If something happened to you today, would your loved ones be financially secure? Would they know where to find important documents, such as life insurance policies? What about family pictures you might have saved on your phone? Do you have a will? What about a power of attorney? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, then you may benefit from Chanel Reynolds’ book: What Matters Most: The Get Your Shit Together Guide to Wills, Money, Insurance, and Life’s “What-ifs”.
Back in 2009, Reynolds’ husband, Jose, was struck by a car while riding his bicycle. After a week in the ICU, the doctors informed Chanel that her husband had no chance of recovering from his accident and that his brain was not showing any signs of activity. She quickly realized that she was totally unprepared for this event. She quickly became overwhelmed by questions about wills, insurance, burial plans, and whether she could afford the mortgage payments on her own.
“What Matters Most” Review
Disclosure: We received a free copy of this book from the publisher with a request to review it. If you decide to purchase the book through one of the links on this page, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.
Overall, What Matters Most is very well written. The book conveys a deeply personal description of Chanel Reynolds’ experience. The chapters switch back and forth between her experience and “how-to” guides. This back-and-forth switch is perhaps to make the book more relatable and interesting. Given the serious nature of the topics discussed in What Matters Most, a strict “how-to” book might have been too dry for most people to digest. The book is also sprinkled with humor which makes these subjects more palatable. Having said that, Reynolds went through a terrible experience and it is hard not to feel for her as she describes the pain she experienced in the aftermath of her husband’s untimely passing.
Some of the chapters that describe Reynolds’ personal experience are very detailed, so readers looking strictly for practical information might have a hard time getting through that information. If you are one of those readers, you can easily find the “how-to” chapters, as they all start with the word “guide” in the title. The guide chapters contain a lot of great information. Below is a list of those chapters along with a short summary of what they cover (note that we have omitted the word “guide” after the first chapter below to make the titles easier to read):
- Guide: When Life Goes Sideways: Create an emergency contact list and an emergency plan. The chapter ends with a checklist of things to focus on when you “get the call.”
- When the Shit Hits the Fan: Ensure that: 1. you know where to find all your key paperwork (birth certificates, social security card, etc.), 2. you have easy access to some cash, and 3. you have your “affairs in order” (i.e. you will, a power-of-attorney document, healthcare forms, etc.).
- Quality of Life, Death, and Dying: Define what “quality of life” and dying well mean to you.
- After Death: Create estate-planning documents, document medical and end-of-life wishes, and discuss your wishes for your body after you die (such as organ donation, cremation, etc.).
- The Tangled Web We Leave: This chapter is broken down into 4 parts: 1. organizing your key information (banking information, passwords, digital assets, etc.), 2. ensuring you have enough insurance, as well as the right type of insurance (i.e. life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care, etc.), 3. understanding what happens to your money and debt after you die, and 4. legal planning (i.e. having a will, power of attorney, living will, etc.).
- What Makes a Difference: Helps you understand what a grieving person is going through and how you can best help them, including specific suggestions of what to say and not say to them.
- What Matters Most: How to live your life mindfully while making plans for life’s “what ifs”.
Overall, this is a good book about a very important topic that everyone eventually has to deal with. Some of the practical steps will take a little bit of time to complete and some steps might even require you to hire a lawyer, depending on the complexity of your circumstances. But the book breaks those steps into manageable chunks and checklists. What Matters Most focuses on the important things many people want to avoid thinking about. The stories in it will motivate you to take action and “get your shit together” while you still can.