Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The F Word

I just had one of the most difficult conversations that I have ever had with my mother. I have been in trouble. I have told her that I was gay. I have nearly failed out of school. I have had all sorts of conversations with my mother over the years but none was as real as the one we just had. It was about one of the single most non-talked about issues in my family. It was about finances. It was about financial well being.

Right now I am frustrated and sad. I am frustrated because I feel helpless because there is so much that I feel like I cant do and have not done. I have but a thimble full of knowledge about personal finances but I wish that all at once I could pour it into her and she would find herself full and empowered. But I know that it does not happen like that and I wonder how could I learn what I have and she in her years hasn’t learned as much or more.

I am sad because I know where her journey could lead her. Just the other day I spoke with Oh-Canada about my deepest fears about the financial well being of my very working class family. I have prayed for years that God would continue to keep us in good spirits and in good health. As we grow older my prayers for good health has taken on more meaning and I have extended my prayers to include prosperity and favor. My mother is aging. My older sister and brother aren’t young as they once were either. I wonder how will they/we survive.

It had been heavy on my heart for the past few days. I suppose that it came to the forefront of my thoughts some months ago really. My mother is still working and she is getting up there and as I begin to think about my mortality and how I will take care of myself when I am old, I turn my attention to her as well. The woman who cared for and nurtured me, the woman who loves me more than anyone on this Earth, how will she take care of herself in her golden years? Will I be charged with taking care of her? What am I doing to prepare myself to take care of the both of us if need be. She is my mother and as long as I have, so does she.

So tonight, I called her when I got home from work and just flat out asked her what she was doing. Her answers were not enough. I took out a pen, paper and a calculator and started asking her questions to really get to the bottom of her financial state. As a child she and I never talked about money. As an adult, until tonight we had never really had an open discussion about it either. She only knew that I always paid my bills. For her that was enough. One thing I asked her tonight was who does she talk to about her financial security. She said that she spoke to no one.

I told her that she goes to her preacher or her women’s group when she needs spiritual guidance, and that she calls her doctor when she is has an ache or pain or just wants to schedule her annual physical and in the same token, professional or knowledgeable friend she had to start talking to someone about her finances and her plan for financial well being. There were times on the phone when I was shocked. There were times when I felt sympathetic because I knew that some of the reason that she had gone without in the past was because she was making sure that I did not go with out anything. Now, who was looking after her?

We developed a strategy to reduce her short term debt and we also had a very tough conversation about reducing her monthly lifestyle expenses so that she could increase her monthly savings. What made that so hard wasn’t talking about the thing that she was going to cut – but the reason she enjoyed that ‘luxury.’ I knew it meant a lot to her but I couldn’t support it.

I still feel all over the place. I am glad that we had the conversation and I know that it was good and better results will come from it. I hope that she will become more empowered and make sound and reasonable decisions about her spending. I told her that there was not a human being on the face of this Earth that I loved or valued more and that I wanted her to place that same value on herself. Minutes after the conversation, I suppose now I don’t feel as helpless because I think that I may have been able to provide a path and Lord willing some hope.