For university, HomeEquity Bank’s Executive Vice President, Yvonne Ziomecki told both her daughters that she would cover all their costs for their first year but that, beyond that, she would only pay tuition fees, so they would need to save money for food, accommodation and any treats.
Sophie, her eldest daughter, found a job at Starbucks before classes even started. She continued to work through school, landed amazing jobs, saved money and learned to invest. She began budgeting and planning her meals and figured out where and how to shop for groceries. Sophie made smart decisions about her housing, picking an apartment based on safety and affordability, not on fancy countertops and building amenities.
Ziomecki already knows that Helen, her younger daughter, will follow in her sister’s footsteps. “Helen is very good at managing her money,” she says. “She can differentiate between needs and wants, and she knows that life experiences give you a lot more joy than material possessions.”
While her children are young, Ziomecki makes a point of talking about finances to them. She wants Sophie and Helen to see her managing the household finances and for them to know they can always approach her if they ever have any questions about money. Yvonne has also broached the difficult subjects with her girls, the ones so many of us are hesitant to mention to our children. We all know what they are: wills, power of attorney, inheritance and last wishes regarding end-of-life care and legacies.
Talking to our children about these issues, be they teenagers or middle-aged adults, is never simple, but the earlier we begin, the easier it will be—and the fewer surprises there will be for our kids when tough decisions need to be made. As one ER doctor said to me, “The worst place to make life decisions is in the emergency room.”
In Home Run, Ziomecki offers clear-cut, practical advice about how to talk to your children about money, how to introduce the subject and how to be patient with offspring who might be new to these topics or from whom you’ve kept financial secrets.
After reading the advice Ziomecki provides in the book, I have decided to be more open with my daughter, Hannah. I don’t beat around the bush anymore. We discuss my intentions for her inheritance and my end-of-life health decisions. I’ve written a legacy letter addressed to Hannah and my husband and left copies in my top desk drawer. I’ve reviewed my will and I intend to update it every five years so that it’s kept up to date.
If you’re thinking of introducing the idea of a reverse mortgage to your children, Ziomecki suggests the following: “You should have this conversation after you’ve researched the reverse mortgage option and maybe even after you’ve applied, but before you’ve signed on, so that you can genuinely solicit their input. If you’re having the conversation at a point when you’ve already made a decision and you’re not so much soliciting information as you are keeping your children informed, you could say something like ‘I just wanted to let you know I’m applying for a reverse mortgage, so you feel like you’re in the loop and there’s no tension when I take action. I hope you will be supportive.’ Don’t ask for a reaction right away, and don’t rush the conversation.”
“For the reverse mortgage conversation, think about the reasons why you’re thinking about it or have decided to move forward with it,” Ziomecki writes. “Outline the reasons why you feel that staying in your house is the best option for you, and tell your children about your plans for the money. If you haven’t addressed this before, it might make you feel a bit awkward to be this transparent about financial matters, but we think the upside is that your children will feel happy that you’ve let them into your life a little more.”
My own parents, old school like they were, kept me out of the loop completely. I had absolutely no idea what their finances looked like, what was in their wills or how they wished to handle their health care needs. I was 29 when my father passed away and 39 when my mother died. As their only child, both their care needs and their financial affairs landed in my lap. I was unprepared. It was an immense burden both psychologically and in terms of having to figure out how to properly manage their financial matters.
I’m handling it differently for my daughter. Being open with her about finances allows me to sleep soundly at night—and that’s worth more than money can buy.