There be four things which are little upon the earth; but they are exceeding wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer —Proverbs 30: 24-25
From years of talking to friends and acquaintances, I have a boatload of anecdotal evidence that age 55 sneaks up on you! This is true even though five years earlier, folks received their AARP card – age 50. That card often serves as an occasion for jokes and laughter. “I’m finally over the hill!”; “Wow – feeling old. I got my AARP letter!” That milestone is seldom an occasion for serious reflection.
Blink twice and there are, amazingly, 55 candles on your cake! At 55, most folks are healthy, vibrant, and most are still working full time. They are enjoying the first vestiges of freedom from the all-consuming responsibility of raising a family. They are planning a few long week-ends away by themselves – a luxury not experienced for many since honeymoon days.
At 55, we are still trying to be “cool” and claim to understand the TV commercials, the music and the movies. At 55, we are au courant. Usually, if our health is good, this is a lovely time of life.
Typically, age fifty to fifty-five is not a time for serious and contemplative reflection about what the next stages of our lives will look like.
Remember the Aesop Fable of the ant and the grasshopper? In the original fable, the grasshopper was a cicada or locust. The situation sums up moral lessons about the virtues of hard work and planning for the future. Basically, the ant made preparations for food and warmth during the cold winter ahead. The grasshopper happily enjoyed his summer life without facing facts: and, in the original story, the dying grasshopper find itself dying of hunger, and begs the ant for food. However, the ant rebukes its idleness and unkindly tells the grasshopper to dance the winter away now.
As you might guess, even in classical times, some mistrusted such cruelty and began to re-invent the fable’s meaning. An alternative story represents the ant’s industry as mean and self-serving. Today, different approaches are often conducted through adaptation or reinterpretation of the fable in literature, arts and music. To see a happier ending, click here.
Let’s leave that fable and turn to real life. Observation of life demonstrates that life and health are uncertain. The years are full of examples of people being injured in the prime of their lives, of teens in car accidents who are disabled for life, of a massive stroke or heart attack actually taking the life of an athletic champion. Of persons in mid-life facing an Alzheimer or Parkinson’s diagnosis.
No ant knows when the winter will come – he only knows it will come and the wise ant will prepare. Likewise, none of us has a crystal ball. We do not know when our lives may change in unbelievable ways. It cannot be emphasized too strongly: It is very important to prepare a complete set of legal documents now, long before you may actually need them and while you are still competent to make your own decisions.
The most important thing about estate planning documents is that they should work the way you want them to when the time comes for their use. They should, in other words, accomplish your goals and purposes. You are unique individuals. You need documents that are personalized for you.
You need to make sure that you have five essential documents long before you need to actually use them. This means giving yourself a firm deadline. Everyone thinks they’ll get to it eventually. However, unexpected challenges of life sneak up on us when we are not prepared – just as turning around and finding that we are fifty-five years old!!
Thus, B&B’s new battle cry: (drum roll, please) 5@55!