Although I have written lots of articles about the features and benefits of End of Life Planning, this article is focused on helping financial professionals learn how to have “the conversation” regarding End of Life Planning.
Having “The Conversation”
You may have heard this saying: by failing to plan, you are planning to fail. However, in our industry, there are volumes of statistics and studies proving that most people:
- Do not own life insurance, or do not own enough.
- Do not own disability insurance, or do not own enough.
- Do not own Long Term Care insurance, or do not like the thought of using it.
- Have not taken the time to create a Last Will or Living Trust, or have not updated these documents for a long time.
Therefore, it is only logical to conclude that most people do not like to talk about death. However, these aforementioned inefficiencies are the reasons many of us can enjoy a successful career in this great industry, and love what we do every day.
The Major Milestones in Life
When it comes to the major milestones of life, death and funerals are definitely ones that everyone on earth must journey through at some point in our lives. Clearly, we all wish that these difficult life events will happen later than sooner, but I once heard a wise man say, “God promises you eternal life. But, He never promises you tomorrow.”
Fact: Most financial professionals are hesitant to integrate preplanned funeral arrangements as a standard and routine part of their practice. For many people, this subject is considered to be taboo. As a result, far too many of our well-intentioned clients die unprepared. This ultimately, and regrettably, leaves their loved ones with painful emotional and financial burdens.
I can understand why “the conversation” of planning a funeral is largely overlooked and ignored. In fact, had I not personally experienced the process of losing a dear loved one, I too would probably shy away from talking about end of life planning. However, my loss has become my inspiration, and I am on a mission to help others minimize the pain and suffering that invariably accompanies one of life’s most difficult challenges.
N-O-T Having “The Conversation”
More than 70 percent of Americans do not leave behind any formalized Estate Plan such as a Last Will or Living Trust. Sadly, more than 85 percent of Americans do not leave behind any final arrangement plans or preferences.
If you think about our clients and their financial road of life, it is filled with many important milestones, major events, and achievements (such as graduations, marriages, childbirths, and retirements). These are universally common moments that bring families together to celebrate significant accomplishments, which of course, also require careful planning and financial commitment.
So, where do funerals fit on this list of life’s major milestones? Consider these important facts:
The average family has more than 150 detailed questions that need to be answered, all within a period of 48 hours after losing a loved one. When individuals and families are forced to make important and emotional decisions with very little time and a heavy heart, it often adds insult to injury. In addition to the time constraints and emotional loss, people can also lose their ability to be educated and empowered regarding various options, key details, and best prices.
The average cost of a funeral today is approximately $10,000 (and only rising over time). So, just like all of life’s major financial and retirement planning milestones, planning a funeral also requires a detailed, deliberate, logistical, and proactive approach.
More than80 percent of families believe that prearranging a funeral makes sense. According to a recent nationwide survey conducted by the Wirthlin Group, more than eight out of 10 people believe that “funeral prearrangement is a good idea.” Put another way, for every 10 people a financial professional is willing to have “the Conversation” with, more than eight of them agree it is a sensible discussion and are open-minded about learning how to create such a plan.
Using the N.E.A.D.S. Analysis to Have “The Conversation”
Below is a simple, easy-to-understand, and comfortable dialogue you can have with your clients to get to “the Conversation”:
N = NOW: “With regards to your funeral or cemetery arrangements, can you please share with me what current plans you have now?
E = EXPERIENCE: “Can you tell me what your experience has been with regards to making funeral or cemetery arrangements? Have you ever been required to make these types of arrangements yourself? Or have you ever been a part of making these arrangements?”
A = ALTER: “Based on your past experience, what would you alter or change going forward?”
D = DECISION MAKING: “When a death occurs, who will be involved in the decision-making process? Will it be your spouse? Your children? Your family?
S = SOLUTION: “Has anyone ever talked to you about a solution? In other words, are you aware that you can prearrange your funeral or cemetery plans and preferences?”
Weddings versus Funerals
To help put this into perspective, let’s compare weddings and funerals. Getting married is usually a big life event, right? In fact, it is such a big life event that most people spend more than a year planning the various options, details, and pricing of their wedding day ceremony. Now, can you imagine being forced to make all of these important wedding choices within a 48-hour period? The fact of the matter is that both weddings and funerals require careful consideration of many similar details including invitations, guests, location, flowers, food, memorabilia, clothing, travel, religion, and of course, spending the least but most appropriate amount of money.
A wedding is a very important life-event that should almost never be planned on the fly. Planning your funeral should be the approached the same way.
Many of you know that I firmly believe 90 percent of our job is protecting against emotionally and financially distressing circumstances. Clearly, the loss of a loved one is accompanied by a large number of emotional and financial decisions. If you were to ask most people who have been involved with planning a funeral, they will tell you it is an extremely challenging, overwhelming, and often devastating experience.
Have You Planned Ahead?
Here are a couple questions I would like to ask each financial professional who has taken the time to read this article (which I greatly appreciate):
Do you believe prearranging your own personal funeral is a good idea?
If so, have you taken steps to plan ahead for your loved ones? (Note: An easy way to get started is downloading a free Family Record Guide at www.funeralresources.com).
Pre-planning a funeral is a missing milestone—a missing piece to the financial and retirement planning puzzle—and also a missed opportunity for most financial professionals. Please don’t miss this opportunity to help your clients and their loved ones. You will add significant value to your financial services practice at the same time.