It’s a One-Way Trip

How not to end up on Possum Hollow Road at midnight, low on fuel, after driving for 13 hours, hoping that your gravel roadway doesn’t just end in the dirt.

I learned to drive in the days before the internet. When any long trip took a little preplanning, with a paper map, to find the best course to take. Unless I had driven there before, I would have some idea of my route before I left home.

Things have changed now. I, like most people, will often get in my car before I look at a map (app) and get any idea of my route. And why wouldn’t you, the apps have access to real-time information about road closures and traffic conditions. But there are still those times, especially for long drives to distant destinations, when I will have an idea of my route before I get in the car. Why, because I look at alternative routes along the way. I want to be prepared with alternative courses of actions just in case things don’t go as planned, and I have to make a quick decision.

More information is a tool for planning and decision making. Not be substitute. Both for car trips and the journey of life. There are a great deal of financial planning apps out there. They can be a great tool for real-time analysis, and some have a few “planning” modules. But they are no substitute for having a real plan. One that considers the many potential roadblocks and misdirection’s to your intended financial destination.

Life is a one-way trip. There are no do-overs. You don’t want to be trying to figure out your best course when things look dark, you are exhausted, and time is critical. Not doing the proper planning resulted in my drive down Possum Hollow Road. Yes, I got to my destination. But not without a lot of unnecessary anxiety and frustration. Not sure where to begin? The Steps For Today website and materials can get you started and point you in the right direction. Your journey has already begun. Get yourself a ‘map’ and start navigating.

For more information, go to, and have a safe trip.

Thanks for reading.
Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

A (Very) Real Fear

During my career, I’ve attended a lot of meetings with co-workers. Often, there was a well-crafted presentation with a lot of information. And every-so-often, after the meeting my fellow attendee would say that they “really didn’t understand” a lot of what the speaker was talking. When I’d asked them why they didn’t ask questions during the meeting, they’d often say that they “didn’t want to look stupid.”  What could I say? We’ve all been there.

Unfortunately, I have found that this common fear is a central reason we avoid important discussions. One simple tool for getting over this mindset is to say “I don’t know much about that. Can you please tell me more?” I think the vast majority of people like helping others and sharing their knowledge. And, if their honest, could come up with a list of example topics for which they knew very little. I have found that it’s even better when you have a pen and paper in hand when you ask the question. Most people kick into schoolteacher mode and give slow, purposeful, responses.

The simple truth is that none of us, not even the smartest of us, knows everything.  But that shouldn’t stop us from finding answers for life’s problems. But where to begin? You can find a professional. But even then, it can be difficult to keep up. And if you’re paying them by the hour, you’d like to keep the process moving along. This is why I included the definitions and explanations for a lot of legal, financial, and medical terms into First Steps For Success and Embraced Living. After reading the books and completing the suggested documents, you will understand key terms and concepts for financial, legal, and medical conversations. Furthermore, the completed documents will contain a lot of the information you may be asked to provide for trusts, wills, beneficiary documents, and powers of attorney. It’s one big step towards a more secure and organized life.

For more information, visit my website and take a look at my books First Steps For Success ( and Embraced Living (

Thanks for reading.
Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

Things Change

My prior post focused on keeping track of documents in order to lessen worry and confusion, especially when the documents are critical and you’re in a hurry. But anyone who has dealt with the long-term maintenance of documents knows there is another type of confusion that occurs when the document doesn’t match your memory or the authors prior stated intention. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about an unauthorized revision. I’m talking about an authentic last version of the document which doesn’t match your, or someone else’s recollection. This can create a whole lot of unnecessary confusion and anxiety. Trust me, this can even happen when you’re the one who made the changes (and can’t remember why).

There is another document that I recommend but don’t write about often enough, the Master Log. The log contains a record of revisions to the document, including thoughts and rationale for the changes. This short document, kept with the original copy of the document, will explain what the author was thinking when the changes were made. This can go a long way to alleviating any ill-conceived notions about the authors intentions. Especially when the author is no longer available to explain it themselves. I have witnessed the runaway train of thoughts that can occur when a will is unclear in its intent. Why not take this simple step to preclude this from happening.

For more information on how to use this, and other stress preventing documents, is available in my book, First Steps For Success is available at Amazon at

Thanks for reading. Please like and share with those who may benefit from this information!
And remember to take the next step.

On the Record

As every parent knows, the start of every school year is filled with a list of tasks which must be completed before classes begin. Of these tasks, the one that gave me the most anxiety, was coming up with the immunization records. We had moved quite a few times, so no individual doctor had a complete set of records. I always managed to find those little immunization record books. But not without an undue amount of stress. Now, imagine if you had to provide a complete set of medical records, and time was critical.

This same scenario can also apply to financial or legal paperwork in an emergency situation, medical or otherwise. It’s easy to forget a documents location. Whether it’s paper or electronic, once it’s placed in a “safe” location, our brains automatically quit tracking it, and move on to whatever concerns are most pressing.

In my book, First Steps For Success, I discuss the creation of a Master Index. This document is a single location to list and track the critical documents for your household. The Index can also be used to capture metadata related to a document such as persons, companies, or related documents. The book also discusses different types of documents and how they may be applicable to your home. Of course, it takes a few steps to do the initial setup for your existing documents, but you’ll find that knowing where your important information is kept and having a quick place to record the location of future documents, will save both time and anxiety in the future. First Steps For Success is available at Amazon at

Thanks for reading. Please like and share with those who may benefit from this information!
And remember to take the next step.

PS. It seems as though Facebook has possibly changed its algorithms which determine who sees these posts. Please help me reach as many people as possible by liking and sharing this content. This will also let me know if the posts are reaching my readers. Thanks again!

Financial Power of Attorney

I read a recent article in which the author had taken the steps of getting a legal, notarized, power of attorney for their parents’ financial affairs, but was unable to use it like they intended to take care of their parents’ financial matters. Their problem arose when their parent became incapacitated, and they approached the bank about gaining access to accounts on which their name did not appear. Due to the increasing amount of fraud, banks are subject to some very stringent regulations. In addition, because a large amount of financial fraud is perpetrated by family members, banks are duly concerned with granting them access to accounts. Although I have been assured that, in Missouri at least, a notarized financial power of attorney provides the grantee immediate rights to access the funds, why not take an extra step to avoid confusion or delay.

One way to preclude such stress is to have the grantor appear at the bank with the grantee when the POA is first created so that they can personally attest to the validity of the document. If you do this, be sure to ask the bank employee to note the date of your visit in their records and remember to write it in your own log as well.

You may ask “why not just get joint ownership on the accounts?” The best reason is that the funds may then be accessible in a lawsuit on either owner. The POA prevents this from happening. Just be sure that there is a Payable on Death (POD) beneficiary named on all of the accounts so that they immediately transfer to the beneficiary without having to pass through the probate process.

My previous article was about having difficult conversations.  Asking somebody for POA for either healthcare or financial decisions is not easy, but it does not have to be confrontational. The better you understand and convey the pros and cons, the easer the conversation will go.

For more information regarding POA’s, POD’s, and difficult conversations, visit my website and take a look at my books First Steps For Success ( and Embraced Living (

Thanks for reading. Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

I Don’t Care

I once witnessed an “international incident” – of sorts. An American engineer said “I don’t care” to his Swiss counterpart. With that, the Swiss engineer stood up and shouted back in disbelief “We are spending billions of dollars and you don’t care?”

In my books, I write about the need to have difficult, but important, conversations regarding aging and estate planning. Tensions are typically high when discussing such subjects. The slightest miscommunication of word or intent can lead to unnecessary conflict and sadness. I have witnessed more than a few well-intentioned conversations that went awry because of simple miscommunication. 

Still yet, the conversations should be had. So what steps can be taken to minimize  the potential for misunderstanding? Here are a few things to remember when planning such a conversation. (And you should not undertake such a conversation without a little upfront planning).

Try not to use colloquial terms, which are informal words or phrases used in everyday conversation but are usually specific to a geographic region. These are easily misunderstood. I remember on my first trip to Kentucky that every cola was called a Coke.

Don’t use ambiguous terms which are open to interpretation. For example, the phrase “I’m down” can mean “I’m sad” or “It’s Okay with me” depending on the context.

Keep in mind that there may be generational differences in the meaning of a word. For example, the word “bug” is used by younger generations to refer to an app problem. Whereas, someone in their 80’s may think you are referring to an illness.

Difficult conversations are not the place for sarcasm or humor. Which is especially hard to contain for yours truly. However, this can also lead to misunderstandings if the listener is not familiar with the speaker’s tone or intentions.

Be specific in the terms you are using when discussing estate or care planning. If you are not familiar with the myriad of terms, my books “First Steps For Success” and “Embraced Living” give a great foundation in these areas and suggestions for where to begin this process.

Back to my opening story. The American engineer had simply said “I don’t care which you choose”. The Swiss engineer took this to mean that he literally was disinterested in the whole program. You can imagine his concern. It was all cleared-up and a few laughs were had. But there were some tense, undue, moments.

Thanks for reading. Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues!
And remember to take the next step.

For more information on how to bring a little order to life’s chaos, visit and check out my books:
– First Steps For Success
– Embraced Living

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

“If you don’t move forward, sooner or later you begin to move backward.” – Mikhail Gorbachev

I frequently write about ways to reduce the anxieties of everyday life. And although it may seem a little paradoxical, I believe there is a certain amount of anxiety that comes with being too comfortable.

We all have our Comfort Zones. A behavior, or lifestyle, which allows us to cruise on automatic; never really having to think about what comes next. The problem with comfort zones, is that they’re an easy place to stay.  But like Gorbachev stated, there really isn’t such a thing as staying in one place. When we are comfortable with our habits and routines, our desire to meet our goals can start to slip-away at an imperceptible pace. Our wanting for sameness will often drag us into the decay. The funny thing is, we often know this is happening. And that just creates more anxiety. Here’s a simple reminder of how you can stop this process, step outside of your comfort zones, and get on with your personal growth, and a more fulfilling life.


Goal Review: Were they to big? Can you break them down in something more immediately achievable? Maybe it time for some new goals.

Evaluate Your Lifestyle: Take a close look at your daily habits and routines. Are there areas where you can make changes or improvements? Identifying these areas can help you break out of the decay and start making progress.

Talk to friends and family, for their thoughts about what they think you’d like to do or learn. They may have some pretty interesting thoughts.

Upgrade your knowledge: Whether it’s through reading, taking courses, or attending workshops and conferences, learning something new can help stimulate your brain and generate new energy.

Pursue something new: A new exercise routine, hobby, or social activity will break you out of your daily routine.

You may consider posting this phrase somewhere where you can see it daily so that it can remind you to take those first steps.

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step.

For more information on how to bring a little order to life’s chaos, visit

Spring Cleaning

I can still remember a lot about my Great Grandmother. Born in 1895, in a very rural community, she was a firm believer in ‘spring cleaning’. This usually occurred on the first warm day in March or April, and it involved opening the windows for fresh air, getting out the ammonia for cleaning, and taking out the rugs for a firm beating on the clothesline.  I was pretty young, but I can remember being amazed at the amount of ‘stuff’ that was in a rug that had been vacuumed all winter. I would love to see the look on my neighbors faces if I did this feat at home this spring. Heck, I’d love to see their faces if I put up a clothesline!

I no longer perform spring cleanings like that. But I do have the following list of things I try to do on the first warm days of the year.

  • Like my grandmother, I like to open the windows and let in the fresh air. This is also a chance to check the screens for damage and get them repaired before the bugs arrive.
  • Take a walk around your homes exterior to look for clogged or damaged gutters and downspouts. Cleaning gutters is not fun. But it’s less fun in the rain.
  • While you’re out there, also look for damaged or loose siding, facia, and soffits.
  • Take a few steps back and take another walk around your home. This time, take a look at the roof for damaged shingles. If anything looks suspect, call a roofer. They’re usually happy to take a look around up there and see if there’s minor damage or something that can qualify for an insurance claim.
  • Winter freezing and thawing can also cause landscaping to shift. It’s best to get that fixed before the spring rains cause further damage.
  • Now’s the time to wash away the winter collection of gunk on your windows. If you’re not a fan of window cleaning, contact your local firehouse. Those folks are great at cleaning windows.
  • Check for bird nests on your home while you’re out there too. Having birds nesting on your light fixtures causes a mess. But let’s face it, you’re not going to take it down once there’s eggs in it.
  • When it gets above 65 degrees, I like to check the air-conditioning system before the hotter weather arrives. Running the A/C when it any cooler, or when there’s a chance that ice could still be on the unit, can damage the system. So it’s best to wait.

These are just a few chores I do when the weather gets warmer. What are some of the steps you take on those first nice days?

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step.

Even the Best Plans

In the summer of 1982, my family, and another family, decided to take a road trip out east. We started in St. Louis, stayed for a while at the World’s Fair in Knoxville, and ended up at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It turned out to be a great trip. Almost meticulously planned. Almost.

Looking back, I’m relatively certain that the trip was the concoction of my Mom and her best friend Mary. They had a talent for planning trips not only for our families, but also for various corporate and military VIPs. They knew how to plan things. My Dad was more of the spontaneous type. I don’t think he was fully on-board. During the entire trip, he had one, oft-repeated, mantra, “All I have to do is drive.” Apparently, this was said to him at some early stage of the reveal.

And drive he did. We were hauling a truck camper and pulling our small Subaru wagon. Our plan was to camp at Myrtle Beach, and Dad hadn’t ever camped in a tent; and wasn’t going to on this trip either. Our itinerary had us staying on a houseboat at one of the many marinas off of the Tennessee River west of Knoxville. It was a bit of a walk to the parking area, but there were shuttle busses running to the fairgrounds. How these two planners found these accommodations, before the days of the internet, is beyond me. But they were good at this type of thing. Indeed, the trips course was planned thoroughly, in the days of paper maps. I can only remember one ‘detour’, during which my mother had to ask someone for directions. Because, as Dad said, “All I have to do is drive.”

The fair was great. I remember being impressed with the many different cultures represented at the event. I also remember some very long lines. But this was a two-part trip. Our next voyage had us driving through the Smoky Mountains on our way to Myrtle Beach. The Smoky’s are beautiful, but a tough, long, drive hauling a camper and pulling a car. I think somewhere along the way we ran a little longer than planned and decided to cut a stop out of the trip and drive straight through to the beach. A departure from the plan.

Even though it seemed like a good idea, our new plan landed us Myrtle Beach a day early, and there was no vacancy until tomorrow. The camp attendant suggested we stay on the boat ramp area under the bridge over the intercoastal waterway outlining Myrtle Beach. It was hot. It was late in the day. And there were 8 of us trying to sleep in a truck camper. The 5 kids were in the queen-size cab-over bed. The 4 adults where in the 2 double beds below. Did I say it was hot? No. It was stifling. Almost unbreathable hot. Our friend’s dad tried to escape to the towed car for sleep. Having to crack the window in the car to get some fresh air, he soon learned that South Carolina mosquitoes are the size of a Vultures. And travel in flocks. He quickly had to flee this nightmare, and return to our oppressive, merciless, riverside refuge. Where there were at least screened windows and an occasional slight breeze. Trying to sleep, we grew quiet until our friend’s oldest daughter, who, to this day, is always armed with the most appropriately hilarious comment, blurts out from the silence, “This is the most miserable I’ve ever been in my entire life!” This caused a round of laughter to erupt from the over-stuffed, over-heated, camper full of miserable people suddenly aware of the ridiculousness of their circumstances.

The next day, we made it into the park and finished out the week playing on the beach.

All in all, it was a successful trip. With just one little hiccup. Life is often just like that. No matter how meticulously you plan, something can go wrong. It can be a laughable event, like this one, or it can set you on your heels and leave you searching for answers. During this trip, advice from others helped us get back on course. No one knows everything. But someone probably has the answers you need. The sooner you ask, the sooner you can get back to planning your next steps.

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step.

For more information on how to bring a little order to life’s chaos, visit

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

In the spring of 1993, my life was chaotic to say the least. In the last 5 months, I had lost my wife, moved to another state, and started a new job. I was working hard to try to figure out what life would now be like for my three children and me. Most days it felt like trying to run with a full glass of water; you know somethings going spill.

One afternoon, I was going through some of the moving boxes that still resided in my garage, and what did I find? A stack of mail. Mail from this week, and maybe that week, and so on. I didn’t remember putting it there. But I didn’t remember a lot about what was going on at the time either. So, there was a mystery.

There was no mystery, however, that some of the mail contained overdue notices. I had no idea there were overdue bills because I relied on the mail to prompt me that something was due. Trying desperately to maintain some resemblance of control on any one part of my life, I decided this was something I could easily do better. Grabbing a pencil and paper, I went through the mail, my checkbook (remember those), and anything else I could find which would help me list out my financial obligations, and their due dates. Having this one simple sheet of paper greatly reduced the amount of anxiety I had about bill payments. I still use a ‘more modern’ version of it. No more mystery about what is due when!

The other mystery, about how the mail was misplaced, was soon solved too. As it turned out, my sweet 4-year-old daughter was “…just trying to help me.” And I guess, in a round-a-bout way, she did!

I’ve made a free, downloadable, bill payment spreadsheet is available at While you’re there, take a look around for other items and ideas to help organize your home and life. What tricks or tools do you use to help keep life on track?

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step.