When it comes to managing the household finances, there are two types of wives: those who want to always be on top and take charge, and those who would rather submit to their husbands.
Since my wife falls into the latter category, I felt compelled to write her this letter. I encourage every spouse in the same situation to write a similar love letter to their significant other.
My Dearest Mary Ann,
Nobody cares more about our finances than us. So, you need to personally be able to manage it when the unthinkable happens. You’ll automatically inherit my Schwab and Fidelity accounts as you are the primary beneficiary (our kids are secondary), along with the responsibilities that go with it.
Our average household spending is around $6K per month or $72K per year. Without me, it will be substantially lower. You can continue to work, but you should have more than enough to retire immediately if you can find an affordable insurance provider until you’re eligible for Medicare at age 65.
Since we have a dozen accounts meant for different purposes, I couldn’t express more the importance of knowing when and where to withdraw funds when you need them as there could be tax consequences. For example, you could be pushed to a higher tax bracket if you withdraw too much money from your 403b account each year.
As you age, it’s best to simplify the bulk of our accounts to just two companies: Schwab and Vanguard. Hence, I have instructions to roll my Fidelity accounts to Vanguard. Of course, you still need a brick-and-mortar bank with a physical ATM location, like what we have now, to obtain cash.
I’ve always managed our finances without professional help. But things will surely get complicated when I’m gone— especially when you start qualifying for Social Security benefits and your company pension. So, don’t hesitate to seek help from a reputable tax accountant and financial advisor to establish a fiduciary relationship. If so, only pay a fixed fee and not a percentage of our assets.
Be careful dealing with financial advisors. Many are only interested in selling products you don’t need for a handsome commission. Seek only the ones with the heart of a teacher. The best way to protect yourself from vultures is financial education. Start by reading the 100+ blog posts I’ve written at millionairebefore50.com.
Please find attached a Word document that contains the details of our finances and action items that require attention.
P.S. You are free to remarry when I’m gone. But please make sure the lucky SOB is not only after your money.
I have provided a separate Word document containing all the necessary details about our finances, which I have attached to this email. This includes information about our financial accounts, assets, liabilities, and insurance policies, along with the relevant contact details of the institutions or agents.
Here’s the bare outline…
1. Funding sources
Money accessible before retirement
- Bank accounts (checking, savings, etc.)
- Brokerage accounts and acceptable investment options
- Fund transfer instructions
Money for the kids
- 529 accounts
- Custodial accounts
- 401K, 403b, Roth, and other IRAs
- Acceptable investment options
- Drawdown strategy and RMDs
2. Summary of Payables
- Income taxes (federal, state, and local)
- Property taxes (home, auto)
- Utilities, insurance, and other dues
3. Summary of Receivables
- Expected income streams
- List of people who owe you money
4. Home/ auto maintenance items
- Safety inspections
- Routine maintenance (filter changes, etc.)
Note that a Last Instruction is not a legal document and does not replace a will. It’s just a way of communicating my final wishes and providing guidance to my wife. I’m going to update this letter regularly and keep it in a safe place (in the cloud) where my wife can easily access it.
I’m a fairly healthy person and I don’t expect to die soon. But writing a Last Instruction document is a thoughtful and considerate way of preparing for the inevitable. It gives me peace of mind knowing that I’ve done everything I can to make things easier for her after I’m gone.