Would you go to work if you knew you had a day to live?
That was a question my nine-year-old posed over breakfast one morning.
He had first asked: would you go to work if you had cancer.
I was lucky – I could be with the boys before our paths parted for the next two days: theirs to school, mine to the airport. I’m usually on horribly early flights that see me out the door as the sun rises if not before, so this was a treat, the late flight, not breakfast with them – we do that most days. My departing was obviously playing on young minds.
The answers to both questions are easy.
Yes I’d go to work if I had cancer because I’d want to beat it and to look forward to a long and happy life, and I would need to pay for treatment, health insurance and all the holidays and fun stuff we want to do.
No, I wouldn’t go to work if I knew that day was my last. I’d spend every second with my boys.
They want me around more. But we all need different things in life. And that includes doing our own thing, whether due to necessity – the need to earn – or sanity – friends and experiences.
So, with this being a holy month of introspection, I put to you: what would you do with your money if you knew you had a year to live? Long enough to actually do a few things, but short enough to focus your mind.
It’s a question people across the UK have been asked this June as part of Financial Planning Week. It’s seven days of free advice around money matters organised by the UK’s Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments.
The obvious stuff to start with is figuring out the things you absolutely must do before you die. I want to go to the Galapagos islands, go on every un-cruise cruise (Alaska, Hawaii and more – small boats full of adventure stuff), live somewhere I can ski every day for a few months. Figuring out the fun stuff is easy.
Then thoughts of responsibility towards my children kick in. Do I have the right insurance to see my young ones through their education? What support would I need to buy in to cover the hole I’d leave? After all, I am a multi-skilled worker: part-time driver, therapist, cook and teacher. How would I square the circle while passing on the least financial burden?
So, taking a step back, this is what I would do with my money if I knew I had a year to live:
• Buy peace of mind
• Make sure my absence can be covered – financially
• Squeeze as much quality time out of life and money while maintaining the above two points.
Peace of mind. What I mean is less hassle, more clarity. This is why I’m currently decluttering my finances. I am getting out of things I “fell” into – because it was what was offered by a financial adviser, or on the back of turmoil or a new phase of life, like starting a savings policy with the arrival of children. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying don’t save, I’m saying I am looking at the tools and policies I have in place and assessing them. Are they clear, transparent, and financially worth it? Do they cause grief in the way they’re managed or maintained?
Yes I might end up missing out on some fantastic financial opportunity – but if it doesn’t give peace of mind, it’s too high a price to pay.
To my second point: from now on, once a year I will assess whether insurance and other policies will cover the additional expense my demise would incur for my children’s carers, or for my children if they’re still not on financially independent feet. Many of us have things in place, but our needs change all the time, and what you took out three years ago or more might not be right for your current phase of life.
The fun stuff is just that. Sometimes it’s about spending big money on once in a lifetime experiences, but mostly it’s about deciding what you’re trading your life-juice, your time for. Is it to earn more? Or to do more?
To help me maintain my three financial mantras, I am starting an annual “moneyversary”. Every year, the day before my birthday, I will retreat into myself and figure out each point. It doesn’t stop there. If something needs to change, I will do something about it. That way, every day will be a great day – to live, or go (peacefully I hope).
Nima Abu Wardeh describes herself using three words: Person. Parent. Pupil. Each day she works out which one gets priority, sharing her journey on finding-nima.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org