“In life you need either inspiration or desperation.”
Anthony “Tony” Robbins, American self‐help author and motivational speaker.
Taking action that will truly have a long-term impact on one’s financial situation often requires inspiration or desperation. Typically over time, poor decisions will lead you toward a point of desperation. Taking the easy way out of decisions along the way (spending too much, retiring too early, missing planning and investing opportunities, etc.) will begin to send your financial plan down a hill like a snowball toward a cliff. Desperation is the last-minute reaction that forces those individuals to take drastic steps to avoid falling off the cliff. The alternative is finding inspiration to make the tough (read “better long-term”) decisions along the way and avoid rolling down the hill in the first place. In the end, the path to desperation causes much greater pain, although that pain is delayed for some time.
Many governments are excellent examples of the road to desperation. “Kicking the proverbial can down the road” normally works the same as consciously choosing the road to desperation (or consciously making the easy decisions). For example, California’s government has found itself so desperate for revenue now that it is raiding money set aside for scholarships to children of 9/11 attack victims. Specialty license plates were sold by the state through 2005, raising millions for the victims. Ultimately only $21,381 was distributed through the scholarship fund yet the state has taken $3 million over the past several years for general budget gaps!
The path to desperation that seems to be the default for political leaders in the U.S., Europe, and abroad is one more reason why as individuals and families, we must make tough decisions to remain on the appropriate personal fiscal path. Additionally, planning must occur to protect the balance sheet of those who have been responsible so that wealth is not attacked as a way to “balance the books” of those who have stumbled along the way toward desperation.
One strategy to carefully consider is that of wealth transfer for those with large taxable estates. Interest rates that continually set record lows, along with recent declines in asset prices, present another unique opportunity for transfer tax planning. The wealth planning process is crucial in designing these strategies, and we will continue to work to enhance our advice in this and other defensive areas of planning for our clients.