It’s one of those things we as Americans prize very, very highly. In fact, Americans prize freedom above almost all else. In the past, we have proven that we will even die to ensure freedom for those we love.
But we find ourselves living in a time when that precious gift – freedom – has been largely taken away from us by an invisible enemy no one had heard of until about a month ago.
The novel Coronavirus has changed life as we know it. It has put our lives into a freeze-frame…a full stop…a worldwide time out…which has brought economies and societies to their knees.
We yearn for freedom and at the same time, we mourn its loss.
But this involuntary time out may be giving us the opportunity to think deeply about our freedoms, and the things that may prevent us from enjoying them. And chief among the obstacles to enjoying freedom is fear.
You cannot be free to be who you want to be or to do what you want to do when you are controlled by fear. Just think about the fears on nearly everyone’s mind today: fear of social disruptions, economic uncertainty, health risks, and even death – all caused by the Coronavirus.
By the time this virus is under control, it will have wrought a terrible price, in lives and livelihoods.
Yet I am actually optimistic about our economic and societal future because I believe in America and the American experiment. We can all agree that it’s not perfect! But I believe America is the freest and most just society ever, and I believe it is the society most conducive to human flourishing that has ever existed.
Given that, I’m optimistic about our ability to come together and overcome the societal and economic challenges presented to us by this Coronavirus.
But on a personal level, the most optimistic outcomes imaginable still leave us with certain fears that this pandemic has surfaced and made us deal with – society-wide – in a way we’ve not been forced to deal with in quite a while.
The chief among them is the fear of death.
Today is Easter Sunday. To Christians, it is known as Resurrection Sunday. For them, the celebration of Easter is a reminder of their own remedy for the fear of death. I share some of my personal thoughts on that topic in this podcast and in this video.
But at the financial level, the fear of death (and our natural tendency to put off dealing with it) can wreak havoc in our planning efforts. Sometimes in a conversation about estate planning, a client will say, “If something should ever happen to me…”
If I’m feeling ornery that day, sometimes I’ll shoot back, “If?” They usually get the message.
When, not if, is the appropriate participle to use with reference to death.
Despite our fears and reluctance to deal with the whole matter of death, a financial plan that does not deal with the reality and inevitability of death is brittle and often found lacking during times like these. It just won’t stand up to a crisis.
Life can be cut short, leaving the economic potential of that individual unfulfilled.
Life can be altered, by disease or disability. This creates a compound problem. The loss of income is the same as if the person had died, but that person continues to live and suffer the consequences of his disability or illness as well as the resulting economic losses.
Or life can be longer than expected, creating the need for resources to last longer than normal. And if the need for care that many elderly experience is added to the mix, more financial problems result.
Fear can rob you of freedom.
But facing your fears – and finding solutions that work – may be the door that leads you to the place you’d always hoped for…
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