September 6, 2022

A Thought-Provoking Journey and An Exercise in Optimization

Robert Bensman

A Thought-Provoking Journey and An Exercise in Optimization

Our leafplanner Process

Developing a leafplan is a remarkable experience! When I was first introduced to leafplanner, it resonated as a valuable tool to aggregate important information in a single location, available to family members and our advisory team.

I quickly realized this was much more than just another tool for myself, our family, and our advisors. Using leafplanner was going to be an incredibly insightful exercise. This experience brought to light many new perspectives of how we viewed our assets, liabilities, personal and business relationships, passions, and philanthropic interests. 

This experience brought to light many new perspectives of how we viewed our assets, liabilities, personal and business relationships, passions, and philanthropic interests. 

Although daunting at first, due to the depth and breadth of information to cover and questions posed, we became increasingly engaged by the impact this could have on our family. To maximize our efforts, leaning on the expertise of the leafplanner team, we began to abide by a structured process while progressing through each section. This helped us provide a more accurate and detailed roadmap that embraced our values.

  1. Data aggregation
  2. Prepared a vision for the desired impact in each section
  3. Analyze the data
  4. Identify optimization strategies
  5. Prepare plans
  6. Communicate plans and intentions with vested parties
  7. Execute 
  8. Review results
  9. Periodic updates and adjustments to reflect significant changes

Until our leafplanner experience began, I had been on auto-pilot, following a course based on our previous visions, goals, capabilities, relationships, skill sets, and resources. It was clear that some of our “historical” perspectives did not account for subtle yet meaningful changes in certain relationships. Similarly, we were not accounting for changes in our family’s capabilities, the internal structure, and ongoing refinements of our vision.

Guided by leafplanner, we recognized the need for a course correction. Over many years, the aspects of our previous planning had changed. The airplane analogy comes to mind: if an airplane is off course by one degree, it results in the pilot missing the runway, the city, and even the state of the planned destination. This course correction was necessary so our family didn’t miss what our desired impact now was for our legacy.

A much stronger intuitive sense emerged to shape how we viewed and optimized our visions, goals, capabilities, relationships, skill sets, and resources for our family. 

After reflecting on some of our family’s specific statuses, we began categorizing our results into the following three areas:

  1. Critical Information with Context - The aggregation of information that serves as the single source for our family, friends, and advisors
  2. Insights and Blind Spots - Items that require additional energy and focus
  3. Previous Ideas and Planning Strategies - Items in flux, not yet executed to the fullest extent possible to optimize the desired result

Impactful Outcomes

The importance of more comprehensive family and advisor meetings.

As each of our family members’ lives has evolved, combined with professional relationships being added or replaced, I realized the importance of communicating the specific needs family members would require in our absence. It is equally important to share and update that detailed information with our advisory team so they can best support our family.

Our meetings with family members, professionals, and closest friends will now further support our goals, communicating the necessary tools and resources to optimize our desired impact.

Examples included changes in the financial status of us as parents, as well as our children's incomes, net worths, changes in marital status, additional grandchildren, financial literacy, children's health, etc. These internal shifts, over time, were dramatic for our family. The importance to our advisory team, which includes the trustees and executors, cannot be overemphasized, as their ability to execute and make the desired impact would be compromised without this ever-changing knowledge. 

Our meetings with family members, professionals, and closest friends will now further support our goals, communicating the necessary tools and resources to optimize our desired impact.

Estate plan revisions to maintain our second home for future generations.

Camp Serenity, our Utah home, has become our primary residence on many levels. Family gatherings and individual getaways take place here to enjoy our home and all the community has to offer. 

Yet, at the same time, the importance of long-term ownership was not shared equally amongst the children. Based on these factors, we felt it was best to address our desire to keep the home in the family and to establish the necessary structure to allow each family member to determine what is best for them. 

These details, such as legal structure, tax and financial matters, and supporting documentation, have been resolved. We also outlined the meaningful local relationships we have established, including vendors for the house and other community relationships to make life much easier for day-to-day use or a generational transition. These details are documented and communicated to our children in our leafplan.

The outcome has been gratifying for all. We view ourselves as the stewards of Camp Serenity, and have seen an even higher level of appreciation for our children and grandchildren.

Optimizing and investing time - our most precious resource. 

As we reflected on our many relationships, we began to realize a shift in the depth and direction of our lives. More time was now being invested with our immediate family, our Utah home, closest friends, and pursuing life’s passions.

Relationships with friends who share our heartfelt values and interests became closer, while others became more distant. Advisors who shared similar values and expertise followed similar paths.

We decided to solidify and adjust our relationships based on changing circumstances and life phases. What at one time was considered most important had shifted, resulting in a reallocation of our time and energies, pursuing the most meaningful values and passions that are shared with others.

As a result, we now invest more time with fewer people and causes near and dear to our hearts. This shift was not against anyone or a specific cause. But instead, a focus on the more profound impacts we wish to pursue. 

Although not a single event prompted this shift, it was a series of changes. The sale of a business, maturing needs and accomplishments of our children and grandchildren, health concerns of family members, the realization of our phase in life, the passing of friends, the intrinsic value received by investing more time in passionate interests, meeting new friends, and the impact their relationships have made all contributed to our shifting mindset.

These realizations were magnified further by the pandemic and the mass shooting on July 4th, 2022 in Highland Park, Illinois, where 13 of our family members fled for our lives. An even higher degree of awareness arose from the attention and response of media, law enforcement, and the community. All of which influenced our planning.

The Journey Continues

Our leafplanner journey has enabled us to recognize the critical components in our lives that need to be in place to make the meaningful impact desired for family, friends, clientele, and philanthropic causes. We look forward to continuing to optimize our behavior and planning with the help of leafplanner. All while pursuing our passions and maintaining excellent health.

Continue reading