Monday, 7 September 2015

Financial Plans

Part of my emotional challenges these days are the feelings I have when asking for financial assistance from family and friends. My first feeling is embarrassment, or perhaps shame; that I should have to ask at all means that I have failed somewhere along the line in my financial planning. The next feeling is fear; I am afraid if I ask they might say no. There I would be, still without help, but now with the feelings of failure doubled. After I get up the courage to ask, I feel humbled by the whole process, brought low by my own hand.

The feeling which gets me most of all, however, is the sense inside that I must justify my spending if I plan on asking for help, that I must prove to whomever I ask that I am not spending frivolously, wasting their precious gift to me on unimportant things. The really bizarre part is that I feel like I owe an explanation of my past spending, perhaps my whole life of spending, just so they know that I didn't get here out of foolish behaviour, that I got here in spite of what looked like a pretty good financial plan for my life.

My brother Peter says this feeling is nonsense, that just because someone helps me financially does not mean I owe them a debt of responsibility or a report on how I spent their money. My brother Adam recently said that he wouldn't ask me to justify myself, but it would help him be less concerned about me if he knew I had a long term plan for my finances.

Both of these comments have helped me a great deal in dealing with this sense of shame and guilt in needing help at this time of my life. Peter reminds me that gifts should be freely given and freely accepted, without restraint, no strings attached. Adam reminds me that if I don't have some sort of plan, people will get tired of being asked, seeing no direction or thought.

I once had a very good financial plan. It was predicated on my working until 65, and perhaps part time thereafter, maybe even for another 10 years. It included a plan for a home, savings for retirement, the strategic purchase of a few "big boy" toys, and most of all a plan for my sailboat. My plan called for me to work 8 or 9 months a year, then take summers off, along with a few strategic weeks in the fall for hunting and fishing. I had it all mapped out.

Then I got ALS. It changed all my plans. It made every investment decision moot. It made mincemeat of my boat and any other toys. It made working an impossibility. That's what ALS does; it destroys all your plans, for money, for life. Please forgive me for not planning for ALS. Please forgive me if you disagree with some of my financial decisions along the way. The truth is that I am now making it up as I go along.

In some ways, the only thing I have misjudged is how long I will live. It's another cruel twist of ALS, that what you think will happen is not what actually happens. Like the rest of humanity, you don't know how long you will live. You just know it won't be as long as you would like, and longer than you can afford. And that is hard to plan for.

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