Photo: Igor Ovsyannykov. Source: Fancycrave
In our family we never get ready very early for Christmas. Maybe it’s because I was a winter-sports athlete. Growing up, I had exams, intense training, and then competitions right into late December. My shopping happened after I returned home on the 23rd or so. Then there was an intense trip to the mall with wish-lists and backup-items and “evergreen” gifts – stuff that would always be welcome on a cold Christmas Day, like gloves and scarves and warm socks.
These evergreen gifts saved me. The selection of sizes and colors might not have been great, but I could be pretty sure the gifts would be a hit. You can always use warm clothes in Minnesota in December.
In financial planning, there are “evergreen” items, too: projections for retirement – approximate dates, activities, cash flow needs; plans for housing and transportation – do you want to stay in your home, can you use mass transportation; plans for health care and advance directives; and, most importantly, communicating with family about hopes, dreams, and realistic expectations.
Illustration: José Miguel. Source: Pixabay
It’s this last bit that’s the hardest. We’d rather talk about just about anything than about money. We’re afraid of feeling being judged, or feeling stupid, or we just don’t want to deal with the issues. And we run the risk of being victims of theft of fraud if we’re too open.
But conversation is power, especially when we face issues and make plans. True conversation starts by asking questions and listening – really listening – to the answers. Then it explores those answers to get to the root of the issue, whether it’s fears of dependence or disconnection or it’s hopes and dreams for the future. Real conversation is personal contact, a meeting of minds where we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. It’s not a contact sport, it’s like petting a kitten: it takes a little time.
This season, let’s give the gift of having evergreen conversations with our loved ones. They don’t fit under a tree, but they always fit.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Charter Trust Company
“The Best Trust Company in New England”