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Mothers’ Days

As kids, we often struggle with our parents’ attempts to help us make good choices—and, at least in my family, Mom caught the brunt of all that (at least from me). 

We were probably like most families at the time in that we never really talked about money or finance. Doubtless that was in no small part because neither of those were in abundance in our household. But mostly, I suspect, it was because that was just one of “those” topics that were deemed to be private.

In our house Mom was definitely our family’s CFO. See, like many in his generation, my dad wanted to hold the checkbook, but it was Mom who always made sure that there was money in the account. She’s the one who started setting aside money from her paycheck in her 403(b) plan at work—and continued to do so, even when my father was convinced they couldn’t afford it—and made no secret of that opinion. Or did until he got a glimpse of the statement that showed Mom’s retirement account growth—and then, inspired by that example, he began setting money aside for retirement as well. They did so relatively late in life—preachers and teachers don’t have a lot of “extra” income, after all (especially not with four kids)—and yet, with careful planning—and diligent saving—they managed. My mother—now nearly 92—is (still) living on her own and financially independent.  

Of course, women tend to live longer (and thus are likely to have longer retirements to fund), tend to have less saved for retirement (a result of lower incomes, as well as more workforce interruptions, both when children are young, and as their parents age), and in addition to longer retirements, those longer lives mean that they are also more likely to have to fund what can be the catastrophic financial burden of long-term care expenses. Among the unexpected expenses in retirement—as parents all know, are those related to your kids—because, even after they leave home and have kids (and expenses) of their own—they’re still your kids.

Sadly, because we know how much difference it can make in retirement savings, women are also less likely to work for an employer that offers a retirement plan at work—and more likely to be part-time workers, and thus less likely to be eligible to participate in those plans even when they do have access. Oh, and like my mother, they tend to outlive their spouses—often by far more than the variance in average life expectancy tables suggest.

And yet, more than a quarter century “in” to her retirement, Mom’s sacrifices over the years (which continue to this day) have allowed her to have one that is, while certainly not luxurious, comfortable. Oh, like many in her generation, she’s constantly worried about being a “burden” to her family, though—because of her preparations—there’s not much chance of that.

Not surprisingly, Mom was the one who encouraged me to start saving in my workplace retirement plan as soon as I was eligible—and while I wasn’t always smart enough to take Mom’s advice in every situation, I’m happy to say that on this I did. 

Yes, mothers give us a lot, not the least of which is life itself. And on this particular Mother’s Day, I’m thankful that I’m going to be able to thank her… in person.