Growing up, it was always understood with my dad that we must abide by an unwritten rule. That rule was not to discuss finances. Seeing as though I was of an impressionable age when that golden rule was instilled into me, I carried it over into my adult life. Whether it be about the cost of that timeshare my parents had to have but never used, or about the price of tea in China, I knew to keep hush hush. And one thing was for sure, don’t even consider asking how much money he made at his job or you were sure to get an answer like, “more than you’re making running your mouth about business you don’t have business running your mouth about.” So yeah… off limits.
But as I entered adulthood and figured out the financial world on my own accord, even though I still can’t figure out how I go to the grocery store for milk and spend an easy $100 on nonessentials, I started to understand the unwritten rule a little better. Just as it isn’t something you discuss with friends, I’d likely have the same reply to my children that my dad gave me if asked about business that they don’t have any business in.
I won’t blame my financial disclosure all on my dad though as my mom was ever the frugal shopper that could make a $10 gift look like she spent $50 on it. Although, she would never let you in on that secret with her vigilance to tear price tags off or sharpie over them so that only a forensic investigator would be able to decipher again.
So, as my parents started aging, and the local news started increasing my fear that a self-proclaimed Nigerian Prince was going to promise a well cushioned bank account in lieu of their personal information, I took the opportunity to test the waters again, but this time as a seasoned adult who could somewhat manage her own financial affairs, regardless of my junk food splurges at the grocery store.
Here goes nothing. “So, dad, have you planned with mom yet about how you want your finances managed when you or mom can no longer manage them anymore? Or, at least set mom up in case something happens to you?”
“She knows where all the documents are. The house and car are paid for, so she won’t need to worry about much more than her food consumption and air temperature quality of the house,” he replied, pretending to be fully engrossed in a commercial about AARP.
“So, you have a Will and Testament and a Power of Attorney then? Or even named mom as a beneficiary for your retirement account?” I pried.
I could see my dad getting physically uncomfortable with the discussion as he pretended to readjust himself in his recliner. “I don’t need all that legal nonsense. My money’s been going to the same place for thirty years and no one has kicked us out of this house yet. She’s taken care of, now enough death talk for today. Good lord, I can’t even finish my show without a discussion about me kicking the can.”
Needless to say, much of the discussion went in one ear and out the other as far as my dad is concerned. But broaching the topic to begin with did put a little bug in my mom’s ear because she high tailed it to the attorney’s and they are now in the process of furnishing the documents they need now, along with planning for the one’s they will need soon.
Had I not had the courage to discuss the unspeakable to begin with, no telling what kind of aftermath dad would leave in his wake, assuming that he goes before my mom. And I can tell you, as an adult who pays her own bills and finances her own expenditures, I would have been overwhelmed with the mess of paperwork he would have left behind. No telling how my mom, who has been a dedicated housewife with no income of her own, and known only to the bank as the secondary account holder, would have found her way through that mess without the encouragement of some legal help.