By Kay Newton
Worldwide, seven out of 10 women survive their partner, yet many do not know where to find relevant information at the most crucial of times. To address this problem, Nancy Juetten came up with a simple solution to organise one’s life.
Based in Bellingham in the American state of Washington, the 58-year-old Nancy oozes youth and vibrancy as if she were still a teenager. As she bluntly puts it, “Most couples are not prepared for when the ‘shit hits the fan’, which it can do at any day. Most are caught with their pants down and it is such a disempowering place to be.”
Nancy speaks from experience. Three years ago, three women in her life had their financial lives completely turned upside down by death, divorce and diagnosis, and it hit Nancy that she could be next.
“Luckily for me, my husband Steve is a certified financial planner professional and I had a birthday coming up. Instead of gifts, I asked him to create a roadmap that would unlock our financial life so we could both be in control if life got in the way,” she shares.
The couple created a system that made it easy to put one’s hands on everything needed to run the household. For example, how to get in contact with important people, access investments, wills, other documents, and even medications.
“After going through the process myself, I felt empowered and realised the rest of the world needs this too. And so ‘The Life Goes on Roadmap System for Personal Financial Information Organisation’ was born,” says Nancy.
Nancy knows only all too well how important having your paperwork is in a crisis situation. “In December 2019, my husband had a mini-stroke. I drove him to the hospital wondering if I was going to get him home again. At the hospital, the staff asked me about his medication, frequency and dosage. I had never really paid any attention until that point. In a stroke scenario, the window of successful help is so small, just 30 minutes, and I was wasting time because I could not answer immediately. Now I have a medication list with me at all times.”
Nancy’s passion is to wake people up to the fact that the best time to get ready for any challenge is before it ever happens. “When you have accumulated years of life experiences and assets, it is time to think about how to protect them. We all anticipate making a big success or life yet we forget to take the next step which protects everything we have worked for and those that we love the most.”
The Roadmap is based on the American lifestyle, but substitutions can be made to apply to any country. Unfortunately, most people tend to avoid the process of collating life information and especially avoid planning for a loved one’s death.
To solve this problem, Nancy says, “The Roadmap is set out as a game in order to make the process fun. When you play the game everyone wins. The system includes a game board, guide book and a simple digital organiser that captures 16 important aspects of your life.”
Creating your roadmap may seem like a transactional process, yet it is also a transformational journey. “Doing this work causes you to have deeper conversations with the people you love,” she says. “For example, you may ask, ‘Are we on the path we want to be on in order that we can retire and accomplish goals?’ ‘What will happen if my life is cut short?’ and so on. Everything is great until it is not! As we get older, it is a shorter runway to recover from unexpected surprises.”
She shares the case of a client who had been married for 35 years when she finally asked her husband what they spent their money on. They could not account for $1500 per month, going on for probably decades. It turned out there was an extra spouse in the situation.
Nancy has a word of warning for those who think a wife’s only role is taking care of the home and kids: “When husbands do not communicate and share the role, it is irresponsible. Women cannot honour the family when something goes wrong if they are missing information. Even if your husband does not want to share, create your own roadmap. It is better than having your head in the sand – you never know when someone may fall ill or a secret may be revealed.”
Nancy’s final words are useful to any woman: “Learn something new every day. Dream big with your eyes wide open and open dialogues so you know what’s really happening. It is never too late to make a life shift. If what you have always done begins to feel like an itchy jumper that no longer fits, it is time to change. Find the courage to do something you can be proud of. Make it your finest hour. Do well, do good, get your act together and you won’t regret it.”