“I don’t understand the things I do,
The world outside looks so unkind,
And I’m counting on you,
You can carry me through.”
- Dobie Gray (1973)
The following story was inspired by the inconvenient death at the weekend of a friend who had drifted out of my life after spending four years together studying for an Honours Geography degree at Edinburgh Uni in the late 1960s.
When we graduated, we went off our own separate ways into adult life, with all its trials, tribulations, challenges, crises, successes, failures, careers, and children, probably both quietly hoping to come out the other end grey but happy, with all our marbles, and wealthy enough to enjoy our “retirements” in decent nick.
And as seems to be the case with lots of folks, only a few of us who went through Uni together bothered to keep in touch from time to time over the years. Most of the others slowly became faded memories. You know what it’s like in life. Every now and then you say to yourself: “This year I must make the effort to get in touch with my old mates from school or Uni days, get together, have a few beers, laugh about the old times, etc., etc.”
But much like the really important things in life - like investing more or better (or both), sorting out your taxes properly, getting a Will drawn up to make a messy inconvenient death more straightforward and convenient for those you leave behind, and checking that (should you die too soon) your pension funds are set up to avoid legal hassles and unnecessary taxes on death - nothing gets done. Hey, there’s plenty of time, right? Tomorrow will do. Have another glass of wine. That’s better.
But tomorrow never comes.
Then 25 years later (how did that happen?) thanks to the efforts of a few former Geographical Society members, a 25-year reunion is organised in 1994. And I met up for a few hours with my old pal. I was going through a crisis at the time. A messy divorce. Hey, did you know that divorce is from the Latin word, “divorcerum” which roughly translates as “having your testicles ripped out through your wallet?” But I digress. We agreed that as soon as that was settled we’d definitely get together, have dinner etc., and catch up.
So, another 25 years later and another reunion is organised in September 2019. And who turns up, but my old pal again, now retired and sadly not in the best of health despite having been a very good football player, an all-round athlete and, until recently, an invaluable member of a mountain rescue team. Bouts of cancer and strokes had left him blind in one eye and not in the best of nick. But his infamous sense of humour was undiminished, and he hoped to survive for ages yet with his lovely wife of 47 years, Hazel.
This time we did catch up. Went to jam sessions, had dinner, enjoyed home visits, and met up with a few old mates from Uni, reintroduced to each other after 50 years apart.
And then lockdown spoiled it all.
Fast forward to November. He gets in touch. The cancer’s reappeared. As have the strokes. He has, at best, months to live. By December it’s much worse. Finally, he asks of me something he said he would do back in 1994 - to take over their investment planning to look after Hazel’s future. They both decided they needed someone they trusted and felt comfortable with. On examining their overall portfolio it’s probable that, had we got together all those years earlier, she would’ve been more comfortably off from now on.
And please don’t underestimate how long she could live from now. The average life expectancy of a female her age today is a further 15 years. The average! Now go back 25 years and imagine how much extra wealth could have been produced by effective asset allocation and ignoring all the pessimistic scaremongering headlines.
Now, if you’re still reading this true story take note of the points that I’ve made. There are only one of two things that can happen to us all; we’ll either die too soon or live too long. And sadly, us men tend to die before our wives. We owe it to them to protect them in either situation, and that means finding great financial advisors of knowledge and integrity who you feel you can rely on to deliver when needed and for as long as is needed.
To finish off with an appropriate and funny story (and to cheer you all up a bit), there were a group of pals who were members of the Uni football team, and when they graduated (unlike us) they arranged to get back in touch at age 40, decide on a restaurant where they could have a reunion dinner, and then repeat that gathering every 10 years thereafter.
And so, they did. At 40, they all called one another and finally agreed on meeting up at Armando’s restaurant because the waitresses there were the prettiest around and wore short skirts. And they all had a wonderful time.
Fast forward to age 50 and once again they all got in touch to select a restaurant. They opted for Armando’s, but this time because it had a world class wine list and the best steaks in town. It was a fabulous night!
At 60, after a long discussion it was to be Armando’s yet again, and this time because it took credit cards and had no canned music.
Then at 70, after considering the alternatives, they plumped for Armando’s because it had wheelchair access and was a no-smoking restaurant.
Finally, the survivors got in touch again at age 80 to select the reunion venue, and they picked Armando’s because they’d never been there before!
And that’s life folks. So please take care out there.
Please Note: The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate wills