My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant and a partner with a National Accounting Firm in Toronto. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are written solely in my personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which I am affiliated. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humor/sarcasm. You've been warned.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Just Do It – Write Your Financial Story! What the Heck are You Waiting For?

I am back from my summer blogging sabbatical and I am cranky. Not because I worked on my golf game and it is only marginally better. Nope, I am cranky because you, my readers, are listening to my suggestions but you’re not following up on them.

So what am I ranting about? Let me tell you. I have written a number of times about ensuring you update or prepare a will, ensuring you have powers of attorney ("POA") for both your financial affairs and health, and have also posted a couple detailed blogs on stress testing your finances should you die suddenly.

I have been pleased that many readers, friends, and acquaintances have told me that these posts have been very helpful. I have been delighted when they inform me they intend to take action in getting their financial house in order, to ensure their spouse/partner can carry on somewhat seamlessly should they pass away.

The problem is when I see them and ask if they have followed through; the answers I get are either: (a) I have started or (b) it is on my list of things to do.

Even financial experts like Ellen Roseman procrastinate. As Ellen wrote in this article, it was her 2013 New Year’s resolution to put her financial house in order. However, six months later Ellen wrote she had made little progress in “writing her financial story”. When I saw Ellen several months later at the Canadian Bloggers Conference, she informed me she still had not completed her New Year’s resolution. I have not spoken to Ellen lately, so she may have completed her task, but it is more fun to use a financial expert as Exhibit A :).

Ellen is not alone. A friend of a friend who is a very sophisticated financial person has told me on three different occasions how useful my blogs on this topic were, but yet, each time I ask him about his progress, I get silence.

So how do we break this log jam? If you are the financially savvy spouse/partner (in most marriages/relationships, one spouse/partner tends to handle the finances and the other spouse/partner often pays little or no attention to the finances) how about asking your spouse/partner tonight at dinner if you were to die suddenly, would he/she know where your will is, what assets you have, where to find the insurance, any of the passwords to your financial accounts, etc.? I would suspect the answer is no (after they blame you for ruining their dinner). Now sit back and think for a minute… not only will your family be in mourning (unless they are hoverers), but consider the financial and emotional stress you will be putting your spouse/partner under as they attempt to untangle your financial web.

Getting Your Financial House in Order


There a four key components to getting your house in order.

1. Discuss – Sit down with your spouse/partner and discuss whether your will(s) reflect your current financial situation and life realities. Determine what awareness they have of your financial situation and how easily they/you could carry on if you/they passed away.

2. Dig – Go through all your financial documents and pull together information in respect of your bank accounts, insurance policies, investment accounts, assets, passwords, loans and LOCs etc.

3. Document – Document the above in one location, be it your safety deposit box, a safe or via one of the Internet vaults.

4. Update – Some of you may be sitting back smugly saying “I have done this already Mark”. However, this is an ongoing process. You need to update your financial story annually. I know this because I updated my list six months ago and recently noticed that five passwords had to be changed because sites were compromised, or I was required to change passwords. I also moved some assets around to new locations.

If I have not guilted you into action, I am not sure what else I can do. All other alternatives I can offer you allow you to procrastinate, so I am not sure they will help. Writing your financial story, as penned by Ellen, is vital. I truly urge you at minimum to update your will(s), ensure you have POAs and create a list of your financial assets, life insurance, passwords, etc. If you do not do this, your family may not only face a devastating loss if you were to pass away, but a financial nightmare.

The blogs posted on The Blunt Bean Counter provide information of a general nature. These posts should not be considered specific advice; as each reader's personal financial situation is unique and fact specific. Please contact a professional advisor prior to implementing or acting upon any of the information contained in one of the blogs. 

Plutus Award Nomination


I want to thank everyone who nominated me for a Plutus Award in the category of “Best Tax Blog”. This is the third year in a row I have been nominated as a finalist in this category and it’s about time a Canadian Tax Blog took the coveted Plutus Award away from my American counterparts. It would just continue the Tim Horton's/Burger King trend of Canadian tax being King:)

The other nominees are:

Tax Girl - Written by Kelly Phillips Erb of Forbes Magazine.
Joe Taxpayer - Written by an everyday Joe, who likes numbers.
TaxProfBlog - Edited/written by Paul L. Caron of Pepperdine University School of Law.
The Wandering Tax Pro -Written by 40 year tax preparer Robert Flack. Got to love this guy. On his site it says " Before contacting me with questions about how a blog post relates to your specific situation, please be aware that I do not give free tax advice to non-clients by e-mail, comment response, or phone. So don't waste your time". Now this guy should be called The Blunt Bean Counter!

6 comments:

  1. This is where a professional fee based financial planner comes in. These are the individuals who help you prepare a detailed plan for all your financial affairs and updates it with you an annual basis. More importantly a good financial “coach” will get you to take action and here’s the most important part - keep you on track and pushes you to implement the necessary components of getting (and keeping) your financial house in order. As you say in your blog, most people even armed with the best financial advice, do not implement or take any action. This is the true value of having an objective, unbiased financial advisor by your side. If they can help someone avoid a devastating financial loss or nightmare scenario for themselves or their family, I’m sure you would agree that the fees they charge are miniscule compared to the value of the service they provide.

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    1. Hi Adrian:

      I think you can write your "financial story" without any professional help. However, a good financial planner is always worth their weight in gold, assuming their true objective is to provide financial planning and not to manage the client's wealth. Just saying, I have seen a lot of the latter.

      Delete
  2. Hey Mark,
    Just wanted to afford you a brief moment of satisfaction.
    Updated my will,
    Built a file "Upon My Death"
    Confirmed beneficiary designations on all accounts
    Had "the chat" with spouse and family
    Joined The Memorial Society
    And finally Retired!!
    Thanks for the great info, looking forward to your next rant.

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    1. Hey Anon:

      Thx for the note. Glad you took care of your financial story and got to retire, time to have some fun!!!

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  3. Thank you for your reminder. It gave me the motivation to get my financial story updated and discuss it with my family.

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