To Everything There Is A Season
With thanks to folk singer Pete Seger, today’s title reminds us that no season of life continues forever. As we begin easing out of a difficult period of pandemic restrictions, I’m starting to see stories about the ‘two lost years’ resulting from the pandemic. Because our planning work was deemed essential by Indiana’s governor, WWA’s office remained open throughout, albeit with half of us working remotely. Many people in other lines of work were not so fortunate. While some were able to work from home, others like restaurant waitstaff, healthcare providers and many professional drivers had no such option. Regardless of our work situation, each of us has suffered losses during this time. Yet, as always, we find ourselves where we are, not where we might wish to be.
Here's a sketch that helps illustrate how we’ve gotten to this point and what the future might look like. Each intersection is a decision point that affected or will affect the eventual outcome.
The epidemic was obviously outside our control and left many of us in a different place than we thought we’d be. However, each of us has also made personal choices throughout our lives that moved us in one direction instead of another. As the sketch reminds us, not every decision we make necessarily yields an ideal outcome.
The tangle of decisions regarding post-secondary education has both personal and economic implications so we often assist client families in making them. Last generation, a college degree was considered a basic requirement for a good job. In fact, when Honda opened a manufacturing plant in Greensburg, Indiana fifteen years ago, a degree was required for all workers, including those on the assembly line. With worker shortages increasing due to COVID-related resignations, Honda has adjusted – a college degree is no longer a prerequisite for employment. In fact, there are numerous jobs which don’t require a four-year degree. Nursing, welding, truck driving and many IT jobs come to mind. All offer the potential for a middle-class income and none require a four-year degree.
Some decision points are less a choice than a response to an outside influence. Marital issues especially have a way of forcing a plan off track. Still, those detours must be dealt with as part of financial planning. That’s why we remain in close touch with our clients as their situations change. We’ve helped many people with the very difficult transition to being single again whether through death or divorce.
We’re not attorneys but we consider estate planning an integral part of our work. Several of the lines in the sketch terminate early, representing lives shorter than anticipated. While some single individuals can get by with a state-provided will, no one with children should assume that risk. Likewise, families with a special needs member of any age, and those with specific wishes to support charities or a religious organization simply must prepare in advance.
Health problems can also adversely affect lives. While adequate insurance coverage can help pay the bills, serious illness often forces permanent lifestyle changes. We’re not physicians either but we frequently provide guidance to help people try to get back on track following a health-related crisis.
Here’s another sketch, this one showing what a flawlessly realized life path might look like:
Of course, this is a life lived by no one, ever. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel said, ‘The course of life is unpredictable, no one can write his autobiography in advance’.
Regardless of how any of us arrived at the place we find ourselves today, the important thing is to gather our strengths and continue to work toward our goals. In the words of Arthur Ashe (who I think would have made a good financial planner had he not been sidetracked by tennis): Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. Our practice is always available to provide a sounding board and/or advice as requested.
(Thanks to Tim Urban at the Wait but Why blog for the original sketches that became today’s illustrations)