What does Lady Gaga have to do with a special needs trust?
By Rob Wrubel, CFP®
“Invest in a few moments of thinking. It will pay off with good interest” – Unknown author
Recently, I heard the average person has about 3,000 thoughts per day. True? Who knows? My quick search on the internet found reports of anywhere from 1,500 per day to 70,000. Several sites said that for many people, 80% of these are negative (talk about a waste of time!). For me, many of them are either the music of Barney or Lady Gaga—thanks kids.
There are 86,400 seconds in a day, 57,600 if you take away eight hours for sleep. My math says if I have a thought every five waking seconds I have 11,520 thoughts a day. You choose what to think and if you find credible research, let me know.
Families with special needs members join typical families in trying to separate important goals and tasks in their thoughts from those more mundane. Long term goals—like funding retirement and a special needs trust—require patience, perseverance and passion to accomplish.
With thousands of thoughts each day racing around in our heads, it’s no wonder that we cannot seem to stay on task for our long term goals. It is so easy to get sidetracked in our thinking and stop working on long term goals to address something that requires immediate attention.
Trips to the therapist and concern for progress in speech are present and in front of us today. Funding an account to pay for those requires budgeting and planning over time.
How do you spend time managing trust assets with the trust advisory committee and understanding your role as a fiduciary when you also have to make sure medications are being delivered correctly?
Important parts of life require a high degree of concentration and follow-through. We need to find a way to focus our attention and develop a method to make sure the important aspects of planning happen – for ourselves and our special needs loved ones.
Following are a few techniques than you can use to help you decide where to put the most focus and automate your planning to make sure certain steps happen regularly.
Write a list. The first step is to write down as many goals, dreams, desires, actions, plans or bucket list items you can. Do not censor the list. Write down whatever comes to mind. This is your personal list and everything should be here.
Look for emergencies. Take your list and look to see if there any steps that must be taken immediately—true emergencies or actions that will lead to significant change if done this week.
Prioritize. Determine which items on your list will make the biggest difference for you and are the most important. As an investment advisor and financial planner, we work with people on funding trusts, education planning and retirement as three major life goals. There are many others as well—buy a home, start a business, go back to school, travel the world, write a book, the list of options is endless.
Pick Five. Planning and achievement of goals requires some degree of focus. I recommend starting with a few goals and putting a significant amount of energy towards those goals right now. You can return to your list and start more after the first five are in gear and some degree of success has been achieved.
Big goals require extra attention and thought. You will want to break these goals down into easier to handle chunks. Take the goal of setting up a special needs trust, for example. To some people, this goal seems unbelievably difficult. People in groups I speak to cloud over at the mention of the trust.
There are several hurdles to overcome here and you need to address these as separate chunks of thought. One is the emotional hurdle. Some families fear seeing an attorney and setting up a will and estate plan as they feel like they will be jinxed, and something will happen. Others do not want to imagine the future or do not agree on the plan of action with a spouse.
Others do not put the estate plan in place due to a lack of understanding. How does money come out of the trust? Who is in charge? What assets should be in the trust?
Others need to save money to be able to afford to pay for the trust.
Whatever your hurdles, take time to become clear about what they are and develop an action plan to overcome them.
Visualize. Take time each day to visualize you accomplishing your goal and how you feel about it. This will help you stick to the important goals in your life.
Commit. Talking with others—key family members, friends and professionals—helps make your goals more real and important. You reinforce your commitment by discussing the changes you want to achieve. You also have the chance to learn from others about how they have tackled certain issues. Remember to filter those suggestions. What worked for someone else may not work for you.
Automate. Seek ways to automate the steps needed to accomplish your goals. Savings goals are best accomplished with regular, automatic deductions from your checking account to savings and investment accounts. Company retirement plans often work best as this money is put into an account before even hitting the checking account. You can automatically increase your savings rate by setting it as a percentage of your pay. Every time you get a raise or bonus you put more into your retirement account.
Invest time in deciding which thoughts will take up the better part of your day. Replace Lady Gaga with education about key planning steps. Stay focused on the goals you want to achieve for you and your special needs loved one to live the life you dream about.