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Prepare Now For An Uncertain Future
How To Protect Your Family From The Unpredictable
By David Peckenpaugh
Learn more about David Peckenpaugh by visiting his bio page.
Twenty eight years ago I was standing in the maternity ward at the hospital, holding the hand of my new-born daughter Jacki. She is the youngest of our three daughters. I’ll never forget the joy of that moment and the miracle of a new life, looking down into her tiny little face.
What I didn’t know, at that time, is that 28 years later I would be in yet another hospital standing by Jacki’s side. But this time, I would be holding her hand as she lay in the intensive care unit of a hospital for 12 days, unable to speak or open her eyes as a result of a traumatic brain injury.
These are the moments that test us, that demand our undivided attention and that put everything else in perspective. While in that hospital with Jacki, her fiancé and our family, we held our complete focus on Jacki and on supporting each other.
While I hope you never face a situation like mine, I’ve lived long enough to know that none of us can predict the future. We never know what life will bring our way and we must plan accordingly.
A fateful day
On November 8, 2014, I received a phone call that no parent wants to hear. Jacki had fallen in her fiancé’s apartment early that morning, hitting her head. She was found lying on the floor, unresponsive.
She was rushed to the hospital where I met up with her fiancé, Chris. Jacki’s two older sisters dropped everything that morning and picked up my wife, who was out of town. They drove down and met us in the emergency room to be by Jacki’s side.
The doctors examined her and found that she had an epidural hematoma and a concussion. After some additional tests they recommended that she be transferred to another hospital. I called a friend who is a neurosurgeon and he confirmed that Jacki’s condition was critical and that the recommended hospital would be able to provide the care she needed.
After checking Jacki in to the new hospital around midnight, the neurosurgeon conducted his initial exam and determined that he needed to do brain surgery immediately to relieve the pressure on her brain. His quick action and skill as a surgeon probably saved Jacki’s life. But she didn’t regain her consciousness.
For the next several days, Jacki was our entire focus. Friends and family came by the hospital and wished us all the best. Over the next two weeks, hundreds of people from all around the world prayed for Jacki as we updated a blog about her condition each day to keep apprised the community of people who showed us so much concern. We also were confident that Jacki was receiving the best care possible.
Time to think
When a family member is injured and hospitalized, time suddenly seems to stand still for the people supporting their loved one. There can be an awful lot of quiet time, reflection time.
As I sat next to Jacki, my mind began to wander back to special moments with her. I remembered our family times together on vacation at the beach in South Carolina and in recent years in Michigan. During the years after her graduation from high school and college, she got her own apartment and began to live independently.
But even more my thoughts were focused on what the future would hold, remembering the day she and Chris announced their engagement. We all had visions of a beautiful wedding and someday children and the joys of family. All of those dreams seemed to fade away on November 8. I will never forget that feeling.
I have a sense that the best way to be present in these moments, once you are confident that the doctors and nurses are providing the best care, is to be with family and close friends. It helps to share stories and laugh and even weep. I didn’t know whether or not Jacki would ever wake up. But I knew that her family would be there for her and for the community who came to support her.
Some good decisions
During this time of waiting, I rarely ever thought about money or about healthcare costs. I count myself very fortunate in this regard, especially since so many families, even affluent families, have had their wealth wiped out by just such an event.
I suppose I wouldn’t have thought about money at all while in the hospital with Jacki. But after the event, when the bills would have piled up, this would have added so much stress to an already difficult situation.
I have been a saver and investor since my youth. My mother and father started me on this path and then I continued through college and my professional career. Building wealth to provide financial security for my family is an important goal.
But here is a stark reality that I had to face. All that I had worked for through the years, all of our savings and investments, everything we’ve set aside for our golden years, could have been gone. There is no doubt in my mind that, if I had needed to, I would have spent whatever was necessary on Jacki’s medical bills to restore her health. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.
The power of wealth protection
When Jacki turned 26, she no longer qualified for our health insurance coverage. One of the financial planners in our office contacted Jacki and helped her to make connections with an insurance provider who set up a good plan for her.
At that time Jacki didn’t think this was necessary and definitely did not enjoy the thought of paying the insurance premiums on her limited income. But she followed through and got it, even though she was young and quite healthy.
I am so glad she consented and followed the advice she was given. In less than 2 years, she would need that insurance very much. More than that, our family wealth was protected by her decision to pay those premiums. Had she not acquired the insurance, I shudder to think of the huge bills her hospitalization and follow-on care would have created.
I would have paid out of pocket for her healthcare if it had been needed. But my wife and I might not have ever recovered our financial standing. The vision for our financial future would have changed dramatically.
A beautiful day
On August 8, 2015, 9 months to the day after Jacki’s accident, she and Chris were married in a beautiful ceremony at a vineyard in southwestern Michigan. This was an event of great joy and celebration as family and friends came from many parts of the US and even from abroad to attend the wedding.
Jacki shined like an angel in her lovely flowing gown. Other than a small scar on her forehead, one cannot tell that she ever experienced any trauma. Her recovery was miraculous.
As I sat at the wedding reception and watched the two of them dance, I was reminded of how uncertain and fragile life can seem. Nine months earlier, it seemed unlikely that this wedding would even take place.
How can we help your family?
In preparing for this article, I reflected on why we do what we do at Whitnell. I couldn’t help but see the parallels between my family situation and so many of the families we are privileged to serve. I want my clients to feel the peace of mind that comes from knowing that they’ve made the best possible decisions for their future.
It doesn’t take long to recognize that what the future holds in life is uncertain for all of us. No one can predict the future and we need to plan accordingly. We can take reasonable steps to protect both loved ones and the wealth we expect to need to care for our loved ones. This requires some careful thinking and conversation.
Had Jacki waited too long to take care of her health insurance plan, our financial situation might have been very different. When it comes to your financial plan it is important to follow through on it without delay.
So I want to ask you. What changes have taken place in your life since you last spoke with someone at Whitnell? What steps should you be taking to protect and enhance the wealth you’ve already created? What big decisions loom on your horizon and to whom are you turning for guidance on those decisions? Is it time to have a conversation?
The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only. No illustration or content in it should be construed as a substitute for informed professional tax, legal, and/or financial advice.