Why Women Need to Understand Finance

My mother, never the best with money, was willing to put out spending a few extra thousand dollars per month when my dad told her that they’d be ok financially when the 401k was available for tapping. While my mother (or my family for that matter) never bought designer clothes or super fancy electronics, my parents still manage to spend, on average, $7k a month between the two of them. I’ve seen some months where they’ve spent $14k!?! Granted, currently that includes my sister’s tuition, the home equity payments, and my father’s medical treatments for his cancer, but most of that $7k is spent on other things that fall into the category of “none of the above.”

When my dad was working he always managed to cover the poor spending habits with his rather large upper middle class salary. Giant credit card bills were paid on time. No one in my family spent wisely, but at least there was a sense of financial responsibility, spending within our means, albeit as an afterthought. And my dad still managed to save up a decent retirement nestegg in his 401k… which before the crash would have been worth around $2M, and now is at $1M.

It’s difficult to explain to your mother that $1M, when you’re spending $7k a month, just doesn’t last that long. My dad tells her now that the 401k is available she can spend $3k per month total — which doesn’t include my father’s bills or the basic home ownership expenses. That should be more than enough. Somehow, it isn’t.

Meanwhile, she’s peeved that my father made it sound like once the 401k came in they’d be ok to spend much more money. She’s finally realizing that she DOES have to pay attention to where the money is going. I find it absolutely ridiculous that she spends $800+ on a weekly maid service for a suburban home with two people living in it… but she wouldn’t want to have to do cleaning, or even go to a bi-weekly setup, so she pays for this service.

I’m admittedly concerned that one day I will have to support my mother because she doesn’t understand that $1M goes fast if you’re spending $100k plus per year. My father, knock on wood, has survived longer than the doctor’s thought he would with his late-stage cancer, and I’m glad about that. However, he doesn’t really care about the well-being of my mother later in life, so always falls back on the “spend the money, I’ll be gone when  you run out.” That’s really helpful, thanks dad.

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