When it comes to money, everyone has an opinion: How to earn it, how to save it and how to spend it.
Growing up, I was taught to “save for a rainy day,” and it seems many families in Berks County have had the same upbringing. The question is, as we age, how will we know when it's “a rainy day”?
Through my work at Comfort Keepers, I consult with families who are dealing with the challenges of aging parents and loved ones. These elder family members have likely saved their whole lives, many being from the “greatest generation.” While home modifications, hiring a lawn service, having in-home care or even moving to a retirement community might make their lives easier, they are not quick to part with their money or even entertain the thought of spending money on such things. But isn't this the “rainy season?”
Many folks insist they simply want to “leave an inheritance.” I remember my own parents telling me that one time.
My parents had a stone driveway, about a half-mile long, leading past a horse barn and up to their home and detached garage. It was a very nice stone driveway as far as stone driveways go, but every winter during snow plowing season, there were random deposits of stones to either side of the driveway. It was unsightly and likely harmful to the mower, so every spring my parents would spend hours raking the stones from the grass. Year after year, this ritual continued.
I finally asked my parents why they hadn't yet invested in paving their driveway? The answer my dad gave me: “We're saving it for your inheritance.”
Whether he was kidding or serious, my reply was: “I'd rather you spend my inheritance now, so I can see you enjoy it!”
A few years later they finally paved that driveway.
Was it cheap? No. Was it absolutely necessary? No. Did it make their lives easier? Yes. Did they have more time to do things they enjoyed? Yes.
Sometimes folks just don't want to spend their money. Maybe they think it's selfish, perhaps they are afraid they will run out of money, or a whole host of other reasons founded and unfounded. But the bottom line is that for many of our aging loved ones of advanced age, this is the “rainy season.” This is exactly the time that they should be spending their money.
The most important time to have a serious conversation about a serious topic, such as money, is prior to a crisis. Round up the family and have a chat over some comfort food, such as pie and ice cream. Talk about the scenarios that they might face in the future (mobility issues in a bi-level home, bathing challenges in a home with only a second-floor full bath, driving concerns because of failing eyesight or using a stove when forgetfulness becomes more common). Discuss what they see value in spending their money on and what the scenarios would be for that decision to be made. .
I still believe in saving for a “rainy day,” but define what “rainy day” means to you so that you are not caught unprepared in the middle of a monsoon.