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Let us face it.
We are all mortals.
No one is getting out of this alive.
It is a sad and quite sobering thought thinking about your own death.
There are two courses of action one can follow when thinking about one’s mortality.
You can live in denial and not concern yourself with your last moments of life.
Or you can accept the fact that we are all living on borrowed time and there will come a day when that debt is called upon.
The Denial Philosophy.
The main advantage of this philosophy is that you do not subject yourself to some of the depressing emotions that stir up when you try to plan ahead for the end of life period.
Followers of this method live day to day as usual and only face end of life decisions at the last moment when their time comes.
There are several pitfalls/disadvantages in this philosophy.
There is no guarantee that there will be time, or that we will even have the mental capacity, to make these important decisions on our deathbed.
An unexpected/sudden death can leave your family members in a bind if there were no preparations made beforehand.
Any assets you have may not be properly transferred to your intended loved ones in the above scenarios.
In addition, if probate is required to settle your estate, a significant portion could be used up in legal costs, leaving a lower amount for your heirs to inherit.
The Planner Philosophy.
Although not having to deal with any issues surrounding one’s own death sounds appealing, I believe most of us would not rest easy knowing that the burden would then be placed on our loved ones instead.
I expect it will be an emotionally charged time for my heirs when I pass.
We tend not to make the soundest decisions when we are emotional.
I therefore feel it is imperative to have the proper groundwork already laid out so my heirs can attend to other matters and not be concerned with estate affairs.
I subscribe to the planner philosophy and have previously written about the steps I have already undertaken to make a transfer of my estate to my heirs go as smooth as possible:
This really is an act of altruism as the time and money invested to create these plans does not benefit the individual creating it.
But wait, there’s more!
Let’s say you have indeed planned ahead for your own demise and have set up your heirs to inherit your estate smoothly and with minimal cost because of your will and estate plan.
You can stop there and be perfectly fine, and to be honest, most of us do just that.
Your heirs will still think of you fondly from the favor you did of having all your affairs in order.
But I propose doing one more thing, a sort of mental exercise, that can not only benefit your heirs but you as well….
Create You Own Obituary.
I know what you’re thinking.
“Xrayvsn! What a morbid exercise to do! Why do I need to subject myself to that!”
Hear me out.
Don’t get me wrong, having a will and estate plan in place is a wonderful achievement to ensure financial continuity between generations and hopefully create a great financial legacy for subsequent generations to enjoy.
But I personally do not want to be remembered just as a bank or ATM by my daughter (even if the Bank of Daddy has some of the best interest rates out there).
Ask yourself this following thought question:
If you were to die tomorrow, would you be happy with how your obituary reads?
Exactly what would be in it?
If the only thing that your obituary proclaims is that you accumulated a 7 figure nest egg that is now being inherited by your survivors, then honestly I think you have failed at life.
I have not heard of anyone mention on their death bed that they wish they could have worked more to earn more money.
The most common deathbed regret is wishing they spent more time with their loved ones and accumulated life experiences rather than dollars.
I would say that if I died tomorrow I would be pretty unhappy with how my obituary would be constructed.
This is primarily because I would be sorely lacking in the spending time with my daughter department.
Part of that deficiency was through no fault of my own, with a sort of “legalized kidnapping” of my daughter by the court system which resulted in me having no contact with my daughter from age 4 to age 10.
Those are 6 years I will never get back.
It especially stings because those are important formative years of a child’s life and I had no part of it.
I did make it a point to try and take her on some memorable vacations after I rightfully received full custody of her at the beginning of 6th grade.
But it is hard, if not impossible, to make up for all that lost time.
To top things off, the pandemic took away a large chunk of the precious little vacation time remaining before she graduates high school (she starts 11th grade in the fall), and forcing us to cancel a Cancun trip that was planned for her Spring Break 2020 .
Coordinating vacations during her school breaks is especially hard as my daughter spends the majority of summer and every other Christmas in England because of visitation orders.
My obituary is not all doom and gloom as I do think it would contain some highlights:
- I am the proud father of a daughter whom I have no doubt will surpass any life successes that I may have achieved.
- I finally found my life-long partner that makes the lyrics of the Rascall Flatts song, “Bless The Broken Road,” especially ring true for me.
- Had the initiative/courage to start a mildly successful blog (maybe one day I can replace that “m” with a “w”) despite the lack of know how.
- Realized, before it was too late, that time is more precious than money by choosing a practice that had the best chance for a good lifestyle (no night calls or weekend and a 4-day (and soon hopefully 3-day) work week).
- Tried my very best to do no harm to the patient and hopefully made some calls that improved or saved patients’ lives.
- Made people laugh.
Envisioning what your obituary would say about you may be just the eye-opening experience you need.
If you are pleased with how your obituary would read if you died tomorrow then congrats, you are truly winning at life.
If you would be unhappy if your life suddenly ended tomorrow without have done the things you have been putting off in life, then there is still time to make a course change.
A life with no regrets on your deathbed is what everyone should strive for.
Tomorrow is really not promised to any of us so there is no time like the present to live a life you consider worth living.
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Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
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Stoicism teaches to contemplate death and I think it’s a good, though often difficult, thing to do for sure. Ain’t no escapin’ it!
It is a difficult task but I kept reminding myself that I was doing it for my daughter so it was worth going through it.
I think funerals and obituaries are very overdone. Neither my wife nor I want a big funeral service, a private family graveside five minute ceremony will be more than adequate. Same for an obituary, just a few pertinent facts is all it needs to have. Your legacy has already been built at that point, good or ill, and nothing done after you die will add to it or subtract from it. Plus I don’t plan to attend my funeral, I’ll be somewhere better.
Good point on attending your own funeral. Yeah hopefully I am in a better place too.
Funerals are more for the survivors as a way to say goodbye and honor memories but yes can be overdone
Contemplating and planning your death, while morbid, is still really important. Remembering that I will be dead one day, and I have no idea when reminds me that I need to live my life to the fullest. I haven’t yet written my own obituary, but maybe I’ll give it a try.
I also like the thought exercise where I ask myself what my 80 year old self would say to me about XYZ issue!
Living life to the fullest and enjoying the journey is key. I sometimes fail at that always saying it will get better in the future but the goalpost seems to keep going further off into the distance. I guarantee you that my old self will say I worked too hard and ended up having more money than I really needed instead of being the happiest I could have.
when reminds me that I need to live my life to the fullest. I haven’t yet written my own obituary, but maybe I’ll give it a try.
You can not go wrong living your life to the fullest. A life without regrets is a life worth living. The biggest unknown is how much time we have left and we always have a tendency to put off enjoyable things thinking there will be a tomorrow.