Knowledge, Skills, and Confidence to Make Responsible Financial Decisions. That is the broadly accepted definition for financial literacy which the Federal Task Force on Financial Literacy provided in releasing its National Strategy last week. That's exactly what we need, as we meander through financial decisions required at various lifecycles from birth to death to life again.
Over time, it's quite conceivable that one indeed acquires deeper knowledge and skills and even confidence in making repetitive financial decisions day over day. Yet it is when one adds in the "super-ingredient"–life change–that confidence and indeed accumulated wisdom is challenged.
Aging is not for the faint of heart. Recently, I have seen families painfully lose younger sisters and brother, mothers and fathers, grandpas and grandmas, work colleagues and dear friends as the realities of an "aging demographic" includes cancer, diabetes, Altzheimers and other progressive illnesses in more and more families. Caring for and accompanying those loved ones on their final journey is a honour, but it is very, very difficult. And it has lots of financial implications.
Raising children is difficult too, of course, but in a different way. We raise children to go from dependence to independence. It is exilarating for every parent to share in the heartwarming joy of their children's advancing potential as they bloom and grow. However, when we care for our sick and dying loved ones, we help them move from a state of independence to one of dependence, and that can be heartbreaking.
Well before illness strikes, we begin to observe our own mortality with amazement, how the deep wrinkles form, despite our best fighting efforts, and when the weather changes, the odd arthritic pain. We come to understand, too, with our collective years of wisdom, that isolation from our most precious treasures, our children, will come next. They must move on without us, with knowledge, skills and confidence.
While we strive for control of the unknown future for most of our lives, working and saving money as a sure-fire way to move through one obstacle after another as independent adults, the reality is, we end life giving up control of our body, mind and spirit, together with all our possessions. And it seems, we don't have much control over that.
It takes courage to move towards death, with knowledge, skills and confidence. The money can help to provide lifestyle, dignity, and respite. But, the money can also be an obstacle to both the memories we need to take time to create, and the memories we want to leave.
It's Your Money. Your Life. You may think it's too early for exit planning but, depending on how the chips fall, you may not be able to clean up your financial mess. And it would be a shame, to leave that great burden to someone else when you are suddenly sick, or gone.