A few days back we received an email from a lady that has some questions. Here is the email, followed by my response. I hope you enjoy both.
Hey Frank and Fern,
I was wondering if you’d consider doing an article on potential widow/widower-hood. How that possibility affects your planning and how it should be something others at least give a thought to from time to time?
It is something that often crosses my mind. My husband is thirteen
years older than I. Likely I will be the one left behind. We made our last move with this in mind and solar is one of the last items on my list to get done.
We moved to a place where we have a septic system and a well and a spring nearby. There is no separate trash or sewage bill as it is included in the property taxes for my county. So, from where we were living we had a water bill, a trash bill, and an electric bill. I’m trying to get it down where I have to pay my house taxes and that’s it period in widowhood other than house insurance which I hope to be in a financial position one day to be self-insuring on that item. We live in an all electric house. (Hate that as I’m a natural gas kinda gal.) But, we do have a woodstove so I can at least cook if the electric goes out/grid goes down. (Along w/a couple of butane stoves. We got those when we lived in a condo so at least we could loan them to unprepared neighbors.) We do have life insurance if that industry stays afloat.
We are adding to our orchard yearly and expanding the garden and our gardening skills yearly. I have a treed acreage that I could sell wood or trees from to the nearby sawmills. We are debt free. We have already bought our burial plots. I put money back monthly for house taxes, new roof, new HVAC, etc. although my house is only 6 years old. I don’t need a new roof or a new HVAC for a long time, but want to be ready if and when I do need them. Same for our headstones, dentures, long term health care. Many women have no idea how to handle money or their own financial needs looking towards retirement and are generally the poorer for it as they are generally the caretakers in their family and their working life ($$ opportunities) are lessened because of it. Mine has been as I care for two disabled sons and now have aging parents. My husband has helped me think through a timeline of action if he goes first… when to sell the second vehicle, which CDs to cash in first, which retirement account to draw down first, etc.
I had a long time friend lose his wife just this year rather unexpectedly, I’d love to hear about this topic from a male perspective as well. How men can prepare in the case that they are widowed and how they think about preparing for their own demise and their family’s well being if they are the ones to pass first.
What do you think? Have ya’ll a plan? Maudlin I know, but I’m a practical person, I need to think these things through while I have time.
I am working on saving for a large solar addition of our own. Our home site is not ideal (tall pines), but I think we could manage a wheel about solar panel. As it is we have a small system now that we use in power down situations…small trickle solar panel, lawn mower battery, inverter…these allow a small electric lamp, coffee pot, toaster, drill, box fan, or other small draw electrical accessory to be used in an outage. I think it cost me about $115 dollars a few years back to set it up.
Anyway, would love to hear ya’lls thoughts on the subject. Even if it’s just a listing of your plans, maybe some other folks will chime in with helpful comments!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
When we got married, I told Fern she would never have to worry
about money. Because I am one of those people that can get blood out of a turnip. If it means living poor, we have lived poor many a time, but she never had to worry about money and she never had to worry about food on the table. That's the way it's been since day one.
Moving along. Fern's father passed away when she was very young, and that will lead into the next part of this article. When Fern and I got married, her mother insisted that we have lots of life insurance and I told her no, we're not going to invest in life insurance, we're going to invest in education and skills. You know the story about giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day? Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime? Well, instead of putting that money into a life insurance plan, we invested our time and money into ourselves. Not just Fern, but me also. Because when we got married, I was going to marry a teacher. We kept adding degrees and certificates. So, that was my response to the need to buy life insurance.
The issue of marrying a teacher? When I started college full-time, I was a little older, ten to twelve years older than most college kids. I was tired of the big city racket, and wanted the type of job that would take me
anywhere that I wanted to go. The allure of having summers off just couldn't be passed up. So I decided to become a school teacher and I was going to marry a school teacher, and we were going to live in little town America and escape the rat race. Here we are. Of course, there was a lot more detail to that plan, and there were many lean years there. But I think the lean years make you stronger, and we still do not have life insurance. Maybe this will make a good post someday, but if you read the history of insurance, it comes from a protection racket, that if you didn't participate, you might get hurt. But that's a different story.
Okay. The house. Our house is not all electric. We do have wood burning heat, if we choose. Our cookstove is propane. When we moved here the house had a large propane tank, and we supplemented it with a larger
propane tank. Now the only thing we use off of this propane is our cookstove, and I guesstimate we have approximately eight years worth of propane. The house we live in is standard stick frame construction, built with the intention of having perpetual grid supplied electricity. Long term I hope to replace the windows with double hung windows. One of the first additions we made to the house were full length east and west porches, which means that the porches are on the east and west side. Someday, we hope to have a greenhouse on the south side. We did replace the roof with heavy gauge metal roofing that should last our lifetimes. The exterior facade we replaced with a concrete type 4 x 8 sheet, called in some areas Hardy Backer.
When we moved here we had two deep water wells dug. Fern and I installed a Simple Pump system in each one. We have planted fruit trees that failed, and then planted more fruit trees that failed. We have expanded the garden every year, which for the most part is a pretty good producer, supplemented with some failures. If you read this site, then you know we produce our own meat, milk, eggs, dairy products, and we hope to continue to do that with or without the economy prospering.
Everything we own is paid for. I'm going to talk about finances, but before I do, let me qualify something. Everything that I have comes from God. I thank God every day for the life He has given me and the opportunity to be here and participate. On occasion I forget who I am and where I come
from, and in a short manner I turn myself around, face my Father and thank Him for all that I have. Now, I'm not a stand on the corner Bible preacher, and can't see that I'm going to be anytime soon, but I know where everything I have comes from. Okay? Okay.
Now, having qualified my position on my Creator, this plan developed about 30 years ago, maybe a little longer. I have had the opportunity in my life to see what money does to families, and I chose not to go that route. My choice, my design, my plan. I've chosen to live a humble life style. None of this 'look at me' stuff. Simple, humble and functional. If I can't afford it, I don't buy it. Cute means nothing in my world. What's the old woodworking saying? Form follows function. When I do buy something, I buy the best I can afford. Not the most expensive, but one that will last and do the job for the longest period of time. An example. When Fern and I first got married, a close relative of ours was a licensed gun dealer, FFL. We bought a handful of cheap pistols. Sometimes they would work, sometimes they wouldn't, but they were pretty. One day it dawned on me, if my bride is going to carry a weapon in her purse, then being cute means nothing. It has got to work. Since then my bride has carried the most reliable handgun made. It's black and it works. Do your own research. It's not the most expensive, it's not the prettiest, but it's the most reliable handgun on this planet. And some people look good in black. But this is my point, if you're going to invest good, hard earned money, get the best product you can afford.
Investments. As stated earlier, we invested heavily in education and training. Often times this training was provided free by the government. First aid, CPR, EMT, Police Academy, Firefighter, and Military. As we speak right now I am taking a CERT course provided free by the government. Yes, I have to invest my time, and I have to put out some effort, but this is training that I have wanted for years.
Financial investments. Fern and I invested in a few retirement accounts. We put money in, our employer matched. Now 25 to 30 years later, we are reaping the benefits of these accounts. One of these programs also provided a life time medical insurance plan. These are things we invested in for years and years. This did not happen overnight. If I die, which I will someday, all of my investments will automatically switch to Fern. There
will not be any change in program or financial status. If Fern passes first, the same applies for her investments, they will automatically switch to me. I know some will say, that's not fair. But first, let me assure you that every investment that I have I worked for. Every piece of education that I have, I earned by the sweat of my brow. In a month when I complete my CERT training, and I get a certificate of completion, it will be because I worked for it and earned it. Key words there. Worked for and earned. Thirty something years ago when Fern and I started this path that we are traveling, there was a plan, and if you will plan, then you can do the same thing too, because nobody is going to give it to you. We, Fern and I, have worked for, done without, and earned everything that we have. If one of us dies before the other, the other person will be taken care of.
Okay, let's talk church. If you are a spiritual being, then I would recommend that you attend a local church. It's just good brotherhood. If you're looking for the perfect church, you ain't gonna find it, because nothing is perfect. So accept the fact that people are different, and go to church. If and when things get bad, you'll be glad that you have a church family. I harbor no ill feelings against TV preachers, if that's your cup of tea, good for you. But I would highly recommend a local church. Even if you disagree with some of the doctrine, focus on the big picture, let the little stuff slide, and have your hiney in church.
I hope this answers some of the primary questions from the email that we received, and I also hope it opens doors for thought. There is nothing special about Fern or I, we just worked all of our lives, saved a little bit here and there, tried to be good decent people, but we always remembered who we were, where we came from and where we are going. Tonight when I go to bed, I will get down on my knees and thank God.
We'll talk more later. Frank