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Confronting Mortality

Oneofour clients died suddenly last week. He was only 56 and had just begun working with us three months ago. As a financial planner, you come to learn the harsh reality of mortality, but this death was a particularly tough one. Dan (not his real name) dies suddenly last weekend of a massive heart attack. He never had any health problems and the death stunned his family. In the short time I knew this client, I came to admire his cheerful way and kind manner. But what makes Dan's death so difficult is that he left without properly taking care of his affairs. When Dan came to us three months ago, he told me that he owned a business and was always too busy to get his financial house in order. When he was referred to me, he vowed to properly address these issues. We started working with him and collecting his data. Truthfully, despite several calls from staff In the last few weeks, It seemed like Dan had once again put his financial affairs on the back burner. What's difficult is that he did not even have enough life insurance. With one child in graduate school and another in post-graduate studies, their mom says she has no Idea how she is going to pay for their college education.

People tend to be either overly optimistic or pessimistic about the prospect of their own mortality, according to data collected by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Many people estimate their chances of living another 20 years at either zero or 100%, NBER says, with no middle ground. Furthermore, those with a relatively high life expectancy are too pessimistic about the chances of living, while those with a relatively low statistical lifespan take are too optimistic. While medical science continues to make breakthrough after breakthrough, sooner or later, we all die. This is obviously not something any of us want to hear, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Nor does it absolve you from the responsibility of planning ahead for those you will leave behind.

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