One of my first employers when I was in high school owned a car dealership and an auto repair facility that housed two tow trucks, which he was determined to teach me to drive. Early on in my lessons, when my left foot spent too much time on the clutch pedal, he would swing his cane over at my right leg and call out, “You don’t need to clutch now. Shift it without clutching. You have to anticipate.”
After his cane came to rest on the floor and my leg stopped throbbing, his tone would drop from football coach down to driving instructor as he explained his concern. “You’re going to be in spots where you will need to change gears without clutching. The first step is to recognize when those times come, and the second step is to know how to do it. Remember, you have to anticipate.”
Over time, my boss’ words have surfaced often in my helping clients with their planning. When life sends them shifts, it has been my job to help them to keep from clutching. My long-gone mentor’s words provide the answer: recognize the times of change (shifts) and then help people to meet change without panic (clutching).
Three new additions to our family tree (due to arrive before the next silver ball drops in Times Square) represent shifts on a not-very-distant horizon. Bassinets, bottles and bibs are only the beginning of the steps the new moms and dads have taken to avoid clutching – each of them has already made moves to modify their wills and trust documents to reflect their anticipated shifts in family membership.
Of course, nobody needed to tell the new moms to check out the market for nursery furniture upgrades or for the newest stuffed animals that make sounds to put babies to sleep while causing grandpa’s teeth to ache. Likewise, nature’s best excuse for men to go to Angels’ games – a baby shower – helps new nesters to feel like they’ve completely finished their baby preps, even though they probably haven’t.
What could be left to do to make ready for stork time after all these great purchases? One of the most important issues still needs to face review: before tackling new terms for the trust, prior to picking a prep school, even in front of nabbing a name, parents need to call their advisors to revisit their life insurance programs. What’s needed to get the next Newton through physics at Cal Tech? How much more will you need to pay for your daughter’s wedding dress if Dad isn’t there to walk her down the aisle? Your financial advisor should even be able to tell you what it will cost to provide a stand-in for Mom in case she gets clobbered by a supersonic soccer ball. Please don’t forget to have your advisor review all beneficiary designations on existing insurance policies, retirement accounts, annuities, and other financial accounts to be certain no one, including your newest member, has been left out.
Life insurance is the single greatest tool for shifting without clutching; it’s the ultimate tool for a smooth transition through hazardous times.
Change never rests. It comes and shifts our lives in ways that we must try to anticipate with appropriate planning and preparation. Each instance of change calls for different kinds of adjustments, but each shift shares something in common with the others: facing each change with the proper adjustments to our plans and our planning documents allows us to shift without clutching.