Smart About Money: If you’re determined to be more prepared next time …

Over the course of the past several weeks, the entire world has been through what will almost certainly be an indelible experience of dealing with sudden, drastic, unwanted change.

Even many people who had the time, opportunity and determination to prepare for such a scenario found themselves shocked and shaken by the reality of it, especially in the way their families might be affected.

There is grief in the loss of the “old normal” which is as profound as any grief. Most people take two steps forward and sometimes many steps back trying to process it all. That’s natural and common. Anything that makes things easier during those times – when it can be so hard to think – is a profound gift we can all look for ways to give each other, especially after the searing experience everyone has just been through.

Throughout the Coronavirus situation, it has been noted that people are endangered by many things in addition to viruses. One statistic that jumped out was the fact that thousands and thousands of people die in car accidents in the United States every year. The numbers for pedestrian deaths – from crossing the street! – are lower but still substantial. Many more die every year from medical causes, some expected and many quite unexpected.

The point? It’s not just world-wide pandemics that can cause sudden, drastic, unwanted change.

If the past few weeks have left you determined to do what you can to make life easier for your loved ones in case of an emergency when they may find themselves grieving, unfocused and confused, here are a few things you can do that will make a huge difference.

  1. A will is a critically-important document that too many people just don’t have. If you don’t have a will, make an appointment with a lawyer and get that done. If you have a will, review it to see if it’s up-to-date. Because an out-of-date will can be worse than useless, possibly leaving important assets to people who are not a significant part of your life anymore.
  2. Next, plan to go to your bank and make sure your accounts are structured in a way that makes it easy for someone you trust – a spouse, a child, a sibling, a friend – to get access if you’re incapacitated or dead. Joint accounts and Payable-On-Death accounts are two widely-used options. Your banker may be able to suggest other ideas for your individual situation.
  3. If you are not absolutely sure that your spouse/partner/family member can handle your household bills as easily as you do, consider keeping (at the very least) a simple list with account locations, account numbers and passwords if needed – something that will give them a basic road map if you’re not there. Even if they insist that they’re not interested at all, one day they may actually be very grateful to have that list.
  4. Last, find a financial advisor you like and trust to help you manage your investments at different stages of your life. Look for an experienced and objective professional who can be there for you or your loved ones to make sense of what’s happening and figure out what to do next in both the good times and the tough ones.

Psychologists say taking action helps people from feeling helpless. That’s true! If you have come up with useful ideas for financial preparedness you’d like to share or if you have Coronavirus-related financial questions, please take a moment to email them to for possible inclusion in a future column. After all, we truly are all in this together.

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