Be Kind to Your Valentine

Todd Washburn |

Valentine’s Day.  The day of love.  The day we show the person we care most about how we feel about them.  I, being the hopeless romantic I am, naturally shower my wife with flowers, gifts and dinner in a fancy restaurant.   OK- that was a Brian Williams moment.  She wouldn’t have recognized that description- not in a million years.  But that doesn’t take away from the goal of Valentine’s Day- to show we care.  The flowers, the candy, the dinners are all nice.  They can help the relationship remain healthy.  But at the risk of sounding a little cynical, in some ways it’s a bit superficial.  Those things show you care, but do they show you really care?  

   There are times in my line of work where it’s hard to not feel a bit cynical about folks who say they care.  Sadly, in some cases actions do speak louder than words.  While they will do the more public gestures like Valentine’s Day, they won’t take the more difficult steps that show, in my opinion, they really do care.

 Here are a few things I’ve seen over the years:

•  No Will or other estate documents that would make the passing of a spouse so much easier to manage for the surviving spouse.

•  No or grossly inadequate life insurance to make up for the lost income when a spouse dies.

•  Taking a “life only” option on a pension.

•  Large amounts of spending that are hidden from the spouse.

Yes- these things happen.  They’re justified by the person doing them.  

•  Why no Will?  Because a lawyer would charge too much: and besides, everything goes to her because we’re married (yes, it’s usually the husband saying this).  He’s  probably going to be wrong.  North Carolina intestacy laws usually don’t give everything to the spouse (think parents and children).

•  Life insurance.  It’s not needed because she can just go back to work (again- usually a husband talking).  The fact that she’s been out of the workforce for years and  isn’t  qualified for her former work doesn’t seem to matter, or that she could never earn what he did in her line of work.

•  “Life-only” pension.  To do this, the non-pension spouse actually has to sign a paper allowing it.  “Here, just sign this.  It’s about the pension. Nah, it’s all fine.”

•  Hidden spending.  “It’s for the kids/house/us.”

   All of those and many similar scenarios do happen.  I don’t believe in most cases the person making the decision wants to or even feels he/she is hurting the other.  They’re saving money or getting more money (pension) or even maintaining harmony and happiness in the household (spending).  But they are creating and leaving a mess to be cleaned up later.  To me, that is not “love”.

   So please, enjoy Valentine’s Day.  Buy flowers and have a great dinner.  But the next day, go see the lawyer, buy the right amount of life insurance, fess-up to and start paying off the bills.  Show that special someone in your life that you really do care, and you really want what’s best for them- all the time.