Your Most Important Financial Priorities Might Not Have Revealed Themselves Yet

None of us can accurately project what life would be like tomorrow if we were less able. Less capable of cognitive functioning. Less sure of our decisions when confronting an uncertain future. COVID should have reminded us that our health’s future is uncertain. However, demographic realities are quite certain–more of us are likely to need some care in our lifetime than not.

I empower my clients to make decisions that optimize and protect their financial future according to their priorities. Often, they have an early understanding that wealth is not an end but rather a means to secure a lifestyle and to support their relationships with people or organizations that are meaningful to them. However, they often are not initially aware that some of their financial priorities are likely to change.

I began my career serving families facing dementia. These new diagnoses made families throw previously important financial priorities out the window. I later learned that this was common. Even though aging was an entirely predictable process, most families were ill-equipped to adjust their financial priorities and adapt to new circumstances.

Families replaced “leave a legacy” with “whatever it takes, I want to stay at home.” Clients committed to “impacting my charity” changed their priority to “I won’t be separated from my ill spouse.” Efficient portfolio stewardship took a back seat to significant spending on family experiences before an imminent death.

Most financial decisions are emotional ones first. They may involve money but are really about something else. I have lost count of how many times I have been humbled by families radically realigning their financial priorities during periods of care with hope, love and a newfound respect for the personal connections that bind them.

What would the priorities be if you were less able to communicate tomorrow? What if you need assistance for the first time in your life? Are you and your family ready for that shift of financial priorities?

Here’s my closing advice on setting your financial goals: Start at the end of your story. It’s the best foundation for all of your other financial goals and supports even the most sophisticated plans of the well-heeled investor. An emergency room is a terrible place to have an epiphany about what is truly important to you. And on a sincere and hopeful final note, know that you would very likely discover these true priorities on your own sooner or later.

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