When Your Bus Ticket Gets Punched


Photo by Danist

My favorite breakfast place in my hometown of Woodbury, Minnesota, is Keys. The Italian sausage is the best. I can’t remember ever ordering anything different there for breakfast. My friend Jack enjoyed a Keys breakfast too. We’d meet up a couple of times a year to catch up and solve the world’s problems over hash browns and orange juice.
One of Jack’s passions was politics. It was a topic he would talk about for hours during our breakfasts. Yet one topic Jack never wanted to focus on in our conversations was his cancer diagnosis. I get it, but this time was different. I arrived for breakfast early to get a few things done prior to our meal, and I noticed Jack’s walking style as he entered the restaurant. He was shuffling his feet four or five inches at a time—nothing like that stride you and I would use to walk forward. I had a suspicion that this would be our last smart-talking meeting of the minds, solving the world’s problems over breakfast. And it was.

The most common question people ask me is, “What would you do?” Sometimes we just need someone as a sounding board to help us make a big decision: to retire, purchase that dream home, or finally snag that car you’ve always wanted. Sometimes, even when they know exactly what Brett’s answer would be, people do the opposite anyways. Life is short, and sometimes we throw caution to the wind. And I’m no different, even though I get in trouble with Mrs. Anderson when I purchase a $200 cooking pan or replace my holey socks when I could have just sewed them up instead. (I’ve created a financial ninja!)

Those are the easy questions to answer. But sometimes, it’s not always possible to answer these types of questions for others.

One afternoon, I was sitting on the coach next to my mom, my sister’s dog snuggled against her. At that time, Mom was going through extensive chemotherapy to reduce a tumor in her pancreas. She was in a battle for her life. The chemo and cancer were winning, and she knew it…which is why she asked, “What would you do?” I knew what she was asking. She was tired, and the battle seemed to be nearing the end. And I know Mom didn’t want to give up on living.

Assuming I have a choice when my bus ticket gets punched, I’m not sure how I’ll respond. Sure, today I can talk big, but that’s today. I simply told Mom that my ticket hasn’t been punched yet (that I know of). Many of us will eventually have life-changing decisions to make. My friend Jack and my mom had one thing in common: they both said they were grateful they got cancer. Grateful because they had time to process their situations and get their remaining days in order.

It’s a topic we talk about a little bit, but discussing it on a deeper level could help us be even more impactful with our family, our loved ones, our pastors, and even our advisors. Whatever our situation, we can all breathe a sigh of relief when we have not only our financial house in order but also our wishes on record for the host of events that could happen to us or a loved one, including sickness or death.

With all the upcoming Federal estate tax law changes I expect to come our way shortly, now is a good time to revisit your estate plan, from power of attorney to health care directives. Remember, not everyone gets a warning notice! If you need a referral to an estate planning or elder law attorney, let me know.

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Ask yourself- can my portfolio support my lifestyle in my retirement? 

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