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Long Term Care

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Through a series of tragic events, my dad’s sister has entered her late 70’s without any of her 5 children willing or able to take care of her (2 passed away and the other 3 for unknown reasons).   My Dad and his sis are not close  and the fact that she ended up retiring to SA after visiting here only once from the Bronx, NY (where Dad is originally from)  is still somewhat a mystery.  I met her one time prior to her moving here when I was in the 8th grade.  Without sounding harsh, I have to say that I am not particularly close to my Aunt.   I do, along with the rest of my immediate family, want her to be taken care of and in a good situation.  Over the course of the 15 years she has lived in Texas life has brought her unthinkable challenges.  The worst of these challenges was the loss of the three family members she moved to Texas with…in three consecutive Decembers.  She lost her husband, her daughter and then her son one after the other…each December for three years.  

For the next few years my elderly parents did their best to care for my aging aunt.  She was not in good health and the stress was taking its toll on my sweet parents.  My two sisters and I along with my parents then handled another few years working all together to get her what she needed and to keep her in her own home.  Ultimately we had to move her to a “senior apartment” where she lived well for about 5 years.  Then–last year–things got to the point that we knew we had to put her in a nursing home.  I hold power of attorney to handle financial and legal issues and I knew it fell to me to make this tough decision.  I say tough not because my aunt was objecting (really–she was pretty cooperative but sadly somewhat unable to fully understand) but instead because of my own mother.  At 80 years old herself the task of putting a loved one in a nursing home while facing her own physical limitations was very stressful for my mom.  We all got through it but not without a lot of tears, frustration, disagreements….etc.

Aside from the emotional impact that this had, I was ASTONISHED at the financial impact!  My aunt worked much of her life as a Registered Nurse and her husband worked for the City of New York.  Her monthly income was right around $2500 a month and as some of you know I’m sure…that won’t touch the monthly cost of a nursing home.  I was forced to do a spendown of her accounts so that she could receive assistance for her long term care.  She didn’t have a lot of money in her accounts and no longer owned property but it was SO SAD and felt just SO WRONG to have to handle it this way.  After months and months of getting everything in order things are okay now and she is well taken care of and doing much better overall.  The kids and I visit as often as possible.  I think this is both good for the kids but I also love brightening the faces of the nursing home residents!

So I am writing this post because this experience made me stop and think about long term care.  I have done no research at this point but am curious if any of you have insight on the topic of purchasing a long term care insurance policy.  I’m not going to run out and get this tomorrow but after seeing what this did to my aunt and to my parents (thankfully they DO have their long term care plans in place…as well as their funeral arrangements DONE…thank you Dad for saving your five children that stress!), I just want a timeline in my head at this point.  Feedback welcome!  🙂


Our history is never far away–Part III (and final)

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For those who have missed it, you may also be interested in Our history is never far away — Part I and Our history is never far away — Part II

After 2 years of separate and individual accounts we had an “a-ha!” moment in December of 2011 and by January 1, 2012 we agreed to combine everything–the good, the bad and the ugly.  SO, it is to be expected that we will have these growing pains.  We DO need help finding and maintaining open dialogue so that issues don’t fester and then overflow in a bad way.  It is a matter of trial and error to a great extent and we have to be patient and give ourselves a break.  Let’s face it–there is a reasongthat a full 70% of second marriages don’t make it…the stress is nothing that can be explained until you experience it.  I believe we can make a choice each and every day to respect,  honor and celebrate one another instead of engaging in negative behavior based in resentment.  When we do that, we see the beautiful gift that we are to one another.

We are adjusting to a new way of thinking.  It can be very frustrating to stop and think about what we spend when we’ve never done that before.  That is not to say that stopping and thinking are bad things but instead NEW things.  Change is uncomfortable!  Change takes thought.  I think that sometimes it is easier to criticize the other for a perception that they are unwilling or slow to change instead of just focusing on our individual shortcomings.

Sigh.  It’s just hard work.  That’s all it boils down to…but the rewards are worth it!  I can’t wait to look back and see how far we’ve come!  🙂


Our history is never far away–Part II

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(For those that may have missed it: Our history is never far away — Part I)

At this time I was not ready to face my own crisis with debt.  In fact, his financial situation was a nice distraction from my own.  Let me clear about something–yes, the $55K or so in credit card debt is in my name but at least a small portion of that is from this time period where I bridged a gap created by the unfortunate work situation he faced.  While he does not have debt, he is a spender and definitely spent more than he was “guaranteed” to earn but would then “take care of it” with the big commission checks that always seemed to come at the right time. He ended up being hired in a new position with the same company and for the first time in his career, there was no commission involved with this position.  That appeals to my personality because I like the “known” but it doesn’t really match his personality as he rather have the opportunity to work harder and make more money.  He does now have a salary that covers all of his obligations which is very important to him and I am able to meet all of my obligations with my salary, but neither of us would have a lot left over to make progress of savings or debt reduction without combining our efforts. I think it is critical that we not look at this as “yours and mine” b/c it creates such tension and resentment.  That is what kept us stuck for so long.  I really believe that it all happened for a reason and that is to teach two fiercely independent personalities that relying on one another can be mutually beneficial, humbling AND empowering all at the same time.  And I was and am completely ready to move forward with a joint effort to tackle our financial demons…but…

As we enter the fourth week of “Operation Debt Wipe Out” I sense some tension similar to those early days of our marriage.  Maybe he resents the fact that the majority of the credit card debt is mine or maybe he wishes he saved more money when he got those huge commission checks…I’m not sure.   I know there needs to be open communication about all of this and am taking to heart the very, very valid tips you provide in your comments…and we will get there.  But as someone pointed out in a comment, a blended family is a tough, tough situation!  Thank you to the 33-year survivor for sharing b/c sometimes you do feel very much like you are alone so that was wonderful to read.  We’ve been married just 2 years and 3 months and have faced some gigantic challenges already with more to come and some days it just seems like we’ll never be in the same financial book…let alone on the same page.

Finally, as for the question about my husband doing a guest post…oh how I hope one day that will come to be!  At this point, his place on the journey is such that I’m not sure he is even looking at the blog.  I DID discuss it with him at length before agreeing to proceed and I know he wanted to be supportive of this option but it does make him (and me) feel very, VERY vulnerable…clearly not our strongest trait…which also happened for a reason. Time is all that can help–that and progress–so that he can see the good out of my sharing.

Oh and if this post is too long well…so be it.  Writing comes very easily to me and I regret if reading it isn’t as easy for some of you readers.

This is me.


Our history is never far away-Part 1

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As we work to get household expenses under control I sense the tension rising.  You remember that I shared early on that my husband and I had an extremely difficult time combining finances when we married.  There was silence and fights and more fights.  As of late last year we seemed to get on the same page recognizing that we each had major flaws on our respective side of the fence.  I told you that all of the debt was mine but what I didn’t tell you is the month after we married, his compensation set up at his job dramatically changed.  When I say dramatically I’m talking about him not being able to make his house payment along with his regular living expenses and the raising of his two boys.  Due to unhealthy patterns between us and basic communication styles, he didn’t tell me about the compensation change.  To some extent, I “get” the secrecy–prior to meeting me he had been the sole breadwinner for his family and his first wife stayed home with their children.  To suddenly find himself unable to make his bills (none of which were debt…except his mortgage) was very difficult for him to face.  To suddenly find himself needing to rely on his wife for money to make monthly bills was impossible for him to face.  So he spent 3 months “treading water” until I discovered the situation with a notice from his bank arriving in the mail…with a different color piece of paper showing through the window.  I did not open his mail but this certainly alerted me to things not being okay.  I gently inquired and that was when he told me that his monthly pay had dropped by a huge amount and he was not okay.  We then spent a good 6 months of 2010 trying to right the situation in a “triage” sort of way—just trying to stay ahead of the tidal wave.

In the next few days I will be sharing this part of the journey.  The tension I’ve noticed this weekend reminded me of this part of our history and I want to share it as much as for you to know the background and for me to remember that part of our history– so we don’t find ourselves repeating it.

 


More Info About Me

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There’s so much to share! We’ll get there with time but after reading some comments today I do want to let everyone know a little bit more about who…and where…I am! I live in the San Antonio, Texas area…so urban to answer that question…even though it IS Texas and many people think that Texas is synonymous with rural. 🙂

My husband and I both work outside the home and make a very good combined income. I don’t know that I am ready to share the number just based on what milk and ramen created in the comments! If some of you see our combined income I really may have to go into hiding for a few weeks while the cyber-tomatoes are thrown at me!!! I’ll get there….I promise.   I am battling through some shame on that front at this time.

Thank you for the cell phone comments and insurance queries b/c these are two areas that I can stand up and say we are getting the best possible deal out there! My husband works for a major telecom company so our cell phones cannot get any cheaper courtesy of his employee discount. Yay! Thanks for the reminder that this is a big area to give thanks in! I tell my hubby that his employer was absolutely in the top 10 reasons I fell in love with him…because I never have to deal with a cell phone customer service rep again! I have horror stories of battling them on billing errors or a malfunctioning phone and I am thrilled that now I can just hand the phone to hubby and not deal with that mess! As for insurance–that’s my industry so we are good on that front too! I don’t sell insurance mind you–I am employed by a major insurance carrier so I am confident in my understanding in this area and confidence creates better decisions, doesn’t it?

That’s it for now–while I can’t respond to each and every post, I am definitely reading them and thought these issues warranted this post!


And the new blogger is…

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Hi!  My name is Claire and I’m in debt.  That isn’t the shocking part of course because if you are visiting this blog then you KNOW I am in debt.  The shock will be when you see the numbers–and it won’t be a shock just for blog readers.  It will be a shock for anyone who knows me.  I am perhaps the last person anyone would ever guess would have the amount of debt I have.  In every area of my life I am known for being organized and responsible.  I am the person people look to for advice.  I don’t live a lavish lifestyle that would explain all of the debt.  Many consider me frugal!  Heck!  I think I’ve even bought into this vision others have about me and that has only contributed to the madness!

“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Henry Ford  Okay, Mr. Ford…here goes:

I don’t accept failure with grace. I’m sure you’re thinking most people don’t–but I really, really don’t accept failure with grace. When faced with failure, instead of embracing it for the learning and growing opportunity it is, I have learned that I have an incredible ability to live in denial. Avoid! Avoid! Avoid! Take sports for example–from an early age I realized I had no athletic abilities so beginning in about the 2nd grade, I never did anything remotely close to athletics.  I only do things that I am naturally good at doing.  If only my inability to handle finances had resulted in my never using credit, I’d be okay…but instead I knew I wasn’t good at managing money…so I didn’t.  I kept USING money mind you–sometimes my money, more often some lender’s money and stayed away from managing money…just like I stayed away from sports.  That’s the bad news. The good news is I’ve learned that about myself and now hope to maintain that knowledge in my conscience thinking.

I am a wife, a mom to 2, a stepmom to 2 more, a daughter, a sister,  a professional with an advanced degree and a financial failure. It feels good to admit that!

I am newly remarried. No one ever expects their first marriage to end in divorce.  While I never would have chosen my path I now embrace it fully! After 14 years of marriage and two awesome kids—I got a divorce. I took the debt from the first marriage spent two years as a single mom of two…adding debt on top of the debt of divorce…and then met my adorable match and now husband. Enter the blended family and the Mount Kilimanjaro of all challenges–on every front–and yep…you guessed it..more debt!

My financial life was spiraling out of control.  I don’t know what the lightbulb moment was really but something happened on January 1, 2012.  My new husband and I devised a plan to tackle our spending and my debt aggressively. I say “MY” debt because it is all  my debt.  When we met and married, my husband had a home mortgage and nothing more.  No school loans, no credit cards, no car loan, nothing.  That said, he’ll admit there wasn’t a lot saved either and having no credit history creates a problem of its own!  He’s sort of like Rip Van Winkle as he seeks credit! But imagine my stress level as I learned he had no debt and I was coming with a tsunami size tidal wave.  There have been BIG challenges, but he has been wonderful through the process and as his house has dramatically lost value and he finds himself upside down and unable to sell and his paid off very old car finally gave way…well we have to accept that we simply make each other better!  Without the other we are individually in a bad place…together we have a chance.

We are only 2 months into this journey and I am hopeful that by sharing my story with others, I will keep the momentum going to a debt-free life!  I just read Tricia’s update regarding her life after being debt free and it could not have come at a better time.  I expect this blog to hold me accountable.  I expect this blog to remind me that I cannot run from the debt like I ran from sports!  Thanks in advance.

So, I’ll let you have some time to absorb what you know so far about my story…and then we will reveal the big numbers we face…but don’t judge me please!  I’m stepping out with some hesitation and need to know I am not alone! 🙂  If you have to lie to me…LIE!  Just kidding!


Hubby – The WILD Spender

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My husband is a man’s man. He’s more comfortable with a hammer than a computer mouse. I often times snicker when getting the mail and my copy of Smart Money is snuggled near his Family Handyman.

Obviously our celebrations were VERY different.

Usually, we use side work money to pay debt. He comes home, hands me the check, and I pay the bills. After we made the last payment, he came home, started to hand me the check, looked down at it for a minute, and asked if he could use it for a special payoff surprise.

This was his surprise…

He’s building a pantry with roll out drawers! He cut a hole in the wall between our kitchen and garage to add some much needed space to our tiny kitchen. How much did he spend? $100. Quite a deal considering he was able to use a lot of leftover materials from side work to piece it together.

When I told him I felt bad about him spending money on the kitchen rather than on something he really wanted, he assured me this was what he had in mind for quite some time.

That… and he’s sick of me asking him to carry the heavy mixer from the linen closet in the back of the house to the kitchen whenever I need it.

Big smile on my face today. Big. Big. Smile.