Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Money, Money, Money.

Counting my money
Originally uploaded by johnr71 (off for a while)

Money appears to be the theme of my week. Today at work we received our tax statements with our paychecks. A subtle reminder of the business of money, one that I don't particularly enjoy. And, one that I will have to face alone. As you might imagine, being married to a business analyst had it's perks. Michael and I couldn't have been more different when it came to the business of money.

While we are both somewhat responsible with how we spent our money, I kind of take a very different to approach to managing it than Michael did. I try my best to avoid any type of book keeping. I don't balance my check book. Ever. I just don't have the patience for it. For the most part it works, and when it doesn't, oh well. Michael, on the other hand, was constantly creating various spreadsheets, setting up budgets, saving receipts and so on. My approach did not exactly sit well with him. In this way we were definitely the odd couple.

In planning for his death, Michael set up a trust with some modest funds to help for the educational needs of his nieces and nephew. And who else would he arrange to be the trustee, but me of course. He did this not because of my business smarts, but because he knew that I would be the voice of reason when it came to making decisions on how his money would be spent. I am also the executor of his will, which meant that there was a lot of what I call 'the business of dying' to be done.

Now that I have been through the trauma of losing a spouse, I have learned how crazy it is that while going through such acute grief, the survivor is suppose to have the presence of mind to handle all the business affairs. For me, it was a surreal experience. It still is. On Tuesday, when I stayed home from work, something made me think about Michael's job. I realized I that I never followed up with his retirement funds. I called his employer, who said they were waiting for me to get back to them. I looked at my notes, dated in October, where I noted that I was waiting for them to get back to me. Can you tell that I was a bit lost during all of this?

Now that tax season is here, I will to need to figure out filing tax returns for both of us, plus filing a return for the trust. I certainly hope my tax consultant has all the answers, because I certainly do not. I don't even know the right questions. I am also dreading the idea of meeting with her, which is an odd thing to say, as I like her very much. What I am dreading is having to tell her that Michael died. I have known her for maybe twelve years. I see her only once a year. And we often use the appointment time for her to catch up on my life. She always wants to hear about the kids, and how Michael is doing.

I think I am beginning to panic about my lack of abilities to manage all these numbers. It is not my forte, and now I have no choice but to manage my way through all of this. It's funny, but at age 50, I suddenly feel like I have to be such a grown up. I now have more than just my kids to plan for. I have two nieces and a nephew, and actually, a brother-in-law to manage funds for as well. I have a bank officer calling me about accounts I don't fully understand. I some how need to start keeping track of all these accounts. I need to open up Michael's Excel program and try to figure where to begin. I should have paid better attention when Michael tried to explain all this to me. But, I know why I was so resistant to learning this. I didn't want to fully accept that he was going to die.

I suppose there is that part of me that still resists following through with all of this because it adds to the finality of his death. I now have to pick up those matters that were Michael's to handle. Now it's either me, or it doesn't get done. And suddenly many people are depending on me.

So here it is. This is my 'car stuck in the snow,' 'plumbing needs to be fixed,' 'finances needs to be addressed,' issue. I have to rely on me. There is no one else. That's a sobering thought.


  1. I guess this is why each spouse should know about the joint finances and such matters. I know it is hard, but you have people to help you==not that it makes it any easier, but it helps take the strain off your mind.

  2. Your'e right Jude. I get so anxious about things like this. Before I even get started I'm feeling overwhelmed. I do need to ask for help. I'm just not very good at that either.

  3. It's difficult, isn't it? I went through a lot of this when my dad died about ten years ago. My mom was never good with financial stuff and my dad left her with a small manufacturing company that had to be operated for awhile to support the household. I ended up running that for a couple of years while sorting out my parents' finances. Last year, I ended up back in that position after my husband died and then selling our farm. Sometimes I feel like getting into bed and pulling the blankets over my head and not coming out for a couple of days. I do have a good tax accountant though - my dad's accountant, actually. My husband and I used to do all of our tax returns ourselves, but this year, I just took everything to the accountant and paid him to do it. There's only so much one person can do. But yes, it's sobering when you are in those "the buck stops here" situations. Sometimes it just feels like too much on top of just coping with the loss of your spouse.

  4. Dan, I manage a $2m budget at work, yet don't seem to be able to manage household financial filing, payments or anything ... just get a mental block ... so I have to bring the stuff into work and do it here, and I really need to do it TODAY! My friend has to sit with me while I do it!

    It's another reminder that they've gone :-(


  5. You're right, Dan. The business of dying is overwhelming for us survivors to have to deal with in the wake of overwhelming grief. I'm in the same boat as you, feeling completely overwhelmed by the thought of income tax this year. I have the name of a recommended accountant, which I should get around to calling, but I can't seem to get motivated to make the call. The bank is calling me about needing to make decisions about "dkis8skdke8880" (that's my interpretation of something I have no bloody idea about) and I guess it's time for me to make some calls. Glad I'm not the only one who's feeling overwhelmed!