by Chanel Reynolds
Uncertainty can be a no-fun, scary place to be – especially when it comes to access to medical care. It’s Open Enrollment season, so as the December 15th deadline approaches and many of you plan trips or family get-togethers for the holidays, we decided to focus on the medical options and what-ifs to pay attention to right now.
1) What matters? Most of us don’t have the time to research every plan or comb through each chart to compare them – So, I got honest about what scares the pants off me (being a single parent with a sick kid) and focused on making sure I’ve got the basics and my vulnerable spots (access to expert doctors if something happens and getting seen asap) taken care of.
To-do: Figure out what you really need – There are a lot resources out there, I found this New York Times article super helpful and the ‘3 Things’ overview on the HealthCare.gov breaks it down very clearly.
2) How covered are you? As a widowed single-parent I have to be honest that the only thing that scares me more than dying before my son is an adult is getting so sick I can’t take care of him and not dying for a long, terribly awful, painful, financially-ruinous time.
To-do: Check if you’re covered where you’d want to go – Personally, If I get breast cancer (my current #1 fear), I want to be seen by a black-belt boob-whisperer who has done nothing else but look at breasts all day, every day, for the last 20 years. So, I checked with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to see if my current plan is covered there.
3) How hard/easy is it? Most parents understand the feeling where you have a 7-minute buffer to do all-the-things-you-have-to, and when your kid is sick everything flies apart into pieces. Even if nothing is wrong, it still sucks to have to schedule an appointment 3 weeks (or months) in advance.
To-do: Find out how/where you can get seen – Ask if your regular doctor or pediatrician offers weekend or evening appointments. Mine did, and I had no idea.
Here are two new things worth checking out:
4) Become familiar with the current system. This month, many of us will reconnect with our extended families. If you are one of the 44 million adults who spends several hours each week caring for an aging parent, you should learn about Medicare Advantage. The center for Medicare has great information about these plans that range from Health Maintenance Organizations, Preferred Provider Organizations, Private and Fee-for-Service Plans that may be appropriate for you or a member of your family.
5) Learn how things are likely to change. With the new Secretary for Health and Human Services stepping in, read the new bill for yourself to see how it may affect you and your family. For example, under Mr. Price’s bill, there would be a limit of $8,000 on the amount of tax-free coverage you would receive an individual employee and $20,000 for family coverage.
6) Be an advocate for your colleagues. Read up on tips for 2017 Open Enrollment. If you’re a working adult who is part of a mid-size company or larger enterprise, engage your HR specialist and learn about possible changes to your employer sponsored healthcare program. And heck, if you have concerns, that you and your colleagues raise while talking around the water cooler, write a letter to your congressman.
Uncertainty and times of big change don’t always bring out the best in us, but they do show us where our weak and vulnerable spots are. This last week showed all of us that we need to get our lives together in ways we never realized and I felt compelled to share my weak spot with you today.
For me, weekends are a time to reconnect with family, enjoy outings with friends, and find ways to rebalance. But, this past weekend I couldn’t do it. The rebalancing part I mean.
Raking-up the last brown leaves of the season from the shrubs in our front yard on Sunday, I tried to make sense of last Tuesday wondering what big thinkers like Nate Silver must be doing to help us all understand why Trump had a better chance.
Silly really. To think I could rebalance my life by reading articles about voter turnout any more than predictions about the outcome of next year’s NBA finals.
I put down my rake, sat and called my siblings. “How are you feeling about the results of this election?” I said. We had a brief laugh over all at we don’t control in our lives. And I listened to them share their hopes and concerns about the future direction of our country. Then we returned to the latest developments concerning the plan to help our widowed father age in place with the dignity he deserves (and finding ways to accommodate the odd choices he’s making that we struggle to understand as his kin).
For me, talking with my siblings and others this weekend about the strategies they are using to find order in their own lives helped me to start the week energized to rebalance things about my own life.
And the dozens of articles I read this weekend helped me see how people from all over the country are using sites like GYST to inspire and act on the big, important conversations. Planning and completing documents that take the fear and worry out of end of life planning is something each of us must do, if you cast a ballot or not, whether you have days or decades before you need them.
Tuesday night changed us all. We now know how little experts understand about what’s exactly on all voter’s minds in this country and how complicated a science polling is to understand, let alone accurately predict. But, perhaps more importantly in the days following last Tuesday’s election, my conversations with family and friends this weekend about the struggles in their own busy lives, helped me to see that in a way we still have much in common.
We know it can be hard to turn good intentions into action around end of life. The ongoing struggle we all face is a universal truth and it’s important to act.
Our team has big aspirations for GYST in 2017, I am committed to experiment with strategies that help our users find uniquely meaningful ways to tackle their end of life plans.
Please take two (2) minutes to answer a few questions that help us know how we can help you.
I remember the day and the place where my parents dropped me off for my freshman year of college like it was yesterday. The heat of the late afternoon sun. Climbing five flights of stairs in Hedrick Hall to get the contents I’d packed into my parent’s station wagon up to my new 185 sq. ft. two person dorm room. The fun of seeing my own possessions in a small shared space that would be sorta mine for the next 9 months, the awkward goodbye with my mother and the conversations we had that final Saturday evening before she and my father, began the 6 hour return drive to their home in Northern California.
Having survived 4 years of college (5 if you count the year I spent studying abroad), living in a fraternity, mountain biking, learning to rock climb and now being a parent of 2 teenagers myself, I can appreciate the importance of all the things my parents were trying to do in those last few hours together before the start of college.
My parents were like most parents. Hardworking people who tried to set good examples for their kids, offered guidance through high school, paid tuition and spent the last hours with me that final Saturday before the start of my Freshman year helping outfit my dorm room (and cleared their conscious of what could be their worst nightmare).
“Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.” – Ernest Dimnet
Still a teenager in their eyes, they offered me their wisdom and figured they had done all they could do. What they didn’t realize is that I was 18, a legal adult in the eyes of the law. (In most states, children become legal adults at age 18). No longer a legal minor. My parents didn’t realize they wouldn’t have a right to basic information about my health or medical needs, or that they would be excluded from making important medical decisions on my behalf if I was injured while attending college on their dime.
“Life insurance is crucial for parents to ensure your children are taken care of financially if you died prematurely.” – Natasha Cornelius
And no matter how uniformed I was, they wouldn’t be able to make financial decisions for me either. Since parents of children who become legal adults, cannot have access to their son or daughters personal bank accounts unless they co-sign on the account. (And thank goodness for me my parents couldn’t monitor that high interest rate credit card I’d been issued months into my freshman year – how else would I have purchased my bike).
Here are 3 simple medical-related estate planning documents parents of legal adults can have to stay involved with their son or daughters medical and financial life once once they drive the car away:
1. Living Will (or Advance Care Directive)
Children who are legal adults can appoint their parent as their health care decision maker by filling out a document called an Advance Care Directive (sometimes called Medical Power of Attorney). That way, legally adult children who become debilitated due to an accident or illness and can’t make their own health care decision, can have their parents make one on their behalf. Learn about creating a living will.
Children attending college out-of-state, should have these documents drawn up by an attorney in the state where the college is located. Many states combine a Medical Power of Attorney and a living will into a single document called an “Advance Health Care Directive. Find documents for your state or get the advice of a professional estate planning attorney in the local area where your child is going to college.
2. HIPAA Release
HIPAA is the acronym for the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It basically helps maintain the privacy of an individual’s medical information. As such, it is virtually impossible for parents to obtain any information about your college student’s medical diagnosis or prognosis unless your name is on his or her HIPAA Release form. Adult Children may want to add their parents to the form, too. Find a HIPPA release form and review it with your doctor or find an estate planning attorney who can help.
3. Durable Power of Attorney
For parents who want stay involved in their Adult Child’s financial life once he or she leaves for college, it’s advisable to prepare a Durable Power of Attorney and designate which parent, will be their financial agent. Parents designated as their adult child’s agent may be able to access their account should the need arise or their Adult Children becomes incapacitated (not to mention it will also be easier for parents to monitor their child’s smart phone, credit or debit card purchases. Learn more about how to share and store digital details.
There are 1,095 days before the start of my eldest teenager’s first day of college but, then who’s counting.
Working for a certain Redmond based software company in the early 90’s after college, I got used to the the idea of collaborating with colleagues by way of sending attachments in email. As efficient as email and attachments were however, there were often the occassional issues of what was then called “version control” that made life challenging. Sometimes it was the version of the application (e.g., “Hey Phil, I’m running an older version of Excel – save it and send it in .xls.”). Other times is was the issue of not having the most up to date copy of the file (e.g., “No, Phil not ‘Q2_QuarterlyReport.xls’ – the comments I wanted you to see are in the last version of the email I sent titled: ‘Q2_QuarterlyReport_kjcomments.xls’.”
Today more meaningful solutions exist for us to share and collaborate on documents using our mobile phones and desktop machines once again. Applications like Slack, Google Docs (even Office 365) offer us newer, better and more meaningful ways of getting things done.
Similarly, gift giving has also gone through a transition. Research shows that giving experiences make us happier than things do. And there’s a growing body of research that shows a huge factor to our happiness is stress management.
Summer is the season of celebration. And our team at GYST thought it would be fun to help people give a gift that matters long after the baby shower, wedding, or retirement celebration. And while the response the past few days has been tremendous (thank you) we know the price point can be kind of expensive.
“Love your gift idea and I’m sure it’s hard to make the economics better, but unfortunately to me it just seems like a seriously expensive gift to give. Wish there could be a cheaper option as I love the idea so much. ;o)
For that reason we’re encouraging readers to use tools like Tilt that make it easy for contributors to help you spread the word and eliminate excuses.
Enjoy summer and stick with the urge to buy something more meaningful, more enduring a chic diaper bags by Prada on-demand services from Amazon Prime and Netflix, your family and friends deserve it.
My daughter has the stomach flu. The school asked me to get involved with the auction. Work just gave me a big project with crazy deadlines. I couldn’t find a way to fit it into my calendar. Life is tumultuous. We’re busy people working through distractions that compete with the priorities that give structure and purpose to our lives.
Still many of us, despite our best intentions, allow the boundaries around our time to be compromised. Learn about 6 powerful insights from professional experts so you can say “Yes” to the right things and get more done.
Speaking of tumultuous lives, and putting off what’s important, unless you were traveling in one of the last places on earth without cell coverage, you already know about Prince, and like the rest of the world, shed a purple tear over the sad news of his way too early death. And if you’re part of the 98% who are active in the social sphere, then you also likely heard that Prince did not have a will. Shocker right? Hardly really. According to a recent GYST poll, when registrants were asked “What is the status of your will?” 80% answered “Not Done” and 12% answered “Needs Updating” – let’s start a revolution for a whole new band. (And a huge shout out to the 8% of you who answered “Done” – GYST thinks you rock!)
“You say you want a leader but, you just can’t seem to make up your mind”
– Purple Rain, Prince
Last month we interviewed a group of leaders across a range of professional fields. From pragmatic life coaches to empathetic financial planners, from emotionally intelligent social workers to country music lovin estate planning attorneys. Our team traversed the issues of procrastination with these discipline experts and found powerful insights in how they deal with clients. Then we made our own GYST remix of 6 practical strategies to harmonize the noise in our busy lives.
“Procrastination has a negative sentiment” said Owner of My Whole Life Coaching, CJ Liu “We don’t as individuals sit on the couch, and not write our wills because we’d rather be lazy and eat potato chips. No, we avoid things like writing our wills because we don’t enjoy contemplating the idea of death. We have emotional issues that prevent us from our doing rational things for ourselves and our families.” Liu says, “For some people the idea of death is just too painful, so people avoid the pain these experiences bring altogether but, that doesn’t mean people are lazy.” Liu’s advice is to “explore the root cause behind the emotional issues that are causing those the behaviors to be present.”
“People are too busy living their lives today to take time out and plan for their not being around tomorrow” says Karen Ramsey, Certified Financial Planner, Founder and President of Ramsey & Associates and author of Everything you Know About Money is Wrong “they need to go to the grocery store.” Ramsey’s point is valid.
In a recent GYST poll, over 46% of respondents ages 25-54 claim they are “too busy” when asked about why they haven’t completed their will or living will.
Referring to issues such as blood pressure, weight or financial stress, Ramsey says, “change is hard but, when the fear associated with not doing something becomes higher than the pain of doing something, that’s when you’ll see people modify their behavior.” Ramsey’s advice, “to understand the causes of procrastination reminds us to explore better ways of controlling our impulses and knowing the limits of when it’s best take on a new responsibility for the school auction to managing the urge to buy something we find on the internet that doesn’t work with our life’s priorities.”
Shonda Rhimes, award winning television writer and producer, in her recent book: “Just say Yes,” shares how to say “no”.
“No is a complete sentence. I’ve heard that cliché over and over. So I decided to treat no in the same way I treat saying thank you. Say no and then don’t say anything else. I come up with three different clear ways of saying no …
To understand the source of procrastination it’s important to appreciate the challenges that come with competing priorities. Erin Galvin, LICSW, HR Manager for Pagliacci Pizza, explains, “people are complex, where does a task sit in terms of importance to that person?” Galvin emphasizes the need to study a person and their ambivalence toward a meeting or task.
“Procrastination sounds like a judgement but, most often people have a rational or emotional reason for not to doing something.” – Erin Galvin
Galvin, a student of Motivational Interviewing (MI) says, “a person might be willing to go have a conversation about end of life with their family but, conclude that they don’t have the ability to engage their family in a conversation and decide that they are not going to go through with it.” Galvin’s advice is to “take the time to explore blockers that appear to be in the way with someone who, ideally, is not invested in the outcome.”
“Sometimes people just don’t know what to do,” say Liu. “ For example, if I say, ‘put together a networking plan’ and then when I meet with them next time ask to take a look at their networking plan, and there is no plan, it’s as if they’re stuck. This isn’t because they’re procrastinators. It’s because they’re like teenagers who are too embarrassed to admit they don’t know how to create that plan in the first place.”
Liu has a solution for those who are stuck, “I find the easiest way to help clients is to break it down for them and offer simple suggestions. Things like, start by making a list of people you want to meet, create a list of questions you want to ask those people, have a clear agenda along with a clear set of deliverables you can send in an email with a clear call to action and next steps. So when you give a task like putting together a networking plan, it’s important to understand that for many it feels like a herculean task each with five small tasks embedded inside each big task.
The problem isn’t that people are too busy or too lazy and procrastinate, most often it’s because they’re just are too afraid to ask questions like, “I am struggling with where should I put the call-to-action – should I place it at the beginning or end of the email?” Liu says, “when a person is asked to create a plan, they not only don’t know what the big tasks are, but they also don’t know the 25 little embedded tasks within each, so they often just give up.”
Liu’s advice, “make people comfortable admitting what they don’t know and start by helping people parse things into little tasks.”
“Many of my clients” Liu says, “buy books – they read them, they try out the strategies and say, ‘I tried it and it’s not working for me. I give up.” Lui says the problem is not that an author like Stephen Covey is wrong. It’s that people haven’t figured out a way to apply the thinking in the books a way that works for the natural way my clients like to get things done.” Liu likens it to learning to teach right-handed people to switch and write with their left-hand. “It’s just not natural,” says Liu.
Liu’s advice, “start experimenting by doing what you know.”
Liu says, “If you don’t like working out by yourself, don’t force yourself to go to the gym for exercise – you’ll resent it. Instead find something you like doing, say like hanging out with a friend and choose an activity you’ll both enjoy, like dancing. This way you get exercise, have time to hang out with a friend and do something that hopefully you and your friend both think is fun.”
Tim Burkart, Estate planning attorney, and member of the American College of Trust and Estate Council, says, “Doing your estate plan is one of the things that responsible people do and is similar to retirement planning or making sure your home is properly maintained.” A small minority of people are superstitious and fear that if they sign their Will, they will die shortly thereafter.” Burkart adds, “my clients are busy people with active families and professional careers.” Speaking about the challenges people have with getting their documents in order, Burkart says, “My clients often don’t’ feel like taking time away from work but, in the end it’s just what reasonable people do to protect their assets and their families.” Burkart reminds that one of the more common conversations that slow people’s decision making process down is the conversation around that of guardianship for minor children.
Burkhart advice, “get started – it’s a maintenance plan for your life.”
Our updated checklist now includes: wills, living wills, life insurance, emergency financial planning and community. Each breaks down the task into a series of steps and gives you an easy way to get started. There are reviews of services, lists of attorneys and guides to help you learn more about these topics.
Having someone hold you accountable can help you along the way. Think of getting these plans in place as a goal and who you could share that with that will help you be successful.
Start researching which option is best for you to create a Living Will/Advance Directive.
You digital details are all of your accounts, numbers and passwords, but getting them all sorted out and organized can seem overwhelming. In fact task is just like what Lui describes, one task with a lot of smaller tasks embedded. Solution, just break it down and knock off a few of these at a time. Learn more in this article.
Eric was a supporter of GYST and recommended it to his friends who were having children or getting married. But, it took Eric and his own wife a few years of telling each other what they ‘should’ do before they really did anything about their own wills.
When Eric first learned about GYST Co-Founder Chanel Reynolds on National Public Radio he immediately went home, printed out the GYST list of important things to do and began recommending it as a resource to many he knew.
“I realized recently that I’d been giving people advice but, not following it myself. I had a relatively simple estate, I didn’t feel like I needed a lawyer. Reminders from GYST helped me stop talking and start doing.”
Like a chore needing to be checked off the list, Eric needed an easy tool where he could follow a series of steps, complete his own will in one sitting, print it up, have a couple witnesses sign it, and send copies to his named executors and guardians for his children.
“Just do it. It feels great for my wife and I to be done. We feel like we did the responsible thing – protecting our family from one less hassle in the event of our death.”
Tell us your story. Email us! We’d love to hear from you.
Next: Go to the GYST Checklist.
Adjustments in Jim’s personal life necessitated that he make changes to the beneficiaries that were previously part of his estate plan. And while the whole notion of starting-up the process felt overwhelming, Jim kept on reading the emails from GYST encouraging him along.
Getting it together
Jim spread the word about GYST to many friends and colleagues he knew but, was surprised to learn how many of those he spoke to had overlooked their own estate planning needs.
“I spread the news about this every chance I got like it was gospel but, as great and important a program as GYST is I was blown away at how few people actually had done anything.”
One night Jim just had enough. He knew the templates and information was available on GYST to get it all done in one sitting. Jim simply needed to invest the time reading the Guides so he could feel confident making informed choices about his own end-of-life wishes.
“One night is all it takes to get it done. Set a date, hold yourself accountable to getting it done and let the content roll you through the process. ”
Tell us your story. Email us! We’d love to hear from you.
Next: Go to the GYST Checklist.