Tag Archives: dad

A Brief Call with my Dad

Five years ago, my father, now 61, was told he had less than two years to live. Diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer, the doctor’s said that the rapid growth of his type of cancer would wreck havoc on his body and treatments could only help postpone the inevitable. Five years later, and dad is – not exactly healthy – but still alive and looking forward to the future.

I’m not very close with my father. He’s extremely narcissistic and judgmental  Every conversation I have with him tends to be the same. Today, I called home expecting my mother to pick up, but instead my dad did.

“Hello?” he said.

“Hi, Dad,” I said.

He recognized my voice and said my name in a sort of overly-dramatic surprised tone.

“How are things with Derek,” he asks, pausing – “I don’t know how to say this but, the biological clock is ticking, and I’d like to be a grandparent…”

He continues later in the conversation “My PSA is at 0 – but I won’t live forever, and your sister isn’t getting married anytime soon. What is Derek doing?”

“He’s looking for a job,” I mumble, because telling the truth about my boyfriend of seven years being extremely depressed and not having sent out one resume yet just would lead to more judgement. Continue reading A Brief Call with my Dad

Facing Reality of Cancer as Autumn Leaves Burn to Umber

As I’ve written about previously, my father has cancer. He was diagnosed three years ago with advanced stage prostate cancer. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I have an interesting relationship with my dad. I wouldn’t say we’re the closet father-daughter pairing in the world, but regardless he’s still my father and I’ve always imagined watching him grow old and having him around as the grandfather to my future children — he was always good with really little kids. I wanted him to meet my kids, and for them to have him as a grandfather. I’ve always known he’d be a much better grandfather then father.

But everyday that goes by, I know this is more and more unlikely of how life will pan out. With cancer, you can be fine one day and the next your conditions can deteriorate rapidly. Living far away, I try to visit often, but in between there is little conversation. He doesn’t like talking about his emotions or what he is going through, though lately he’s admit to being depressed. He won’t admit to being depressed about dying, per say, more so that the drugs they have given him have removed his testosterone and have “feminized” him. Really, though, I know he’s equally, if not more depressed because he’s terminally ill. But I don’t know how to deal with that. He doesn’t want to talk about it. I want to be a support for him, but I don’t know if I can handle it, even if he was willing to talk.

The day today on the east coast is cool and crisp, with a heavy grey sky, and bright yellow leaves on the trees falling off in the wind to dry and die on the ground. Another year has come and gone — and things are slowly changing. Everything is aging, myself included. I don’t like change, but I’m not resistant to it. I’m more in denial about it. That will all change the day my father’s condition gets worse — which is any day now. That will all change when I need to decide how important it is for me to be out here with him through his final days, however long they may be, or to maintain my life across the country, far from his inevitable deathbed. I don’t like to think about it, but it’s getting to a point where I’m going to have to. I don’t know if he would want me here, he hates being seen as weak. But I’d want to be here. It’s strange knowing that in the next year or two, this is something I will have to face. It’s part of life, but he’s still young at 60, and I’m not ready for him to go. I keep hoping that someone will discover a cure for prostate cancer, and everyday there’s a new treatment available, but never a cure.

A Post About Life, Death, and “Stuff”

My father worked his entire life taking a train into the city and home, five days a week, with an hour-and-some-odd-long commute and long hours. He earned good money, enough to support an upper middle class life for myself, my sister, and my stay-at-home mom.

He retired early because he was overweight and couldn’t take the commute anymore. A few years later, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The recession hit and his 401k, once nearing $2 Million, was down to below $1M — still a respectable amount for retirement, but not necessarily enough to support his lifestyle, illness treatment, and my mom’s high-maintenance lifestyle.

Three years ago, my father was told he has two years to live. I’m glad he’s outlived that doctor prediction, but the reality is that it’s unlikely he’s going to live for many more years. He doesn’t want to think about that, or believe that, understandably, so while he complains about his slowly depleting bank account, he’s been spending the last year obsessively purchasing stuff to put in our NJ home. It’s actually really sad, as he’s spending lots of money to fast redecorate the entire home, and completely refurnish rooms, because to him, stuff is important, or at the very least a distraction from reality.

He purchased a $3,000 rug for the dining room, he’s bought paintings for thousands of dollars that have questionable value, but he liked them. He wants the house to look like a museum, now that he has time to shop for art. He complains that building on to the family room cost too much money, yet continues to spend. It’s not my place to say anything about his purchases, but the other reality is I’m going to be the one left to deal with my mother when she runs out of money later in life. And I’ll deal with it when the time comes, but all I want to do is teach my parents how to be responsible with money. It’s not a conversation I can have with my father — he’s worked his whole life while barely living and if acquiring “art,” movies and books makes him happy, then he should be able to do this… even if it means my mother is going to have to learn how to live on less or, more likely, run out of money when she’s 80.

I really hope I can live a life where I never get to the end and feel like I need to rush to spend my money buying stuff to fill the emptiness that extends beyond a few white walls. For now, I’ll continue to be surprised by the latest addition to my family “museum” every trip I take home.


Passing Down Wealth From Generation to Generation

My father is dying of cancer and has a short time left to live. While his health is ok now, his medicines will stop working at some point over the next few years and from then on the cancer will take over and he will get sicker until he passes.

This post is not about my father’s health, but it’s important to note to put this into context.

Previously, many of my readers have left comments offended by a post I wrote about expecting an inheritance. A conversation I had with my dad this weekend over the phone continues this topic.

He told me how “I” need to get my mother to understand that she needs to live off the interest on the 401k. They get $7000 a month and there is no reason that they can’t live on that. (My mom is a spendaholic.)

My dad went on to tell me how he spent his whole life building wealth for the family so it could be passed down to his kids (me and my sister) and that we could pass it down to our children. Both him and my mother grew up in the lower middle class and did not have wealth. Their parents will not be passing down a great deal to them. So he wanted to build wealth up for our family, for the future. He wasn’t trying to make my sister or I rich, but he did want to make sure we didn’t have to worry about not having enough funds to get us through life. Once you have wealth, living off the interest becomes feasible. It’s not about luxury, but it is about having a lofty security blanket for your family – as in – your children and their children and so on.

But it makes me sick to my stomach to think about how in the future, I will be in such an odd spot — when my father passes, it will be up to me to try to make sure his dream lives on. Yet that dream is for my sister and I to obtain an inheritance. My sister has a learning disability and while she can comprehend some of this she is also younger and I don’t think she will understand a great deal of the financial situation (other than wanting the money.) My mother will want to spend it all. I understand finances, saving, living off interest – I could probably teach my mother to do this, but ultimately it would be so that I could get money after she dies.

My mom didn’t work once I was born, so all of the money in savings is from my dad’s years of working many hours to build this wealth. On one hand I feel the responsibility to make sure that the reason my dad worked so hard his whole life (probably causing unnecessary stress and part of the reason he gained so much weight and got sick) lives on, and part of me feels like this isn’t really my business at all besides making sure my mom doesn’t spend everything too quickly – she does need enough money to survive for many years. She’s in her mid 50s so hopefully she’ll be around for a long time.

I do want to make sure my mom doesn’t go crazy with spending, but she could very easily live a luxurious life and spend every penny if she wanted to in the future. And who am I to stop her?

The Weirdest Conversation With My Dad about Saving Money

Maybe my dad’s perspective on saving for retirement has changed since he has cancer and may never make it to see the 401k fruits of his many years of labor, but the phone conversation I had with him earlier today about investing was bizarre.

My dad has never been the frugal type, but he made enough money where his spending was reasonable. He enjoyed eating out, living in a nice-yet-modest home in the burbs, and taking a good vacation with the family once a year. Being as he worked as an actuary, his company provided a sizable pension.

Since my dad is the math and finance expert in the family, I’ve asked him for advice on where to put my savings and how much I should be saving for retirement. His immediate reaction to the question was “why are you saving for retirement now you’re only, what, 25?” I’ll let my dad off the hook for not being sure how old I am for the time being (I’m not sure if he’s 57 or 58, so that’s ok), but it kind of irks me that he almost thinks it laughable that I’m attempting to save for the long run.

His response about long-term saving is that I shouldn’t worry, that the “inheritance” will “cover” my retirement. (A lot of you were upset at me in an earlier entry when I wrote about expecting a sizable inheritance in the future, but this is where I get the idea from!) Still, I’ve realized that I’m not going to expect that or rely on it, because who knows what will happen over the coming years. If I end up retiring with a butt load of money that I didn’t expect, all the better, I can donate it or give it to my hypothetical kids. In the meanwhile, I want to save $5M for my retirement.

So I go on to ask my dad where I should save the money, if not in a long-term account. He seemed perplexed why I didn’t want to spend it. “Enjoy life” were his exact words. Again, the fact that he now has a terminal illness might influence his advice a bit. He wouldn’t advise wasting the money on clothes or such (which is a bad habit of my mother), but other things like travel, sure.

That’s not to say I haven’t or won’t spend my money. I spent a lot in the past year on travel. Going home ($300 flights twice a year), my trip to Israel… all of that added up. And to be honest, I’m still not clear on where my net worth ended up for 2008. I feel like I spent a lot. And I did… if my taxes actually were 50% of my total income for 2008 I’d be at a loss for the year (though that’s also due to losing “thousands” in the market like everyone else). But I save a lot for my taxes and I’m pretty sure I’ll end up getting some money “back” (which really just means I’ll move the money from my “taxes” account that I ignore to a savings account that is included in my networth).

2009 is going to be a totally different story. With my promotion at work, as long as I can keep the job (and I plan to) I’ll be making quite a bit of money. Of course, it’s all relative, and it’s super easy to spend it all on things I don’t need. My cost of living is really low for someone my age in my location.

But I foresee a lot of major expenses in the next 10 years including, but not limited to, grad school, a house, a “new” likely used car, infertility treatments if I want kids ($20k a kid is not out of the question, and who knows if it will even work), etc, etc, etc.

All of those things cost a lot of money, which makes me so confused about saving. I only have about $1500 a month after taxes and rent/bills, even with my pay increase. Which is a lot, but not a lot, a lot. As I said earlier in this post, it’s so easy for me to spend that in a few days at the mall. Or at least a huge chunk of it.

I’m not planning on doing that this year. I want to spend this year, well, not spending. To see just how much I can save. I’m not going to live “frugally” but I am going to live well within my means. I just don’t know where to save the money.

I’m so tempted to put a lot of it into the stock market. Worst case scenerio it gets stuck in there long term because the stock market takes a while to recover and at some point it pulls out. That doesn’t seem wise. I’m planning on maxing out my Roth by putting $400 a month into the account. So that leaves me with $1000, give or take. $1000 a month isn’t that much, if that’s going to everything from vacation to clothes and other savings.

And I’m so so so fortunate to have the luxury to ask my dad about what to do with my extra savings. And to ask the finance guy at my company if we’ll get a 401k and be embarrassed to admit that I’m maxing out my Roth IRA at 25 and would like another tax advantaged account to put more money away for retirement.

Or maybe all of this retirement savings talk is teaching me the right things and wrong things at the same time. Maybe I should be saving my $5k a year for retirement, but beyond that it might be wise to invest elsewhere, for the short term. I’m pretty sure I want to do grad school within the next 3 years, and that ain’t cheap.

My dad has mentioned that when he can get into his 401k he’d “help” me out with grad school costs, but a part of me doesn’t want the favor. It’s tough to say “no” to that kind of offer, but I’m at a point in my life where I take pride in paying for my pursuits. I didn’t do that all through undergrad, and everything seemed worthless. I mean, I knew it was expensive, but it wasn’t something I paid for, something I earned or would have to earn in the future. Now my life – it’s really mine. Because I pay the bills. Because I have the choice to go to grad school and take out a loan, and pay it back. I guess I just want to feel normal, when it comes to finances. I grew up so spoiled in relation to the rest of the world and I’m tired of it.

But I’m also terrible at spending on big purchases, even if it’s things I really want but don’t need… like laser hair removal on my face (I have a hormonal disorder called PCOS that causes hair to grow where it shouldn’t which really sucks) and maybe Lasik for my eyes. I did pay $300 for Brite Smile this past year (I’ll post a review about the treatment tomorrow) which was huge for me, but I wanted to treat myself. Instead of wasting the money on clothes. I’d waste the money on brightening my teeth a few shades. Waste of money? Maybe. But it felt better than wasting money at the supermarket on things that went bad before I got around to eating them.

Moving on Down, and Saving My Pennies

My rent has gone from $1050 a month to about $650 a month. This move, which is saving me a good $400+ a month, is probably the best decision I’ve made in my life. Even though my gas $ will be going up, I still think I’m going to end up saving at least $300 a month, and that doesn’t even include the additional $250 that I would have had to pay if I stayed at my apartment and accepted the ridiculous rent increase.

It’s kind of weird making these smart financial decisions now. I always relied on my dad to make those in the past. I didn’t go totally overboard on my living situation previously, but given how much I was making, I definitely should have gotten roommates. Now, I’m making enough to live alone, barely, but I’ve realized that just because you make enough money to spend it, doesn’t mean you actually should.

Instead, I’m going to really focus on saving money now. I’m pretty sure I want to go back to grad school at some point, prob for a degree in Human Computer Interaction (Berkeley has an awesome program) and I’m starting to take programming classes at the local community college (which happens to be a few minute walk from my new apartment) to make sure that’s the right path for me – but I’m pretty sure it is. I need to learn the programming side and the research side, and then I’m ready to become a key player in web 3.0…

In the meantime, I’m dealing with some other things. Speaking of my father and his wisdom, it won’t be around for much longer. He was recently diagnosed with advanced stage prostate cancer. I knew he probably had cancer, but wasn’t really prepared to hear this. Basically that means he has a few years to live, at best. Well, what this means, besides all the emotional havoc it’s having on me and my family, is that all that money I’m saving on not renting the more expensive place might be spent on plane tickets. It costs about $400 to fly across the country these days. Ugh.

And it really is going to be time for me to step in and help my parents with sorting out finances for the future. My mom is such a duntz when it comes to that sort of stuff – I get my bad spending habits from her. My dad’s mostly a saver, and I’d like to be more like him. It makes me nervous to think that I’m going to have to take over for him, at some point.

Meanwhile, just the thought of losing him is really hard to deal with. We’re not really that close, and for most of my life I hated the guy, but he’s done a lot for me and my family outside of the mental and physical abuse, including working hard for most of his life and making sure we had enough money to live very comfortably. It’s tough to know that he’s worked so hard for most of his years – he just retired like a year or two ago – even though he is only in his late 50s – and now he’s looking at the end. He won’t get to enjoy retirement or that huge 401k he’s accumulated. Or he likely won’t… besides facing the fact that the cancer treatment will stop working in 1-10 years, he also is dealing with so many other medical issues. He can’t even enjoy his last few years on this earth, because all he does is sleep all day. I can’t tell how much is because he’s weak and how much is just depression. Regardless, it makes me sad to think of the life he’s led, working so hard, married to a woman he doesn’t love, saving up for retirement… and then, he gets to retirement, and he’s sick, and he’s dying…

It makes you think twice about the value of saving so much for so long. Not that I won’t be putting money away for retirement or focusing on getting and staying healthy so I can live to enjoy it, but… some people don’t make it that far. And our entire society is set up to work and work and save and save… but then what? What if that’s all you get?