Our Parents’ Money

The 2012 Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism were announced earlier this week, and the winner in the personal finance category was the staff at Money magazine for their series on “Protecting Your Parents,” which focuses on how to help your parents manage their money when they begin to lose their bearings due to age, and how to make sure they don’t get scammed by sharks (i.e. people who invite seniors to a free dinner at a hotel, and then try to sell them poor investments).

My parents are amazing, because they came to this country with basically nothing, built a respectable middle class life for themselves, and sent three kids to college. This all came with a price, and I didn’t know what that price was until I sat down with my mom one day and just asked her point blank how she and my dad were keeping it together.

How much did they still owe on their mortgage? How much credit card debt did they have? How much did my dad have in his retirement account? When do they imagine that they’ll be able to stop working some day (my parents are both in their 50s)?

It was both an easy and difficult discussion to have (and continues to be). I braced myself for the numbers because I understood what those numbers would mean for me, their son, who would probably support them in their old age (it’s a cultural thing, as previously discussed), because that’s how things have been done in my family for generations.

But having everything out in the open has been a great thing because it means I get to plan ahead for them, rather than have a bunch of surprises hit me all at once when I’m in my 40s and financially deep in whatever life I’ll be living then.

Photo: Shutterstock/Jonathan Choo