Family Risks

cargobikeWhen you consider risks to your family’s capital, what sort of things pop up in your mind?

  • Stock market crashes
  • Unemployment
  • Death of main breadwinner
  • Divorce
  • Underperformance of family business
  • Change in political situation
  • Change in interest rate policy
  • War and civil unrest

If we broaden the scope to human capital, what might you add?

  • Addiction and Substance Abuse
  • Remittance dependence
  • Health and wellness
  • Dementia and eldercare

I’ve known five generations of my family and we’ve experienced all of the above.

Surprisingly, the top-of-mind risks are not our source of greatest loss.

Aside from mental illness, our greatest source of turmoil has been due to developing an abnormal sense of normal. More specifically, we’ve looked up to friends & family that led us astray with regard to our financial aspirations.

DaddyGIf you happen to be a self-made individual then you will, quite rightly, say “it’s my life and I’ll live the way I darn well choose.”

You are right.

I commend you.

Self-reliance is a wonderful gift to our communities and I hope to teach it to my kids.

…but I remind myself of the cost of benchmarking at ever higher levels of achievement.

  • The cost comes in time not spent with my spouse and kids.
  • The cost comes from choosing work that is ethically ambiguous.
  • The cost comes when spending time becomes spending money.


This caution also applies to risk.

As a young man, I tracked into higher and higher levels of “acceptable risk.” A good friend died. Another went bankrupt.

Teach your kids to notice risk-seeking behavior in themselves, and others.

  • Mountaineers => good, great, dead
  • Property Developers => good, great, bust
  • Professional Athletes => good, great, disgraced


Finally, consider the impact of neighborhood and peers.

A friend jokes that his daughter was one of the few kids at her Bay-Area school that didn’t have an elevator in her home.

What’s my children’s definition of normal?

Choose wisely.

Money and Attention

storyGiven the firehose of media attention pointing at the US Presidential election, it’s easy to get tired, fed-up, angry, worried… you name it with regard to the state of politics.

It is worth remembering that the players have a vested, mutual, interest in getting us scared, and angry enough, to give them money and attention.

Rather than bringing fear and hate into the world, consider the following…

Take a characteristics of your least favorite politician and remove it from yourself.

  • You might have a concern about a lack of tolerance.
  • You might have a concern about a lack of integrity.
  • You might have a concern about a focus on personal wealth.
  • You might have a concern about fairness.
  • You might not like the way the person looks.

Whatever the trigger, we are going to be reminded of it, a lot, over the next five months.

Become aware of the trigger…

…and work to subdue the trait from within yourself.

Healthcare Tradeoffs

2016-05-13 12.25.44I’ve been helping an elderly friend navigate the healthcare system. It is easy to get present-procedure focused. No one took a long-term view of my buddy’s life path.

It’s going to be easiest to explain by putting myself in his shoes.

Let’s say I’m 80 years old and have a stroke, from which I will recover. At the hospital, they discover I need a pacemaker. The pacemaker is required because I have a condition, which is causing my heart to stop beating for up to 5 seconds at a time, mainly when I sleep.

The heart surgeon says I should fix my heart – he’s done the procedure close to 1,000 times. I am likely to see additional years of life.

Why would I hesitate?

I might hesitate because I know my family history.

By the time the pacemaker battery needs replacing (my late-80s) all my grandparents would have been dead, or nearing death.

Here’s what my family tree has been serving up…

  • Organ failure with Alzheimers (pacemaker kept on ticking until kidney failure killed the heart)
  • COPD with dementia
  • Cancer
  • Stroke

“Doc, I have a concern we are helping my body last long enough for me to lose my mind.”

No easy answers…

…but here are some questions:

  1. What’s my mental, physical, spiritual state now? How am I doing relative to peers and family history? There could be very good years left before dementia hits hard.
  2. Are there conditions/diagnoses where we switch off the pacemaker? Do I want to specify, now, what my power-of-attorney should do? It’s easier for a POA to follow my instructions than struggle to balance the considerations of: past self, ever changing conditions and future self.
  3. Does my POA have access to a medical advisor with the skill, and compassion, to navigate these decisions? Look for a middle-aged MD, with a large family tree, where the elders frequently live into their 90s.
  4. Do I have the capacity to continue to bring love into the world? I’d be willing to suffer quite a bit if it was a win for my children.

Lifestyle, diet and modern medicine can greatly reduce our chances of dying early. In each of our family trees, there comes a point where we’ve done about as good as we can expect.

I’ve preemptively forgiven my POA for the decisions that will need to be made.

I’ve had a wonderful life.