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10 things I wish I had said

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Most of us never want to think about the loss of a parent, even when it is expected.

When my dad passed away last year at the age of 86, it was a painful journey for him and his three sons, but only in the last remaining year of his life. Here was a World War II vet who had seen and endured much. The loss of the use of his left arm as a result of being shot four times during the Battle of Guam was one of many life challenges.

Dad was 85 when he was walking across the street in Arlington, Mass. one sunny morning and he was broadsided by a speeding car – driven by an illegal alien without a license or insurance. The last year of his life was miserable, painful, and demoralizing.

He deserved better. Looking back, although we exchanged “I love you” more than a million times – we spoke at least once a day every day of my adulthood – there are 10 things I wish I had said.

1. Get disability insurance. The founder of The American College, Dr. Solomon S. Huebner, understands that the principle of human life value extends not only to life insurance, but to providing sufficient financial comfort for all of life’s challenges, including a permanent disability.

2. Buy an annuity. Many of the 76 million baby boomers have skillfully avoided savings in a belief that someday, someone, some government agency, will subsidize their lifestyle. Assume that Social Security will give each of us a greatly reduced benefit – that is the reality of government spending that is totally out of sync with reality. Annuities offered by leading companies are sound investments.

3. Update your will. It’s not uncommon for seniors to write a will, lock it away and never revisit it – even though their spouse, and possibly children and grandchildren, may predecease them. Stop putting it off.

4. Reduce your auto insurance premium. Seniors are often overinsured on automobile policies because they believe they need full coverage when, in actuality, they may only need collision and mandated protection for others. Divert what you’re paying out in overpriced policies into life insurance.

5. Hold a family conference. Your children will likely hear things or interpret final wishes differently, sometimes changing circumstances to fit their own desires or biases. Bring your children together every five years for a meeting of minds about what you want and expect in terms of your funeral and burial needs.

6. Change out those bonds. There are billions of dollars in U.S. Savings Bonds sitting in metal boxes in attics all over the country. Most are earning minimal interest and some have reached maturity. For those age 70 and older, they are psychologically comforting but generally a lousy investment. Put them in a low or no-load mutual fund and keep ahead of inflation, not in pace with it.

7. Stop listening to Suze Orman. Yes she’s articulate, but much of her advice is watered down for the body politic. Although she’s talking at you, she’s not really talking to you. Change the channel and make your own decisions about investments, insurance and savings.

8. Exercise your mind. Enroll in a course at a community college or one from The American College about investments and savings for retirees. Open your mind to the wide range of new investment vehicles that are offered. Ask your friends what they are doing with their savings.

9. Begin to taper back on stocks. There is much to be said for allocation strategies tied to your age. Anyone in their 70s and beyond who is overweighted in equities should see a psychologist. You taught us to be prudent with our savings – now you do the same.

10. Don’t stop enjoying life. Thanks for all of the time you spent with your family, in prayer groups and traveling the world – and for leading a balanced life that made you such a superstar of a dad. You found the best investment of all: loving, and being loved, by those around you.