Tag Archives: parents

Using Mint.com to Teach My Mom About Personal Finance

My mom has a habit of… spending. And spending. And spending some more.

With my dad’s current state of health, it is more important than ever for her to learn about where the money goes and where it comes from. Living across the country from my mom, it’s really hard to teach her the ins and outs of personal finance.

With Mint.com, however, the distance education is possible.

My mom doesn’t get bills, but she does get the trend charts that break down her spending in pie graph form. She’s starting to get into seeing where her money is going, and that’s a huge leap for her. She’s not at the point yet where she’ll stop spending, but knowing that she’ll have to see her transactions appear in a pie chart make her think twice before spending.

She’s having some trouble adding all her accounts to the site and long distance debugging w/ my technically illiterate mother is difficult. But Mint’s UI is quality — even my mom can figure out how to use it, and that says a lot.

Have you gotten your parents or older friends/family to sign up for Mint (or another personal finance online site)?

My Parents Make Me Sad

[edited to add: a lot of you have left comments offended by my question if it’s wrong to hope for some inheritance from one’s parents one day down the road. I responded to the comments, but also wanted to note higher up in the post for future readers — I agree my parents owe me nothing. They have already given me so much, and for that I’m grateful. My father raised me and my sister always mentioning how one day we’d get the house a long time in the future, so in the back of my mind I just thought that would happen. My dad worked his whole life spending 8 hours a day plus a long hour-and-a-half commute, and he made a sizable income. My mother, who took care of the kids and house, always spent frivolously and taught me very bad spending habits. She is very narcissistic and only thinks about others when it benefits her. Thus, my hurt more than anything is the difference between the way my father thinks in terms of leaving something behind to his children versus the selfish nature of my mother. My father is dying of cancer and my mother will likely survive much longer than him, with all the money he saved hard all his life to have and spend in retirement. Ultimately, while an inheritance would be nice, I’m not expecting it or depending on it. It’s more of the principle of the matter, if that makes any sense. One day when I have children and get older, I want to be able to leave them something, to have something to pass on after my life. I don’t want them to expect that of me, but as a mother that’s something I’d like to do if I have the financial means. In much of history and even today, a person’s wealth is determined by two things – family and ability. Maybe with a little luck thrown in. If you want to judge me for thinking about these things, go ahead. I’m sure I’m not the first person to think them and I won’t be the last.]

My dad, now retired and receiving a pension of over $4k a month, is watching his money flush down the train, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Well, perhaps there is, but any reasonable way of maintaining financial sanity within my family is overwhelmed by his inability to be rational and my mother’s complete lack of ability to comprehend reality.

I tried to help my family out. When I went home, I found out a bit more about the financial situation. My dad is retired, he has a little under $1 Mil in the 401k, which is less than it was, of course, since the market is in the shitter. That’s a decent sum for retirement, I guess, though they do say you should save $1 mil per adult, and that’s $1 Mil for 2. Regardless, that should be enough, if spending is wise. It doesn’t even have to be frugal. But my mom refuses to accept that money, even that much money, is finite.

So they took out a $190k home equity loan to build on a new room to the house recently, and while my dad is keeping up on paying the interest, he isn’t paying off more than a few hundred dollars of the principal every other month or so. He can’t. My mom is spending something like $7000 a month. Or more. It’s really sad. That’s on top of what my dad spends on living… mostly food and medical bills (oh, yea, he has cancer, and has tons of co-pays for his doctor’s appointments and drugs).

They don’t need to be spending that much. It’s mostly my mom’s fault when it comes to this. My dad doesn’t buy a lot. He has to spend the money on his medical bills. But my mom is just ridiculous. She spent $1000 on 5 pairs of shoes recently. When I ask her why she needed 5 pairs of shoes, she explains that when she finds something that fits she has to buy it, and a lot of it, because what if she never finds something that fits again?

Beyond the clothes, there’s jewelery, makeup, a cleaning service that costs $800 a month (to clean the house once a week), overspending on groceries ($800 a month), etc, etc. And of course the few hundred on QVC each month. Which she watches picture-in-picture on her big-screen TV at all times to make sure she doesn’t miss out on deals.

So… is it wrong to be upset that she will spend away any inheritance I might have otherwise one day seen? My dad is more of a saver than a spender, and he always said that he saved up enough money that one day he’d pass it on to us, his two daughters. But he’s not going to live as long as my mother is and she’ll be left with all of his savings to spend into debt. And that’s what she’ll do. At this rate, I don’t think 1 mil minus the $190 in home equity minus my sister’s college education will last her.

Even without considering a potential inheritance, this situation is whack. I keep trying to tell my mom to get a job but she says she doesn’t have time. Yea, because she’s spending her whole life glued to the TV and QVC. She says she spends all day cleaning, and the house is never clean enough, yada yada. It’s one excuse after another. My mom is absolutely crazy.

My dad has given up at trying to get her to budget. She doesn’t listen. He used to scream about it. Now he just screams about other things. It’s so messed up. And I can’t do anything about it… except just be wise about my own financial life. It’s hard to change my psychology of spending based on how my parents taught me about money, but I’m trying… really, really hard. Ok, sort of hard.

Living Under My Parents Roof

I’m now on the East Coast, in my parent’s house, where I’m quickly reminded of what life would be like had I decided to move back home three years ago after graduating college. I’m pulling my hair out in reaction to my mother’s screeching voice and father’s bad temper, even though it is nice to stay in a large air-conditioned house and spend some time in my old bedroom.

The big benefit of staying here is the free food. Of course, if I lived here for real, the food would not be free as I’d have to contribute. Or at least I’d feel guilty if I wasn’t contributing and I had a job. I went out to a big dinner with the family last night in NYC and I ordered a nice fish dinner and wine. It was nice to not think about the bill.

But sans the financial benefits, I could not deal with living here. Within the 24+ hours of being in this house, my parents have already had about three fights. The more time I spend away from my mother, the more I realize that she really is crazy and annoying instead of just being a typical “mother annoying.” She’s nuts. She is obsessed with controlling everyone else’s life, down to what people are going to talk about. She even sometimes has a conversation FOR two other people. Meanwhile, my dad has absolutely no patience for her, and his hot temper is the first thing that comes out the second she says something stupid. Which is often. It’s not even what she says so much as how she says it. She doesn’t get that she constantly talks down to people because she just assumes everyone is thinking what she’s thinking and if they’re not then they’re being dumb. Crazy, real crazy. My poor dad, who isn’t innocent in the least, has worked his whole life to make money for her (and us, the kids) to spend and he’s, well, he’s been miserable for a long time. Sure, he has the house, a nice house at that. And two kids… we’re ok, I guess. But what else? Her?

Maybe someone could appreciate her. She’d do well with a boyfriend who wants to be controlled. There are guys out there who like that. Not my dad. He just snaps.

My Father is Sick, My Mother Doesn’t Even Know How to Pay the Bills

Far across the country, my father is lying in bed, fighting off illness, and my mother is fretting that the lights are going to turn off because the electric bill hasn’t been paid.

My dad is in his late 50s and has been suffering from diabetes and obesity for years. He has refused to treat his condition properly, and has not taken the insulin prescribed to him because he said that it was impossible to lose weight on it. Of course, the way he eats with no exercise, it’s not possible to lose weight in a healthy way.

He’s supposed to go to the doctor to get checkups every few months but he hadn’t been to the doctor in over a year. That is, until this past week, when his health quickly deteriorated and has left him bed ridden.

But, being the stubborn guy that he is, he’s still telling my mom to bring him the bills to pay. He can’t even get out of the bed, yet he won’t let her pay the bills.

The saddest thing of all might be the fact that my mother doesn’t even know how to pay the bills to begin with. I mean, she could pay them, but she has no idea how much money my dad has in his accounts, or how much is saved for their future. If any credit card bills don’t get paid, it’s on her credit history as much as it is his.

My father finally went to the doctor. It sounds like there are more problems than just the discomforting illness that sent him into the doctor in the first place. They did some blood work and determined that there’s something wrong with his prostate. It’s either an infection or cancer, apparently. They’re giving him antibiotics to try to clear up the infection but if that doesn’t work it might be malignant.

Given that my dad hasn’t been to the doctor in forever, he’s probably waited too long to treat any sort of cancer if that indeed is his infliction.

My father and I don’t have a close relationship, but I’m still scared for him, and for my mom. I’ve accepted for a long time that he could just die and be gone any day, the way he takes care of himself. Still, I don’t want it to happen, obviously.

My mom said he hasn’t said he’s scared, but he at the very least admitted to her that she was right – that he should have gone to the doctor sooner. For anyone who knows my dad, him admitting to my mom that she was right says a lot about his view on his condition at this point.

He’s been in the hospital before, but it wasn’t enough to scare him to get healthy. He doesn’t seem to believe he can, or he doesn’t care to do it.

I want him to grow old and be around to be the grandparent of my children one day. He’s not the best guy in the world, he has his issues, he was abusive to me when I was a kid, and he’s emotional abusive and somewhat physically abusive to my mother at times. Still, deep down inside of him, there’s a good guy there. And I want that good guy to grow old and be around for a while.

And then, logistically, there’s the real concern of what would happen now if he did pass away. My mother wouldn’t know what to do with the money at all. I have a feeling my dad has a decent amount saved in 401ks, etc, but if my mom knew just how much they had she’d go and spend it all. Of course I wouldn’t let her do that – and she’d listen to me. She admits she knows nothing about managing the household money. I’d have to step in and take charge of all of that, probably – from figuring out my sister’s potential college education to the cost of my mom supporting herself, etc, etc.

I’ve always figured it would happen – some day – but I’m not ready for it to happen quite yet.

Maybe I’m thinking too far ahead of myself. My dad could just have an infection and he could get better soon. And if that’s the case things will just go on as they’ve been… he’ll continue to be stubborn and my mom will continue to be clueless.

First Generation with Fiscal Suckage?

Frugal Zeigeist has a great post today about whether we’re the “first generation to be worse off than our parents.” She writes:

…I’d say that I’m way behind because of the way the work world has changed. My dad worked for a single employer in Canada and a single employer in the US; although he went through reorganizations, I don’t think he ever worried about layoffs or downsizing the way I do. He also has traditional pensions both from his years of work in Canada and from working in the US. Between that and Social Security, my parents have never had to touch their retirement savings. — Frugal Zeitgeist

At my age (24), my parents were living in New York City, renting an apartment. In a couple of years their apartment would go ‘co-op,’ and they’d buy and sell their place within a few years for enough profit to put a down payment on the house in New Jersey where I grew up.

My mom was a fashion designer, working for fairly low wages, and my father was… well, I think he was a grad student when he was 24. He was going to grad school for physics but dropped out and ended up working as an actuary (pension planner). He stayed with the same company UNTIL HE RETIRED. He obviously had a good pension plan in place as well. My mom… she stopped working as a fashion designer 10 years into her career to have children (waves).

I’m not sure where they were financially at 24. Were they struggling? Possibly. I assume that if my father had started his job as an actuary, his entry-level salary was probably pretty high. And back then it wasn’t so painfully expensive to live in a city like New York. Then they got lucky with buying their condo and selling it, and the rest is history.

Looking at where I’m at now, I don’t see myself buying a condo anytime soon. It’s not that it would be entirely impossible to make enough money to buy a small studio apartment, but I’d have to live extremely frugally and, even more so, I’d have to be sure I want to stay in this area for the foreseeable future. And I’m just not ready to make that kind of commitment.

Then again, the housing market seems to be pretty attractive right now. I don’t know a lot about it other than the fact that lots of people are losing their houses because they can’t afford their mortgages. That’s sad for them, but good for potential buyers.

I don’t want to just sit back and watch another housing boom happen without having the opportunity to partake. Still, I don’t think I’m ready to buy a condo.

So, instead, I spend $12,600 a year on rent. Ouch.

My 25-year-old boyfriend… he lives at home and works part time. I don’t think he’s ready to make that commitment either. :X

I wonder how much monthly payment on a studio condo would be. Would that help me be as successful as my parents were at my age?

In any case, Frugal makes this important point:

They key point that this thought exercise brought out for me is this: The rules of the game have changed big-time. In the modern economy, the cards are stacked in such a way that if I’m ever going to be better off than my parents, I can’t rely on employers or government to lend a helping hand as a reward for loyalty or years of service. It’s definitely possible to end up being better off than my parents ever were, but I have to make it happen on my own. — Frugal Zeitgeist

Personally I think the opportunity to switch employers and make oneself more of a commodity is to the advantage of the employee. It might hurt when it comes to long-term savings, but salaries (and benefits) are higher if the employee has well-sought skills.

Here’s to hoping that my skills will develop into ones that people want to pay me for!