The Chimney Sweep and Financial Planning: Are You Taking Care of Your Family?

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When my mother died I was very young, 

And my father sold me while yet my tongue

Could scarcely cry " 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!" 

So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep. 

 Excerpt from the William Blake poem “The Chimney Sweep”

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This poem was written by Blake in 1789 to draw attention to the plight of boys (many of them orphans) as young as four and five years old being forced to work as chimney sweeps in the factories of the industrial revolution.  You may notice parallels with the Charles Dickens classic Oliver Twist, which was written several decades later in 1838.  Unfortunately, this was reality for children who lost their parents in those earlier times.    

What does the tragic story of chimney sweeps in Victorian England have to do with financial planning, you ask?  The foundation of responsible financial planning is assuring that your family is financially stable if you die or if you are too sick or hurt to work. 

While it is admittedly rare to see children become orphaned, it does happen—my father-in-law was orphaned at six years old and was raised by his oldest of eight siblings, and two of my high school friends (brother and sister) were orphaned at ages fifteen and seventeen when their parents died within six months of one another.

As we build a financial plan for our clients, we discuss what would happen in the scenario if a breadwinner is no longer there.  What would it take to maintain the family’s lifestyle?  What about keeping children in sports or music lessons, or private school?  Do you want the family to still be able to travel like they always have?

Another consideration that should not be devalued is a stay-at-home spouse and the contributions they make to keeping the household running.  I’ve had dozens of conversations with single income families and the working spouse invariably has a look of panic on their face when I pose the question of how they would juggle their job, along with cooking, laundry, taking the kids to school, soccer practice, gymnastics, and everything else their spouse does all day.  Proper planning helps assure money is in place to help pay for needed support.

The financial considerations may seem obvious, but they should be bolstered with proper estate planning.  The friends I mentioned became wards of the state until they were eighteen because their parents had no guardians designated for them.  Having proper documents in place is critical in order to make sure your children are going to be in the custody of the people you want, and that the money you have left behind is being handled according to your wishes.

Obviously, these are not the most enjoyable subjects to discuss, but if you have children, planning for their wellbeing is an obligation that in my opinion you just can’t overlook.  If this is something you would like to discuss or if you would like more information on planning for your family’s financial security, feel free to contact me at 865 474-8115 or