We were typically middle class: long on education, short on cash. We never went without the necessities, but the frivolities were in short supply. Every now and again, major sacrifices were made to afford us opportunities that would never come again. For example, we went, my sister and I, to see the Jackson 5 when they came to Trinidad in 1977. We even got new outfits for the event! I can't now remember what the tickets might have cost, but whatever it was, it was a good many dollars in those days.
As I manage more and more of Mummy's affairs now though, I see that she made sacrifices that we knew nothing about. I'm just discovering (as will happen when you have to take over a parent's finances) that she was one of those people who knew a good deal when she saw it and no matter what it took, she took advantage of it. She has tucked precious things away in places which I have been fortunate to find given that there's no treasure map available.
While I often shake my head and say, "Oh, she didn't have a plan", clearly she had some semblance of one. Maybe she's not a millionaire, but the little things that she did are and will yield long term benefits which this daughter can only be amazed to see. There is power in deliberative action, even if the action isn't part of a greater, well-articulated plan. Mummy wasn't a planner, but in her gut, she understood that she had to DO something no matter how small.
As I wander blindly through the financial landscape, I have to ask, do you know what your parents have done or are doing? At some point in all our lives, the child becomes the parent. These days it could be simple aging or worse. I wonder, should you have to assume the helm for your parents, do you know how to ask the questions that must be asked? Do you even know what questions need to be asked? In the link provided, Michelle Singletary (a finance writer for the Washington Post) offers some very useful advice. This is critical stuff. Don't wait until it's too late to get the help you need from your parents, putting the pieces of their financial life together. You don't want to be like me, putting it together on the fly and hoping you've got it all, chasing from bank to bank asking if Mrs. X has an account.
Dread talking with aging parents about their finances? Try these tips to start - The Boston Globe
Please read the article and then take a breath and talk to your Mummy and Daddy. Please.