Office, Articles: Salt Lake City Office by Scott Dougan

I often suggest that good financial planning means we die with money left over. Conversely, that must mean that bad financial planning means we run out of money before we die.

Of course, omitted from this binary look at the topic is the possibility that you’ll spend your last dollar as your last breath exists your body. Wouldn’t that be ideal? (“Um, no!” says your surviving spouse. Okay, okay.) For fun I suppose, I want to ask you to consider this question: 

If you knew you could time your last dollar with your last breath, what would you buy or experience in your remaining days that you probably won’t out of fear of running out of money?

Interestingly, I think you’ll find that asking this same question to both spouses in a marriage will yield two very different answers. One may say to give money to the kids now when they need it most, while the other may immediately experience elevated blood pressure over thoughts of a new boat or a ’69 Camaro SS. As we all know too well, opposites attract. And I don’t think there are any wrong answers here.

Naturally, we can’t effectively time our last dollar with our last breath. That would require crystal ball-quality foresight, which most of us don’t have. In the real world, we experience real emergencies, real accidents, real stock market declines, real nursing home stays, real shifts in our wants and needs, which requires some meaningful level of margin in our finances. I’d also like to suggest though, that you not be afraid to ask for those things that you really want. Talk to your spouse about that crazy dream you’ve always had to buy a convertible sports car and drive across country. They may enjoy at least considering it. Ask your kids if they’d like to bring the grandkids to join you in Orlando for a Disney vacation next summer. I’ll bet they’d love to find a way to get time off work to make that family memory with you. Ask your financial advisor if it’s too crazy to do these things while you’re still young and able enough to actually do them. Chances are, your financial person has crazy dreams too and would love to help you carve out the money from your ‘serious’ planning to be a little crazy from time to time.

While we’re certainly not able to time our last dollar with our last breath, we can, however, be clear about those things we’d still very much like to do that we haven’t gotten around to yet. Sometimes that requires us to see that our last breath may come long before our last dollar, and shame on us for not at least asking ourselves what we might do with the time we have remaining. So I ask you, “If you could, what would you choose to do?”

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