Let me just tell you that sometimes finding things out about your parents is not all candy and roses. I mean, I enjoy learning about where my parents went on vacation before they got married, or how they met, or any number of other interesting tidbits that I have learned over the years. It is part of seeing them as a person rather than just a parent. However, there comes a point where you might have to discuss finances with your parents to make sure they will be OK in the future and they will not force you into bankruptcy to take care of them when they get old. That time was this past week when I was back east visiting and talked with my mom about her finances.
I do not want to get into specifics of course, but my mom has been on her own for 16 years now after my dad died. Due to his careful planning before he died, my mom has not had to work a day since then, as his life insurance, social security and pension have been taking care of her. She still lives in the same house I grew up in which is paid off, and she drives an older SUV that is paid off as well. So far so good, right? Wrong. You see, my mom still has a bulk of my dad’s company stock money in the stock market. In fact, she has almost ALL of it in the market….in ONE stock. Yep, one company that while right now is doing A-OK, could just as easily tank tomorrow. And then my mom would lose a BIG chunk of her financial safety net. She knows she should do something about it, but says she “hasn’t gotten around to it yet”. Well, needless to say, we had a big discussion about it and hopefully she really will go talk to a financial advisor this week like she promised.
On top of the fact that my mom might lose all her money if she doesn’t get started planning, she also might need care later in life due to a health situation she is currently experiencing. Sure, she has life insurance and health insurance, but she does not have long term care insurance. And this is where things get scary. If she gets worse as she gets older, and does not have long term care insurance, guess who will be paying for it? Yep, my brother and I. And permanent help is NOT cheap…not even close. In fact, it could hypothetically bankrupt us depending on her condition. So add this to the money issues above and we had a lot to talk about.
Now that we have spent some time looking at actual numbers and discussing the possibilities, I am hoping my mom takes control of her situation. There is only so much that I or my brother can do if she is not willing to do it herself in the first place. Finding all of this out about her situation has been incredibly stressful, as I worry about both her and our financial future. But with her finally being honest about it has started the dialog between us and hopefully will begin a march towards sorting it all out. Please, if you have parents that do not seem to be doing a great job handling their money, talk to them. It might be difficult at first and they might fight discussing it with you. But it is YOUR future as well as theirs if things go bad over the years. We all get insurance to protect us against our own problems, but you also have to think about your parents and what they might need as they get older, and you have to make sure they are set up so as to not burden you with their missteps. I am not saying that we would not help my mother with anything that we could help her with, but if she gets organized and properly insured, it will have less of a financial impact on us and our new family in the future. Talk to your parents…make a date to do it soon. You never know what you may find.