If you could go back in time and have a few do-overs, would you?
I sure would.
The age and experience I’ve gained over the years would’ve made my life much easier as a youngster.
While we aren’t magicians and can’t time travel and give advice to our former selves, we can give advice to our future ones. And affect change on our future.
The last time I checked, mortality rates are still hovering around 100% and one of the unfortunate, but insanely necessary planning I do is preparing people for their twilight years.
We’ve all experienced family members and friends pass and the emotional toll is gut-wrenching, not to mention all the time and money that the remaining family members bear during that last season.
Even if we’ll never admit it about ourselves, our bodies and minds won’t be what they once were. Complex thinking significantly declines with age. And to put it bluntly, financial literacy declines 1% each year after age 60.
But our confidence in those decisions don’t.
When family lets us know that we might need some assistance, things can get ugly.
I can’t think of anything more explosive emotionally than money and end-of-life.
One of my mentors, Bob Seawright, decided to give his future self the advice he could never implement for his younger self.
Bob, when the kids tell you to stop driving, give them the keys. When they tell you to run major decisions past them, agree to a system that enforces your cooperation (requiring a co-signer on checks, for example). When they tell you to consider whether you ought to keep living without help, look into getting care or moving to an assisted living facility (and take their advice as to which option is best). When they — horror of horrors — offer financial advice, take it. You are beyond blessed to have three fantastic kids who have made you proud every day of their lives. Trust them to love you and to watch out for you, even when you don’t like it — even if you are convinced that what they say or suggest is dead wrong.
Dear future me, as much as it may pain you, take the advice of your children and the people who love you. Father Time remains undefeated. So listen to your kids’ advice.
Psychologist Hal Hershfield found that when people are able to identify with their future selves (or know ‘what’s coming’), they’re better able to plan for that future and in turn, reap the benefits in the years to come.
This letter isn’t a prescriptive outline of what everyone should do, but writing advice to your future self (and adult children) today is an exercise that may be worth looking at. At the very least, it could be a doorway to a conversation, one that you may be putting off because it’s messy and awkward.
And while those conversations are never fun (although I’ve discovered the majority of the pain happens in our minds beforehand), the best things in life are on the other side of them.
It might be better than a contentious and bitter mess with your loved ones.