Team Building 101

Todd Washburn |

The year-end holidays are about people.  There are religious aspects to some, but they too are shared celebrations with others.  We see friends and family that we may only see once a year.  It’s a celebratory time, but also a time to talk.  We catch up on what everyone has been up too.  We share memories of times and people past.  We share plans for the future.  It can also be a time for you to ask for help.

Help comes in many forms- a ride to work, help with a home repair, emotional support during a difficult time, or even financial assistance.  The thing is, at some point, all of us need some help.  There are, of course, different “levels” of help.  Asking a neighbor to pick up the kids at school is different than asking them to raise them if you’re gone.  Asking your brother for a $100 loan is very different than asking him to manage your finances if you can’t.  The first are low-commitment, low-risk for you and them.  The latter are major commitments by both.  While the former can be done spur-of-the-moment, the latter benefit from advanced planning.

What we’re talking about is “assistance planning”.  It’s putting together a team of people you trust to help when you need it most.  We don’t know when that’ll be.  All we know is that some time- a month, a year, a decade from now- that need will occur.  You may be incapacitated by injury or illness, or sadly, deceased.  You have a choice- influence how things are handled when those events occur, or leave it to others (i.e. courts).  State law has processes for handling incapacity or death.  However, they aren’t very flexible or accommodating of your wishes.  Alternatively, the law allows you to decide what happens and who helps.  But you have to take action to get that benefit.  The default is the ridged “state” plan.

Articles like this tend to now talk about Wills, Powers of Attorney, trusts, etc.  But those are just tools of assistance planning.  They’re no more useful than a hammer with no one to swing it.  People make things work.  It’s people who ultimately build the house with the hammer or keep your financial life afloat.  It’s people who make up your assistance team.

One thing I’ve learned helping clients put together their plans - picking the people can be hard.  In some cases there are obvious choices, but in others all candidates seem flawed in some way.  But think about what you’re looking for in a team member.  It’s someone you first and foremost trust to do the right thing.  It’s someone who understands your beliefs and wishes- and agrees to honor them as best they can.  It’s someone others trust and respect- and will support even if they don’t agree.  It’s someone suited, by experience or education, and temperament, to carry out your wishes.  The needs vary greatly- from dealing with lawyers and family to settle an estate, to someone working with doctors or even hospice to address your health, to raising your children or managing money you’ve left for your 3 year old.  Different skills, knowledge, and abilities for each and every one. Some responsibilities may be short-term.  Others, like raising the 3 year old, can be long-term.  Some team members may need to work together.

Consider who you might ask for help.  Invite them to coffee or lunch just to chat.  Would they consider helping?  Do you feel they could carry out your wishes?  Are they suited for what you’re asking?  Holidays are time to celebrate people, to reconnect with people, and, maybe, a time to bring your people together.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Remember, there are no calories on national holidays.