I carry around a coin in my backpack. It’s with me almost everyday.
Sometimes I find myself rummaging through my bag looking for a pen or a loose piece of paper. My fingers often find the coin first.
I don’t need to pull it out of my bag to understand what this moment means. Whatever I was about to do instantly takes a back seat.
My attention turns to something else: Death.
The front of the medallion reads, “Memento Mori”, which loosely translates to “remember death” or “remember that you will die”.
The back reads “You Could Leave Life Right Now”. In his book, Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote, “You could leave life right now… Let that determine what you do, say, and think.”
When I first bought the coin, I carried it in my left front pocket. I would notice it whenever I reached for my wallet. It served as a constant reminder to:
- Get my affairs in order
- Speak from the heart
- Identify trivial matters and treat them as such
- Make an impact / create a legacy
It transitioned to my backpack once I felt confident in my ability to execute the list above without the constant reminder.
?Close to Home
Regrettably, I’m no stranger to loss. In late 2018, my crew from Penn State lost a member. Not too long before that, my family lost my mom’s oldest brother. The year before that, one of my cousins passed away.
These deaths came unexpectedly. Our world’s turned upside down at a moment’s notice.
Why am I telling you all this?
No one is safe from death. Not the rich, not the famous, not the beautiful, not even the young. We all know death is inevitable. We all accept it as a part of life. How many of us behave accordingly?
??Kobe & GiGi
Around 10am PST on January 26, 2020, basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, and his 13 year old daughter, Gianna, passed away in a tragic helicopter accident just outside Los Angeles, California.
The Los Angeles Times published a piece on all nine lives lost.
Upon hearing the news, my immediate reaction was sadness and disbelief, of course. Then I became curious…
The first question I had was, “What about Capri?” Kobe and Vanessa Bryant welcomed their fourth child, Capri, in the summer of 2019. She is only ~6 months old. Capri will grow up not knowing her father outside what she can read on the internet, watch on TV, or listen to on the radio.
The second question I had was, “What about Vanessa?” How will this affect her? She now has to raise her remaining 3 girls, Natalia, Bianca, & Capri, alone. Yes, the Bryant family is wealthy. Yes, the Bryant family has a village of support. But it won’t be the same without Kobe and GiGi. I know Vanessa would trade it all to have her husband & daughter back.
The third question I had was, “What did Kobe do to prepare for this moment?” He was only 41 years old. Did Kobe prioritize his end of life wishes? Did he have his affairs in order? Or did he do what most people do? Put it off until terminal illness or old age.
I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Kobe, GiGi, and the 7 other beautiful lives on that helicopter. The lesson I’m deciding to take away from this tragic event is that death does not discriminate.
At the same time, I can’t help but think, “What if I don’t wake up tomorrow?” How can I ensure my unborn child knows me? How can I put Dia in the best position to move forward without me? What can I do today to prepare for that unpredictable moment tomorrow.
For me, it’s time to revisit and update my end of life wishes. I set all of this up back in 2017, when I bought the coin I carry in my backpack. However, things have changed since then.
If you’re interested or motivated to do the same… Here are a few action items you can take to start getting your affairs in order.
- Make a Will
- Consider Life Insurance
- Create a One Page Sheet of Accounts & Passwords
?Make A Will
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and I’m not trying to play one on the internet.
For most people, The DIY route will suffice. At least that’s what I did. I used this article on LegalZoom to create my own will. I can’t explain it much better than the article does, so I won’t try. Please read it if you’re interested.
You might want to hire a lawyer if:
- You’re rich AF
- Your portfolio contains many different asset classes
- You’re a business owner
The DIY route will suffice if your assets are limited to cash in bank, retirement accounts, a house or two, cars, etc.
?Consider Life Insurance
If you own a house with debt on it, you should probably get life insurance. Who will pay your mortgage balance if you die?
If you qualified for a home loan payment on two separate incomes (spouses) or your parents co-signed the loan, insure everyone contributing to the monthly payment.
Dia and I rent our home. If one of us passes away, we can easily move to a less expensive option or move back in with either of our parents. It will only cost us one month’s rent and our security deposit, which is another month’s rent.
If a homeowner doesn’t make their mortgage payment, it can get ugly fast.
If you have a child younger than 18 years old, you should probably get life insurance. Who will pay for their education? Their clothes? Their first car? Their first down payment on a house?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it costs ~$233K to raise a child to 18 years old. That number doesn’t even include college. Nor does it include helping your kid with their first down payment on a home. Those two things alone can easily be another ~$233K.
Dia’s company offers life insurance as one of their benefits. For ~$20 per paycheck, we get up to 13x her salary if she passes away and $100K if I pass away. This coverage was good enough until recently.
Now that we have a kid on the way, I’m going to start looking into 3rd party policies that provide better coverage for me. Alex, answer your phone.
Extra Credit: Read this article about Revocable Trusts on one of my favorite blogs: FinancialSamurai.com
Create a Chart of Accounts
If I asked Dia to tell me where our money is, she’d probably scratch her head, shrug her shoulders, and walk away.
She trusts me “to take care of that stuff”. I try to involve her with a monthly financial check-in, but that’s not enough to know how our system works.
Here’s what I did:
- Listed all the accounts, usernames, and passwords (Google Sheets)
- Created a flowchart to show how money comes in and goes out automatically
- Outlined what she needs to adjust in case I die
Sharing the usernames and passwords for all your accounts is really easy if you use LastPass. It’s a free tool that you can use on all your devices. It remembers all your passwords so you only have to remember one: your LastPass password.
❓Why Do Any of This?
It seems to me the people closest to the deceased end up having the least time to grieve immediately. Instead, they spend weeks, if not months, making arrangements the deceased could have made prior to their passing.
- Funeral Arrangements
- Inheritance / Succession
- Estate Planning
I get it. Thinking about our mortality is hard. Thinking about the aftermath of our death is harder. It’s still necessary.
I’m fueled mostly by what I don’t want to happen. That’s how I’ve come to terms with talking about death so freely.
Here’s what I don’t want to happen to me.
I don’t want my “estate” to get eaten up by probate fees. I don’t have much. Every little bit matters. Losing 3-5% to attorneys, clerks, admin fees, etc. seems wasteful to me. I’d rather make it super clear what I want to happen and appoint someone to execute my wishes.
I don’t want to leave my family “high and dry” because I’m optimistic. I wholeheartedly believe I’ll make it to a functional 100 years old. But I’m going to Utah to snowboard with the boys this weekend. There’s probably a million different situations I’ll have to avoid to make it back home safely.
I, selfishly, want my kids to remember me as I am. Not what people tell them about me. That’s a big reason why I write. That’s a big reason I’m starting to podcast. My children can read my words and tap into my thought process. They can hear my voice and feel closer to me without ever having met me.
I’ve done the work, continue to do the work, and still feel unprepared.
I’m confident, however, after a lifetime of playing professional sports at the highest level, Kobe embraced his daughter in those final moments knowing he did everything he could to protect his family for what’s about to come. That’s who he was. That’s who I strive to be.
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