Wednesday, February 25, 2009

being well-prepared

My dad is a CPA, so both he and my mom educated all of their children about personal finance starting from a very young age.

I remember going to the bank with my mom when I was maybe three or four years old to deposit tiny sums of money into my own bank account. Afterwards, she would show me the numbers in the passbook and I would be happy that they were bigger than before. At some point she even explained to me what "interest" was; that money in the bank would make more money, all by itself. (She left out the part about inflation, at least for awhile.)

When I was in college and making slightly larger (but still measly) sums of money at my undergraduate research job, my dad insisted that I max out my Roth IRA "while I still could", and I somewhat blindly followed that advice. It was only later that I realized that it had been totally the right thing to do.

I also remember being taught about income taxes (as Dad complained about the government taking his hard-earned money away), property taxes (while he explained the costs of running rental properties), and estate taxes (when depositing money into custodial accounts for us, every year or so).

Being the well-prepared people that they were, of course my parents had made out a will early on, but it wasn't until I was about eight or nine years old that they sat the three of us down for a very special discussion. The question at hand: "If we die, which aunt/uncle/grandparent do you want to live with?"

As you can imagine, my 4-year-old sister was horrified. I think my 2-year-old brother was merely confused. Eventually, after several minutes of reassuring us that no one was in imminent danger of death, we managed to come to a consensus quite expediently, and the appropriate documents were updated accordingly.

Last week I found myself at a lawyer's office making some rather morbid arrangements myself. "Who inherits your condo if you die, your sister dies, *and* your brother dies?" is not the kind of question that I answer every day, but I guess I do feel better having done it. I tend to have very little faith in courts and other government processes.

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