Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM
If you have family gathered round you today, this column will be important. But if you are alone on this holiday -- or know someone who is, by choice or by chance -- I entrust you with this important and serious task.
In the midst of all the holiday cheer, or loneliness, lies the important fact that we are all connected to one another, in small ways and large. This is not a column about charitable giving,, although I presume that you've already made arrangements to share your money and your time with those less fortunate. Instead, this is a column about financial peace of mind -- a priceless gift.
You're not alone in being worried -- about your job, investments, retirement, or simply about how you'll keep food on the table and a roof over your head in the coming year. So why not face facts about finances --and get organized in the process?
Families come together to share happy occasions, so why not join together to deal with financial realities, and prepare for both the unanticipated and inevitable issues that will arise.
Pride goes before a fall
This proverb was never more true than today.
Your aging parents are too proud to admit that rising food prices, medical costs, or utility bills, or property taxes have put them in a pinch. Or that money-management tasks have become overwhelming.
Your teen or college-age children are too proud to let you know they've run up credit card bills, or cell phone bills that they can't pay on their allowance. And YOU are too proud to admit to your spouse or family that you've been living way beyond your means. Or that your job is in such jeopardy. Or that you've made terrible mistakes in your investments.
This is the perfect day to bury your pride and start talking about money and personal finances with the people who matter in your life. Do it now -- before an emergency or untimely death makes information gathering and financial planning an impossible task.
Start by showing this column to family members. And to make that talk easier, here are three ways to get started -- right now, without leaving the house!
u Terry's Free Personal Financial Organizer Form -- For many years I gave out this form at my speaking engagements. Now I've put it online, and you can print out as many copies as you want, to share with family and friends. It's designed to help you organize your important financial information, ranging from bank account numbers, investment information, and even credit card numbers, as well as location of documents such as your will, insurance policies, property deeds and more.
To get the organizer, simply go to www.TerrySavage.com and fill in the little pop-up box asking for your name and e-mail. By return e-mail, you'll receive a link to the organizer form. You can print copies out to use today, and share with others. (As a side benefit, you'll be put on my free personal newsletter list, to receive my commentaries from time to time. And you can unsubscribe to that with a click.)
u FamilyFinancialTalk.com -- If you need more help getting the conversation started, I highly recommend this Web site, created by Wachovia Securities. It is full of suggestions for getting the conversation started, and staying on track, whether you're talking with your parents or your adult children. In fact, you could bring the family to the computer to read the "rules of the road" for this discussion. And then you can send away for their free booklet, "Talking with Loved Ones about Money."
u CaringisnotEnough.net -- This helpful Web site was created by Terry Black, a registered nurse and author of a downloadable booklet that covers more than 120 questions you should be asking each other -- and space to fill in the answers. (The book can also be ordered in hardcover from this site, in Spanish and Chinese as well as English.)
The questions for discussion range from "what should be done with your pet?" to "where is your will?" and "where's the deed to your cemetery plot?" The site contains a blog so you can commiserate with others having trouble getting this process going.
It's never easy to start this important discussion -- and especially not on a holiday. But when will you all be together again, in a mellow mood? This doesn't have to take up the entire day, and it doesn't have to consume the whole family at once. But it is a perfect time to get started.
Or, if you're alone, this will give you something meaningful to do today, along with thinking about whether your clergyman or banker or close friend should be the one to receive this information about your plans and wishes.
I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season, and New Year. But I know you'll feel better if you're prepared for the tough times, as well as hoping for the best. And that's The Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser. Distributed by Creators Syndicate. Copyright Terry Savage Productions Ltd. Visit terrysavage.com and suntimes.com.