Have a Plan

Hello everybody, Frank here.

A few days back we received an email from a lady that has some questions. Here is the email, followed by my response. I hope you enjoy both.


Hey Frank and Fern,

I was wondering if you’d consider doing an article on potential widow/widower-hood.  How that possibility affects your planning and how it should be something others at least give a thought to from time to time? 

It is something that often crosses my mind.  My husband is thirteen

years older than I.  Likely I will be the one left behind.  We made our last move with this in mind and solar is one of the last items on my list to get done. 

We moved to a place where we have a septic system and a well and a spring nearby. There is no separate trash or sewage bill as it is included in the property taxes for my county.  So, from where we were living we had a water bill, a trash bill, and an electric bill.  I’m trying to get it down where I have to pay my house taxes and that’s it period in widowhood other than house insurance which I hope to be in a financial position one day to be self-insuring on that item.  We live in an all electric house.  (Hate that as I’m a natural gas kinda gal.) But, we do have a woodstove so I can at least cook if the electric goes out/grid goes down.  (Along w/a couple of butane stoves. We got those when we lived in a condo so at least we could loan them to unprepared neighbors.)  We do have life insurance if that industry stays afloat.   

We are adding to our orchard yearly and expanding the garden and our gardening skills yearly.  I have a treed acreage that I could sell wood or trees from to the nearby sawmills.  We are debt free.  We have already bought our burial plots.  I put money back monthly for house taxes, new roof, new HVAC, etc. although my house is only 6 years old.  I don’t need a new roof or a new HVAC for a long time, but want to be ready if and when I do need them.  Same for our headstones, dentures, long term health care.  Many women have no idea how to handle money or their own financial needs looking towards retirement and are generally the poorer for it as they are generally the caretakers in their family and their working life ($$ opportunities) are lessened because of it.  Mine has been as I care for two disabled sons and now have aging parents.  My husband has helped me think through a timeline of action if he goes first… when to sell the second vehicle, which CDs to cash in first, which retirement account to draw down first, etc.

I had a long time friend lose his wife just this year rather unexpectedly, I’d love to hear about this topic from a male perspective as well.  How men can prepare in the case that they are widowed and how they think about preparing for their own demise and their family’s well being if they are the ones to pass first.

What do you think?  Have ya’ll a plan?  Maudlin I know, but I’m a practical person, I need to think these things through while I have time.

I am working on saving for a large solar addition of our own.  Our home site is not ideal (tall pines), but I think we could manage a wheel about solar panel.  As it is we have a small system now that we use in power down situations…small trickle solar panel, lawn mower battery, inverter…these allow a small electric lamp, coffee pot, toaster, drill, box fan, or other small draw electrical accessory to be used in an outage.  I think it cost me about $115 dollars a few years back to set it up.

Anyway, would love to hear ya’lls thoughts on the subject.  Even if it’s just a listing of your plans, maybe some other folks will chime in with helpful comments! 


When we got married, I told Fern she would never have to worry

about money. Because I am one of those people that can get blood out of a turnip. If it means living poor, we have lived poor many a time, but she never had to worry about money and she never had to worry about food on the table. That’s the way it’s been since day one.

Moving along. Fern’s father passed away when she was very young, and that will lead into the next part of this article. When Fern and I got married, her mother insisted that we have lots of life insurance and I told her no, we’re not going to invest in life insurance, we’re going to invest in education and skills. You know the story about giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day? Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime? Well, instead of putting that money into a life insurance plan, we invested our time and money into ourselves. Not just Fern, but me also. Because when we got married, I was going to marry a teacher. We kept adding degrees and certificates. So, that was my response to the need to buy life insurance.

The issue of marrying a teacher? When I started college full-time, I was a little older, ten to twelve years older than most college kids. I was tired of the big city racket, and wanted the type of job that would take me

anywhere that I wanted to go. The allure of having summers off just couldn’t be passed up. So I decided to become a school teacher and I was going to marry a school teacher, and we were going to live in little town America and escape the rat race. Here we are. Of course, there was a lot more detail to that plan, and there were many lean years there. But I think the lean years make you stronger, and we still do not have life insurance. Maybe this will make a good post someday, but if you read the history of insurance, it comes from a protection racket, that if you didn’t participate, you might get hurt. But that’s a different story.

Okay. The house. Our house is not all electric. We do have wood burning heat, if we choose. Our cookstove is propane. When we moved here the house had a large propane tank, and we supplemented it with a larger

propane tank. Now the only thing we use off of this propane is our cookstove, and I guesstimate we have approximately eight years worth of propane. The house we live in is standard stick frame construction, built with the intention of having perpetual grid supplied electricity. Long term I hope to replace the windows with double hung windows. One of the first additions we made to the house were full length east and west porches, which means that the porches are on the east and west side. Someday, we hope to have a greenhouse on the south side. We did replace the roof with heavy gauge metal roofing that should last our lifetimes. The exterior facade we replaced with a concrete type 4 x 8 sheet, called in some areas Hardy Backer. 

When we moved here we had two deep water wells dug. Fern and I installed a Simple Pump system in each one. We have planted fruit trees that failed, and then planted more fruit trees that failed. We have expanded the garden every year, which for the most part is a pretty good producer, supplemented with some failures. If you read this site, then you know we produce our own meat, milk, eggs, dairy products, and we hope to continue to do that with or without the economy prospering.

Everything we own is paid for. I’m going to talk about finances, but before I do, let me qualify something. Everything that I have comes from God. I thank God every day for the life He has given me and the opportunity to be here and participate. On occasion I forget who I am and where I come

from, and in a short manner I turn myself around, face my Father and thank Him for all that I have. Now, I’m not a stand on the corner Bible preacher, and can’t see that I’m going to be anytime soon, but I know where everything I have comes from. Okay? Okay.

Now, having qualified my position on my Creator, this plan developed about 30 years ago, maybe a little longer. I have had the opportunity in my life to see what money does to families, and I chose not to go that route. My choice, my design, my plan. I’ve chosen to live a humble life style. None of this ‘look at me’ stuff. Simple, humble and functional. If I can’t afford it, I don’t buy it. Cute means nothing in my world. What’s the old woodworking saying? Form follows function. When I do buy something, I buy the best I can afford. Not the most expensive, but one that will last and do the job for the longest period of time. An example. When Fern and I first got married, a close relative of ours was a licensed gun dealer, FFL. We bought a handful of cheap pistols. Sometimes they would work, sometimes they wouldn’t, but they were pretty. One day it dawned on me, if my bride is going to carry a weapon in her purse, then being cute means nothing. It has got to work. Since then my bride has carried the most reliable handgun made. It’s black and it works. Do your own research. It’s not the most expensive, it’s not the prettiest, but it’s the most reliable handgun on this planet. And some people look good in black. But this is my point, if you’re going to invest good, hard earned money, get the best product you can afford.

Investments. As stated earlier, we invested heavily in education and training. Often times this training was provided free by the government. First aid, CPR, EMT, Police Academy, Firefighter, and Military. As we speak right now I am taking a CERT course provided free by the government. Yes, I have to invest my time, and I have to put out some effort, but this is training that I have wanted for years.

Financial investments. Fern and I invested in a few retirement accounts. We put money in, our employer matched. Now 25 to 30 years later, we are reaping the benefits of these accounts. One of these programs also provided a life time medical insurance plan. These are things we invested in for years and years. This did not happen overnight. If I die, which I will someday, all of my investments will automatically switch to Fern. There  

will not be any change in program or financial status. If Fern passes first, the same applies for her investments, they will automatically switch to me. I know some will say, that’s not fair. But first, let me assure you that every investment that I have I worked for. Every piece of education that I have, I earned by the sweat of my brow. In a month when I complete my CERT training, and I get a certificate of completion, it will be because I worked for it and earned it. Key words there. Worked for and earned. Thirty something years ago when Fern and I started this path that we are traveling, there was a plan, and if you will plan, then you can do the same thing too, because nobody is going to give it to you. We, Fern and I, have worked for, done without, and earned everything that we have. If one of us dies before the other, the other person will be taken care of.

Okay, let’s talk church. If you are a spiritual being, then I would recommend that you attend a local church. It’s just good brotherhood. If you’re looking for the perfect church, you ain’t gonna find it, because nothing is perfect. So accept the fact that people are different, and go to church. If and when things get bad, you’ll be glad that you have a church family. I harbor no ill feelings against TV preachers, if that’s your cup of tea, good for you. But I would highly recommend a local church. Even if you disagree with some of the doctrine, focus on the big picture, let the little stuff slide, and have your hiney in church.

I hope this answers some of the primary questions from the email that we received, and I also hope it opens doors for thought. There is nothing special about Fern or I, we just worked all of our lives, saved a little bit here and there, tried to be good decent people, but we always remembered who we were, where we came from and where we are going. Tonight when I go to bed, I will get down on my knees and thank God.

We’ll talk more later. Frank

12 thoughts on “Have a Plan

  1. Jan, words of wisdom. I recently had back surgery and have found that now I can actually do things that I haven't been able to do for a number of years. But I have found that I push the envelope too far on occasion, and then I can't do anything for a couple of weeks. To help solve this problem, I take a lot more breaks and I lay down and stretch my back. I will never again in my life carry two 50 pound bags of feed at the same time, because I will never carry one 50 pound bag of feed in my life. I need to learn my current limitations. Thank you for your comments.Frank

  2. Lisa, thank you for your comment. I am sorry for the loss of your husband. We all need to know how to operate each and every piece of equipment. Little things like shutting of the water, because if it's in the middle of the night and you have a water leak, it's not the time to be trying to figure out how to turn your main water meter off. Fern and I have tried to share the responsibilities that seem to gravitate to certain individuals. I just wish there was more time to do things. I genuinely thank you for your words.Frank

  3. Fiona, we have recently, in the last couple of years, had some loved ones pass. It's good to see this. Not that you ever want a family member to die, but in this case, they passed peacefully. This is one of those things that is going to happen to all of us. It doesn't need to be a traumatic experience. Thank you for your thoughts and comments. And by the way, we have all made foolish financial ventures. Take care.Frank

  4. Sassafras, this post caused Fern and I to think about the long term, inevitable options. It's not something that we dwell on, but we are both keenly aware that one day our time here will cease. Thank you for your comments.Frank

  5. One addition to the comments. Learn your body's limits and plan ways to work around them. It actually applies to all who are aging, widowed or not but it's more important for those of us who live alone by choice or circumstance. I want to continue the (mostly) self sufficient life style I've adopted but if I don't do it, it doesn't get done. I won't be alone for long tho, as Arthur Itis is moving in. He makes strength & endurance tasks more difficult than they would have been 30 yrs ago and it's so frustrating to the independent minded! My mind does not understand why I can't get all that wood cut up in an hour. Working with things to use as crowbars/levers, working for just 1-2 hrs a day on a hard project has amazed me at just how much you can get done in time. Took me 3 months 18 months ago to build a Back To Eden style garden for one and I moved 2 dump loads of wood chips, all the necessary paper, compost and topsoil myself, but it was ready for spring planting. I've some neighborly yard help now, so between the 2 of us we can get more heavy stuff done and we've tripled the size but slow and steady is still the rule. Not much else I can to Lisa's comments, either learn to do it or learn to do without it. Jan in NWGA

  6. If the lady lives in Texas and her husband is a disabled vet, they could have all their property taxes exempted. Just check with their county tax office. Maybe this would help.

  7. Greetings, Last August my husband of 30 years passed away from cancer. We'd had almost 4 years to make some plans but hubby neglected a will. Guess he felt it wasn't necessary or that it meant his death was imminent. That is actually a small part of the planning. The major part was us working together on almost everything so I knew certain jobs that needed to be done such as changing oil in the wood splitter. We were partners in our lifestyle, we cut wood and gardened together, we fished and picked mushrooms together. That doesn't mean I knew everything and when you're head isn't on straight after the funeral things get forgotten and missed. The dozer needed the tracks cleaned out before the dirt froze in them (it was frozen when I got around to it and was that a chore chiseling it out), sawdust should have been scraped from in front of the woodshed, chains should have been on the tractor earlier than we did it. So much of this isn't important if you don't have a homestead but there's other things to remember no matter how you live. Can you turn off the water at the main? turn off the electric breakers? What did I know? Both the tractor and dozer need to be plugged in a couple hours before attempting to start when the temps are low. Check the hydraulic fluid for the loader on the dozer, the mixed gas is in the 2-gallon can, to put Stabil in the engines that won't be run over winter, to have some diesel fuel treatment for those that use it. I remembered to get the woods truck's plow out to where we could put it on come snow.So along with the daughter and her husband I started a list of what needs to be done in the fall and what we're going to need to do in the spring. The son-in-law had driven the dozer but never used the loader, he had a sharp learning curve on that one. He worked on a farm so can operate the tractor and implements just fine. Daughter can weld amongst other talents. Me, I made decisions to make life somewhat easier. The outdoor boiler had to go because I couldn't cut the amount of wood required to run it and then installed a woodstove in the dining room. The boiler ran the floor heat in the finished basement so something had to be done to replace that (bedrooms down there) and a big propane tank purchased and filled. Now I'll only have to cut about 3 full cords of wood instead of 20+ each winter, a major easing of my work load. Because we had this winter's wood cut all it needed was to be cut in half to fit the inside stove and then split smaller. Nine cords are done, good thing I like working with firewood. The main point is, know how/what/when/where to do anything you might need to. Don't depend solely on your partner to take care of everything. Write a list for each season, keep up on how often oil needs changing and when it was changed, know where the water and electric shutoffs are and how to check fuel levels.Hopefully this helps someone in the future. Lisa

  8. Excellent post. Ralph and I were just talking about this yesterday. Both of us have been married before and that has done some damage to our finances. [mine for stupidity and Ralph's for his responsibility and duty] In our land search we are continually amazed at remarks by realtors…like \”your only 5 minutes to Walmart.\” Or \”you should be pleased there is county water\”.We think land security and the availability of things we need as we get old include that LOW payment department. No water bill, access to water that is not chemical filled. Our own heat source to keep us warm and active. The fact is we are aging and one of us will die first. God has his plan for us and we are getting as prepared as we can.It is a marvel to see a couple that has had a plan and worked toward it with such complete and enthusiastic results!God Bless you both!

  9. Hi Frank & Fern, it's interesting to read of other folks situations. The lady who wrote to ask questions should keep in mind she is not alone out there. You never know what some else is going thru unless you could walk in their shoes. I remember a quote,\” Oh but by Gods Grace There Go I.\” We do not walk alone, and when we forget that God will somehow get our attention. Enough preaching from me just sharing. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing all that info, it does matter ! N.W. ILL. here.

  10. Thank you Frank and Fern. I want other men/women to consider how their financial lives may look upon the demise of any one they are now dependent upon. Have they oil for their lamps? End of life planning is not necessarily an easy subject for many. Making long term goals a focus can certainly help as you've so carefully explained. We've used a short term, mid-term and long-term plan over our married lives. Seems to be coming together as anticipated. ~Sassafras

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