a COVID-19-era story
written by Brian Dudley, CFP® Founder+COO
Reader’s note: this blog shares personal information. If you’re looking for just the financial portion, scroll to the section titled, “What’s Next (financially)?”
The Power’s Out
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) had been around in Massachusetts for over a month at this point. I had already adjusted my business to function fully from home, sparingly traveling to my office to take care of essential needs. This day was no different. I had spent the morning with my family which includes setting up my oldest son Lucas for school from home, making breakfast for all, and responding via email to business items. Everyday my youngest, Brooks, asks me for a pop (the kid loves morning popsicles and I can’t blame him) and I drank my morning tea (I gave up coffee during a cleanse that I did in November and haven’t had any since. I’ve legit had everything else I gave up. Why not add coffee back in? No clue). My morning routine was my new normal. I then went up to the office to check-in.
I popped by the office quickly, but after just one hour, I received what seemed like my daily, “come home Dad, I miss you” FaceTime call from one of my sons. I finished what I needed and took the rest with me to complete later at home. The night before, Amanda and I were aware that there would be storms the next day from the news, but did not think that wind storms would cause such damage in our town. There were multiple trees down, power lines hanging low, and debris all over the roads. Next up, power lost. There’s nothing better than no power in a quarantine with nothing to grill and an electric stove! Oh well, let’s make the best of it. That’s what we thought. We took a ride to see fallen trees and ordered our first take out since we began our social distancing. Even takeout had been avoided as Amanda was pregnant, and we were being extra cautious. The kids, although shaken from the lack of sound machines and normal lighting, went to bed okay that night, surprisingly. The change up in routine may have been good for them, but little did they know that among the madness their baby sister would be here by the time they woke up.
Next Stop St. Elizabeth’s
Well, technically it was still the thirteenth. The power was still out at our house when Amanda said, “It’s time. Call your parents.” We called my parents who had been self-quarantining for a month and on-call for when we reached out for help. Just fifteen minutes later, they arrived. It was just after 10 PM and they walked into a candle-lit house. Our nerves were racing, escalated by our lack of power at our home and added stress of searching for bags and masks that we were expected to bring to the hospital. Luckily, Amanda had most of the items ready to go. At 10:15 PM and with COVID-19, there was no traffic. We arrived quickly, but the process was completely out of the ordinary.
The Changing of the Guard
All of our children have been born at St. Elizabeth’s in Brighton. I was born there. My aunt Patti worked there. My aunt Jane works there now. Amanda’s OB is the head of the Women’s department. St. E’s represents both nostalgia and expertise. I can’t recommend this place enough in helping you bring your children into this world. That being said, this time was different.
Normally, we would go to the E.R., run through admittance, and then be escorted up to the maternity ward. Not this time. This time, we were asked to go directly to the maternity ward and to call to be let in. We were greeted by a nurse in a mask by my wife in a mask. Nuts! I was told I was to be provided a mask once we were upstairs, too (during the madness of bag gathering and no lights, I forgot mine). We were then moved upstairs and checked in via phone. We were told to always wear our masks when anyone from the hospital was in our room, and I was informed that I needed to stay in the room and could not even walk to the kitchen as a precautionary measure. It was so creepy, and a sign of the times.
A Star is Born
Man, that title is corny. However, it’s true to us! I digress. A baby doesn’t care what’s going on in the world. They come when they come. Power out? Yup. COVID-19? Jesus, why? The stock market down? Who cares! They just DGAF when they come out. We checked in around 10:45 and Addison Margaret Dudley was born not much later early Tuesday at 1:12 AM (don’t think I didn’t hear 112 and think of the R&B group. I am an elder millennial and whoosh they had some bangers back in the day ). The experience, however, was as fast as it was scary. Amanda’s blood pressure dropped, quickly. The baby’s heart, even faster. Doctors from the NICU were called in a fury, and the anesthesiologist was asked to stay in the event of emergency surgery. The virus, no power for our boys at home, and now this? Things were moving so fast, but my wife was a champ. She asked to push, knowing if she didn’t there could be problems. Just minutes later, our third child was born, without the need of additional doctors or surgery. Thank God. We asked what it was as we kept it a surprise? They said, “it’s a girl!” and our hearts melted. Was she okay? Yes, Addison Margaret Dudley was born happy and healthy. We are truly blessed.
I can literally provide you with a play-by-play of what has happened at our home since we brought our daughter Addison home, but I won’t. I will, however, share that our boys were so excited to see her. Again, due to the virus we were unable to bring them in to the hospital to see their Mama and new baby sister. Normally that would be the case. They made signs, anyway, and they greeted Mama at the door when she was released. A silver lining in this crisis is that the hospital released Amanda what seemed like a day earlier than normal. A blessing in disguise, I suppose. We were excited, but now what?
What’s Next (financially)?
I write blogs and advise individuals and their families on what to do when life changes. Instead of writing, “The three things you should do when your baby is born” blog, I decided to share a more personal story (see above). Now to the financial decisions. Here is what I am personally doing now that our daughter is born.
Opening Addison’s investment account
Although not funded as much as I may want, both of my sons have investment accounts. My daughter will be no different. Once I receive a formal social security number, I will open her account (UTMA or Uniform Transfers to Minors Act) and begin funding it monthly. I will buy stocks or an index to get general exposure (disclosure: my son’s only have individual positions). I don’t care where the market is today. I will care where it is in eighteen years. This is a long term account. The key is to keep funding. For new cash-strapped parents, this may not be an option, but anything counts and even $50/mo is something. Remember, the power of compound interest is amazing. In addition, gifting laws allow individuals to give $15,000 in 2020 per gift without tax. In a perfect world, my wife and I would give $30,000 to each child this and every year. Unfortunately, we aren’t there (yet).
Reviewing our estate plan
This week I plan on connecting with my attorney. In my role as an advisor, I always try to take the emotion out of financial decisions. Attorneys help to do the same. We will update our wills, review a Trust, and review all other aspects of our estate plan (health care proxies, power of attorneys, who executes the trust, where the kids would stay, etc.). These are not easy decisions, but decisions that need to be made.
Adding life insurance
This may seem dismal. We just had a healthy baby and this is what we are looking at? Yep, again, emotions are taken out when making financial decisions. I will add term insurance for both Amanda and I. In fact, due to COVID-19, some carriers are offering additional coverage using existing records (no new exams needed). If you don’t have coverage, some carriers are offering accelerated underwriting (again, no blood work, just decisions based on medical records) for up to $3 Million for certain applicants. So, how much insurance is enough? To make it easy, you can use 10x income. A custom approach is better in my opinion. Think about what your life costs, the loss of potential income, what are some future needs such a college, and determine an amount that covers most or all. That’s how we customize insurance. This does not mean, however, that you need to get too complicated here. I currently do not own permanent insurance (whole or universal life). I have an option to convert down the road. My investments are investments. My insurance ( auto, home, liability, E&O for work, etc.) is just that, insurance.
Other quick updates
I am a business owner and my wife works for multiple businesses as a consultant. We carry our own health insurance. Again, once Addison’s social is here, I will add her to our family healthcare policy.
Eventually, I will let our accountant know. This isn’t as important, as it is just informative. However, tax laws are complex and your accountant should know everything about you (as should your attorney and financial advisor-at least financially). They should be given permission to speak with your other advisors and coordinate efforts to make sure you are always in the best financial position. For our clients, we emphasize a team approach and coordinate this for them.
It’s Closing Time
I am writing this on the night which should have been the Boston Marathon. Man, have times changed. I believe strongly that we will persevere and overcome this virus. Hopefully, we will all be more compassionate and appreciative of what we have because of it. This blog shared a real view of what my world has been like and how we are planning financially for our future. I appreciate you reading, and as always, contact me if you have questions on any of the topics discussed in this piece
Until then, be safe, and thank you for your time.