6 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Earlier CategoriesTo Your Health & Sanity

6 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Earlier

As I look back on my life and my career, I have learned a few things, as we all have. Following are some of my pearls of wisdom, 6 things I wish I had known as I started my journey as a grown up.

1. Estate Planning Tips for Couples

Whether you’re a newlywed or have been married for years, estate planning is probably the last topic you feel like discussing with your partner. But as unromantic as it may sound, putting these details in order will help you ensure a happy and safe future together. Here are a few estate planning essentials:

  • Take stock of your assets. Sit down with your partner and list all your assets as a married couple. These may include investments, real estate, retirement plans and personal property. If you have individual assets you’d like to keep separate, create a prenuptial agreement or put your property in a trust.
  • Draft a will. Once you have your assets in order, start drafting a will to specify how you want these items distributed. Your will should also name an executor — the person who will carry out your wishes regarding your assets.
  • Assign a power of attorney. A power of attorney is an individual who will manage your assets, pay your bills and make other financial decisions in the event you are unable to do so yourself. This person should be someone that both you and your spouse trust, so take some time to think this through together.
  • Set up a health care directive. A well-rounded estate plan will include a health care directive, or living will, which will help guide your family and doctors through your preferences for medical treatment should you become incapacitated. This document also appoints a representative to make health care decisions for you.
  • Make your plans official. Once you have everything in order, meet with an estate-planning attorney to put your estate plans on the record.
  • Finally, be sure to update your documents regularly, as laws or situations are subject to change.

In today’s fast-paced world, change is inevitable. And with that change often comes stress. But learning to identify and manage daily stressors can help you focus on what’s important and prevent stress from overwhelming your life.

2. Disability Insurance: What You Need to Know

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, workers have a one in five chance of becoming disabled during their career. That’s why experts say purchasing a disability insurance plan is a must for anyone who relies on a job to provide their income.

Here’s a quick look at what you should know about the various plans available:

Q: Which disability insurance plans do employers usually provide?

A: Typically, workplaces offer two plans: short-term disability and long-term disability insurance.

Q: What are the differences between these two?

A: Short-term disability provides a percentage of your salary for a limited period (most commonly up to 26 weeks) once you’ve used all your sick leave. After that, long-term disability kicks in and ensures you’re receiving a portion of your wages even if you’re still unable to work due to sickness or injury.

Q: When is a good time to purchase disability insurance?

A: It’s a good idea to purchase a protective plan as soon as you start making a substantial salary — especially since the policy’s benefits are based on your income. Also, the younger you are when you purchase disability insurance, the lower your premiums will likely be.

Q: Should you purchase your own disability insurance in addition to what your employer offers?

A: Buying your own plan independently means you’ll be able to keep it if you leave your job and you won’t have to start a new policy at an older age. Also, benefits from a personal plan are usually tax-free.

3. Topics to Discuss with Your Loved Ones

While it may be difficult to approach aging and end-of-life concerns with your parents, it’s important to have clarity when it comes to health care directives, finances and final wishes. Here’s some advice on what subjects to discuss and how to do it in a way that will help everyone feel at ease. First, important topics to discuss:

  • Legal documents — Ask your parents if they have all their legal documents in order. Having items like a will, a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney in place will ensure their wishes are met, while eliminating potential court costs, arguments or lawsuits.
  • Future living arrangements — From assisted living facilities to nursing homes, ask your parents where they would prefer to live if they need to move in the future. Research your options beforehand and talk about the things you can do to make them feel more comfortable with this topic. More than 19 million households with people over 50 can’t afford safe, adequate housing!
  • Health care expenses — Find out if your loved ones have considered health care options for the future and estimate the savings they’ll need. Decide whether they’d like long-term-care insurance, which covers a specific amount each day for personal care services.

Next, how to approach the conversation:

  • Prepare ahead of time — Organize your thoughts by jotting down an outline and cover the most important topics first. If you’re nervous, find someone you trust and do a practice run beforehand.
  • Be considerate — Let your parents talk and really listen to what they have to say. Reassure them that you respect their wishes and ultimately want what’s best for them.
  • Ease into it — Use conversation starters like a relevant story in the news or a person you both know. Discuss how the event unfolded and ask your loved one what they would do in that situation.

4. Have an Emergency Fund

Life has an uncanny way of hitting you with the unexpected at the most inopportune times. That’s why having an emergency fund is vital for when disaster strikes. Here’s why having money set aside is important and how you can start saving if you haven’t already done so.

Why is an emergency fund necessary?

According to a recent survey by Bankrate, 63 percent of Americans haven’t saved enough to handle an emergency that costs as little as $500. More than 37 million low-income seniors can’t meet all their basic needs. So why should you put away extra funds if no one else has them?

Whether it’s a destroyed smartphone, a totaled car or unforeseen medical costs, unpredictable life events can set you back hundreds to thousands of dollars if you’re not prepared. Experts advise putting aside at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses and twice that amount if the current economy is experiencing a crisis.

Is it too late to start saving?

If you don’t have any money for an emergency fund, you can still start to take steps in the right direction. Here are some ways to kick-start your savings:

  • Instead of spending your next tax refund, immediately deposit it into a bank account that generates interest.
  • Consider revising your W-4 so less money is withheld from your paycheck each month and put the extra funds in your savings account.
  • Earn side income by tutoring, doing seasonal jobs or selling items that won’t be missed around the house.

Even if nothing happens, which is hopefully the case, just knowing you have the necessary funds on hand to deal with an emergency will give you a little extra peace of mind.

5. Why am I scared to go to the Doctor?

Questioning your health can be scary. It’s important to schedule regular physical examinations, however, as many diseases can be more easily treated if identified early on. Here’s a list of a few standard exams that are imperative to keeping your health in check.

Physical Examinations

A physical exam is recommended once a year, especially for those over 50, and is a great way to determine your current health status. An annual exam also helps with troubleshooting any medical concerns for the future and allows you to undergo specific checkups recommended by your doctor, such as prostate and breast exams.

Skin Cancer Screenings

Skin cancer is now the most common type of cancer, and routine screenings can be lifesaving. While some medical experts only suggest screenings after a noticeable change in skin tone or the appearance of moles, most dermatologists recommend yearly checkups beginning in early adulthood.

Heart Health Tests

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. But according to the American Heart Association, it can be prevented around 80 percent of the time. While a healthy lifestyle can do wonders, if you have a personal history of heart issues it’s important to undergo key screening tests. This includes checking your blood pressure, blood sugar, blood cholesterol and body mass index (BMI).

While scheduling a checkup with your doctor can be daunting, it’s important to know the status of your health. Put your safety first and stay on top of routine health examinations.

6. How can I stay in my home as I get older?

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University predicts that by 2035, the population of those 65 and older will grow to approximately 79 million — up more than 30 million from today. And 90 percent of adults in that age group prefer to remain in their homes, according to AARP.

For those who would like to stay in their homes into their golden years, updating these three areas to accommodate changing needs is something worth tackling sooner rather than later.


A well-lit home, both indoors and out, is a fundamental component of safe, long-term living. Start by making sure all rooms, staircases, and doorways have adequate lighting. Motion-sensor lights and easily accessible light switches help all occupants, no matter the age. Does scheduling lights or adjusting brightness from the convenience of a smartphone sound appealing? Look into the latest in smart lighting technology.


Most homeowners don’t give any thought to moving from room to room. But when a wheelchair enters the picture, navigating entrances, hallways and exits can become a concern. Widening doorways to 36 inches gives those who are wheelchair-bound or using a walker more room to move easily throughout the home.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 percent of Americans 65 or older suffer a fall each year. Ensure bathrooms are as safe as possible by adding grab bars near the toilet and in the shower. If budget allows, consider retrofitting bathrooms with a taller toilet and a walk-in shower for added convenience.

For those who’d like to stay in their residence during their senior years, keep the principles of aging in place in mind to modify, update and renovate the home appropriately.





Gene Garner

Gene Garner is a U.S. Air Force Veteran and family man. He served in Berlin, Germany as an Electronic Intelligence Officer, and went on to manage the Home Oxygen program at McGuire VA hospital for 15 years. Gene is now an independent insurance broker and Vice-President at John Pate & Associates, a Richmond-based brokerage with over 200 agents, licensed and appointed in 12 states and the District of Colombia, and contracted with over 30 different Insurance carriers. Gene lives in Glen Allen with his wife and 2 cats, and is active in his church and the community.

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