In this series, we’ve now talked at length about leadership that must be exercised in the home in regards to the family’s finances. We’ve indicated that the basis for all financial activities and decisions is a family Budget. Saving and Investing must be part of that budget to meet unforeseen expenses and things the family cannot currently afford without taking on debt. Another important step for many is to establish an intentional and teachable pattern of Giving to meets needs of others outside of the family. None of these things is automatic or easy. They require time, effort, and communication. But to fail to do so is to fail to lead the family. In my final post in this series, I want to talk about planning for the worst.
My 17-year old son came home from work the day after Thanksgiving with quite a story. He works as a cashier for a large grocery chain, and part way through his shift, all of the computers went down…those that control the music (important during the holidays), but more importantly those that control the registers. Certainly the store had a backup plan for when something like that happens, right? Wrong! The store manager reluctantly locked the front doors, preventing anyone else from coming in. Those that were already shopping were allowed to check out through a single line, where the prices of each item were estimated based on the manager’s memory and adjusted if the customer thought his guess was inaccurate. The store, of course, could only take cash since the credit card machines were down, and that had to be rounded to the nearest dollar since the computers controlled the automatic change machines. What a mess! You’d think they would have at least had all of the prices kept on a laptop with a portable bar code scanner. But the store manager stated that he had never seen this happen in 14 years, and he obviously assumed it would never happen.
So what does your family do when the unthinkable happens? Two final things that are imperative for a family’s leader to provide are a Will and Life Insurance. I know, I know. To those who have long avoided all of these financial topics, this is really getting boring. Or is it getting convicting? Statistics show that at least half of you are leading your families across a tight wire of life without these two readily available safety nets. As much as we want to avoid thinking or preparing for our demise, as a leader of your home, you must.
What happens if the breadwinner of the family dies? How will the bills be paid? If there are children, will the other parent be able to work at a level necessary to provide for all of the family’s needs while single-handedly raising the kids? What about college and the expense of weddings? And will the surviving spouse be able to retire at a reasonable age? Again, I’m not going to try to provide advice on what insurance to buy or how much. I’ll leave that to the professionals. But I do want to encourage you to have a plan. Unlike the leader at my son’s grocery store who didn’t have a plan in case the computers that were powering the store all went down, the leader of the family needs to be prepared for losing that which is financially powering the family. It’s just too risky not to have life insurance. It’s a critical part of the budget. You may not end up using it, but life insurance is the one thing that you buy for your family that you are most grateful if you never have to use it!
The even more unthinkable scenario is when both parents meet an early demise. What happens to all of their assets, and who will take care of any surviving children? These are very personal questions, and I can’t believe you would want anyone but you and your spouse answering those questions. Wills don’t have to be expensive, and it’s not that hard to find a lawyer who can easily develop the will for you. Ask a friend who they used, or ask another professional that you deal with for a reference. But whatever you do, don’t wait. Just like the computers that nobody expected ever to go down, tragedy can strike a family at any time. A leader can’t control that, but a leader can, and must, have a plan in case it happens.
So now that we’ve finished our series about financial leadership in the home, you may disagree with some of what I’ve discussed. Perhaps you have a different approach to Budgeting, Saving & Investing, Giving, and having a Will and Life Insurance. If you have a better way to meet your family’s financial needs, go for it. But please do lead. Be proactive. Do not just wait for things to happen and then react as best you can. A firm financial plan not only protects and provides for the family, but it also frees you up to focus on other things you may find more enjoyable and rewarding, without that nagging, sinking feeling that a financial need could come in and derail everything you’re doing.