Monthly Archives: March 2011

Family Questions for Estate Planning

Wills are the type of task that every parent wants to push off until tomorrow…or next year.  We’ve been making progress (slowly, but surely) on our   goal of updating our “last will & testaments.”  This time we’ve hired a lawyer, and we’re finishing all the estate planning documents: power of attorney, advance medical directive, and a last will & testament.

Our original wills were done on the cheap. We used a will kit software purchased by friends’ parents who helped us wade through the questions and get everything prepared. The beauty of taking on the task with another couple is that we had each other to sign copies (you need two signatures of people not listed in your will). Having your will signed may seem morbid, but we actually signed on New Year’s Day (with Mt Hood in view!) We were just relieved to know that in the case of an awful accident on the way home that our kids would go to our chosen guardian, and we wouldn’t leave family in a lurch.

Speaking of guardians, choosing who might raise your family is often a tough choice. There are lots of different factors to consider, and this article on 10 things to think about when choosing a guardians is very helpful. The number one issue in my mind is family values: who  can come close to honoring your values in raising your kids? Here’s a good perspective on choosing a guardian from The Simple Dollar, you can see just how personal the decision really is. Our lawyer (and friend) advised us to consider whether we want our estate guardian to be the same person and our custody guardian.

In our case, my Twin Sis is a shoe-in for the role (minus the globe trekking job 😉 But life can change quickly, so it’s important to keep tabs on who you choose. We chose Hubby’s sister as “back-up” guardian, since she was the only sibling without a family (but wanted kids!), just four years later she’s married and has two beautiful girls. And who knows, my Twin Sis may go “Angelina” on us and suddenly adopt a tribe of kids from where ever she happens to be in Africa at the moment…stranger things have happened 😉 But seriously, in our case we also trust her manage our estate and raise our kids if need be.

There are some big questions to answer, which is why many parents continue to put it off…

Do you have a Last Will and Testament?
Is it up-to-date?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Sugar Mama Update

This is an update to my previous post on creating a Sugar Mama Scenario .

I’m relieved to report that Hubby has kept his job through another round of layoffs. Over a dozen co-workers were not so lucky. There is also a chance of “bumping,” which is really unpredictable. After being asked to “walk the plank” for the second year of budget cuts, he doesn’t feel much job security beyond the next budget year. In this economy, I don’t know if anyone truly feels secure about their job.

The exercise of penciling out a “sugar mama scenario” may also prove useful in the shorter term too. Hubby is still developing a business plan, and hopes to venture on his own as soon as possible. I’m at least relieved that he’s not being forced into the decision, and hope that his launch timing will coincide better with a decrease in child care costs, as they move toward Kindergarten and out of the high-end fees of the youngest years.

On a side note here’s an interesting article: 
If Mom earns more than Dad, who changes the diapers?

Do you have a contingency plan for a spouse loosing their job?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Get Around Beta Group

This is the week we were planning to sell our car, and attempt to go carless for at least a few months

In the American right of passage, Big Guy is excited about joining a t-ball league this spring. We had researched transportation, and since one field is on the bus line and the other is just around the corner in walking distance, we thought we were covered for this season.  Alas, Hubby has volunteered to coach his new t-ball team and part of that responsibility is to schlep the team’s gear to games…although we are still crossing our fingers that the co-coach can take on this duty!  Even as urban bus-riding parents, we knew that mandatory carpooling would come someday soon…we were just hoping to use Flexcar…it turns out there could be another alternative. 

I recently found out about an innovative new transportation service of sorts – person to person car lending called  Get Around . When first thinking about how much our car was costing us while parked at the curb I actually thought of this idea – why not put your car up for temporary loan to a friend or neighbor? It could be a win-win and enable more people who don’t use their car (or second car) all the time, want to keep it handy, but could manage lending it out from time to time. The Beta pilot is about to be tested in Portland, but the website explains how every transaction is covered by insurance and you set your own price and time limits for your own car. Other renters just have to find one that works for them. 

I’ll let you know my experience once I have a chance to test it.

You may wonder how not owning a car, but still driving around town could help the environment. Here’s a great article about how  peer-to-peer sharing is the consumer wave of the future that will help reducing our collective carbon footprint.

Have you tried Get Around? 
I’d love to hear your experience.

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Changing the Conversation – Book Review

Back to writing after my “spring break“…it was a nice retreat, minus a vomiting and feverish Girly on our mini-vacation to the coast…alas I just hope she’s back to energetic self here soon…

I did manage to finish reading  Changing the Conversation: Transformational Steps to Financial and Family Well-Being . Written by financial planner, Gary Klaben, it was a refreshingly easy and enjoyable read. It was packed with personal anecdotes, and was not overly prescriptive about how you should manage your family finances. Actually, it had more professional/personal success advice than I was expecting, but truthfully all success is closely intertwined. A financial planner who can’t provide advice on how to earn money to begin with won’t be of much help managing any such wealth.

My only criticism of that the book really doesn’t dwell on the early years of family financial planner, which is where my family is at the moment. I would have liked some advice on saving for college…or in my case, paying off my college loans. I would have also been interested to know his thoughts on the financial equation of paying for child care or what he thinks about the trend toward maternal breadwinners

To his credit, Klaben does have one chapter on Financial Awareness where he discusses teaching kids about money, and his own approach to allowances. Personally, I like his approach to allowances. His family had a simple plan, starting at age 6, they gave each child their own age in weekly allowance ($6 for a 6 yo…$12 for a 12 yo.) The only string attached was that every two months the child needed to save $25, which would be matched to put into a mutual fund. He quotes Capitate Your Kids by Dr. John E Whitcomb and discusses how “Basically, a 12 year old is given a $200 monthly budget to buy his or her clothes and other non-essential items. Mom and Dad no longer provide the clothing needs.” He does admit that some hand holding is needed early on, but giving children money is the the only way they’ll learn from it.

While approachable from virtually all stages of life, I think this book would be most useful for those in their late forties and up to retirement age. Klaben doesn’t hide that he’s a baby-boomer, and it’s clear that this is a retrospective about what he’s learned in his life as a financial planner. He has a great deal of wisdom to share with regard to retirement, and I appreciate how he thinks that in order to truly enjoy retirement, you need to find ways to give back to your community (our goal is to do the Peace Corps when we retire!) 

I was probably most surprised to find him spending a chapter on “Whose property do you own?” and the notion that we can easily become sucked into the trapping of ownership, especially land. 

“I’m reminded of a saying that illustrates the power that property has over us: ‘The king fears the man who stands before him with no need.’ It is a very profound statement. During feudal time, the serf could have rebelled against the ‘indentured servant equals food and shelter’ formula. He could have repudiated the system of property rights and refused to become a slave to the system. Arguably he could have lived off the land and put himself out for hire. 

When your think about, a feudal system of property rights still exists today. The difference: The king has been replaced by consumerism. We can do without three TVs, three-car garages, three personal phones, and on and on. We choose to “own” these extras because it makes life easier and more enjoyable. 

Money can’t buy happiness, but is makes the journey more comfortable. So, are you controlling the money or is the money controlling you?”

This quote gives a good example of how Klaben suggests “Changing the Conversation” is some transformational ways.

Lastly, I found it very intriguing to read this book right on the heels of the Energy of Money, because he opens the book by talking about how our relationship with money is a very personal journey, and he devotes a chapter to financial psychology.

Have you read Changing the Conversation
I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Spring Break

Happy Spring Equinox!

Our kids may not be in elementary school yet, but I’ve decided that we all need a “spring break.” Life has been more stressful than usual, and I just feel the need to unplug.

Thankfully my mom’s schedule as a teacher makes a visit to the grandparents an option, and the moment I offered to have our Big Guy visit, she eagerly accepted (Girly is home since Grandma’s hip has been hurting her lately, and she’s simply at a higher maintenance age). The love is mutual, as he’s has been begging lately to visit. They typically get some quintessential country experiences, like collecting eggs and feeding pigs at nearby farms. I think it’s also good for us to get a break in the name of family bonding 😉 

At the end of the week, we’ll meet up with them on the coast for a couple nights. Hopefully this will create the feeling of a vacation without the expense of a true vacation. We’ll also continue our tradition of volunteering for SOLV’s Great Oregon Beach Clean-up, and our Big Guy has been talking this up lately…yes, he is a little chatter box like his Mama!

I will also be taking time off from the blog this week, so  this will be my only post for the week…enjoy your spring break!

What are your spring break plans?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.