In this episode, Maggie sits down with CPA Michele Cagan to talk about the financial and emotional toll of being a double caretaker, and how that burden most often falls to women.
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Michele Cagan is a CPA, author, and financial mentor with more than twenty years of experience. She has written numerous articles and books about personal finance, investing, and accounting, including The Infographic Guide to Personal Finance, Retirement 101, Debt 101, and Real Estate Investing 101.
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Maggie Germano 0:07
Thanks for listening to the money circle Podcast. I am your host, Maggie Germano and I’m a financial coach for women. I’m passionate about helping women improve their relationship with money so that they can take better control of their futures. Part of that journey is making personal finance education more accessible and less judgmental, which is why this podcast exists. Each week we’ll discuss a new financial topic to help you explore how you can make a difference in your own financial life or in society as a whole. If you’re interested in diving deeper into issues like income inequality, debt or money, shame, check out my new money circle community. In this safe feminist space women gathered to talk about money without fear of being judged or shamed. We will break down shame and build community and safety for everyone so that you can find the support you need to gain control over your finances. Visit Maggiegermano.com/moneycircle to learn more and to join the community today. I can’t wait to see you there. Hey there, and thanks for listening. I’m your host Maggie Germano. And this week, I’m chatting with Michele Cagan, who is a CPA, author and financial mentor with more than 20 years of experience. In this episode, we’re talking about the financial and emotional toll of being a double caretaker, and how that burden most often falls to women. If you are currently in the role of double caretaker, or if you think you might end up there someday, this episode is definitely for you. Enjoy.
Welcome, Michele, thanks so much for being here today.
Michele Cagan 1:47
Thanks for having me on, Maggie. I really appreciate it.
Maggie Germano 1:50
Of course. And for folks who are avid listeners to the money circle podcast we had you on a couple months ago to talk about last minute tax prep, and those sorts of things. A lot has changed in the world since like, March.
Michele Cagan 2:07
Maggie Germano 2:08
Exactly. Um, but so in case anyone either doesn’t remember that episode, or didn’t listen to that episode yet, can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
Michele Cagan 2:19
So my name is Michele Cagan, I’m CPA. And what I mostly do is try to help people feel more confident and secure handling their own finances. And I’m happy to step in and do stuff for them if they just don’t want to do it. But it’s more like helping guide people to the confidence to manage their own money.
Maggie Germano 2:43
I love that. Because I mean, you know, as a financial coach myself, I am very passionate about that. I think having that self confidence, having that faith in your own ability is a really big piece of that. Because sometimes just handing things over to other people can make you not feel great about what you’re doing. So just having that confidence makes a big difference.
Michele Cagan 3:04
Yeah. And I also feel that if you know what you’re doing, and hand it off to somebody else, it’s different than if you don’t know, and you can’t really figure out what is going on with your own finances.
Maggie Germano 3:19
Yeah, that’s true. And then I bet there’s a whole lot more trust there to like trusting that, because you know the basics, and you’re paying someone else to take care of certain things for you. You can have you have more knowledge and trust around whether or not it’s going to get done, right.
Michele Cagan 3:36
Yeah. And you can tell if something doesn’t fit your goals and your plans as opposed to the, you know, not, not every recommendation I make is one that somebody wants to follow. But if they’re just turn it over to me, they don’t have that choice or that knowledge.
Maggie Germano 3:53
Yeah, that’s certainly true. So how did you end up in this line of work?
Michele Cagan 3:59
When, when I was in college, I quickly realized that being a photographer was not going to help me afford an apartment, but that if I went into accounting and became a CPA that I would make more money than any of my friends leaving school. So sort of a practical choice. And I ended up doing virtually every job in accounting you can possibly imagine. I’ve done like taxes corporations, people private accounting, public accounting, taught at colleges, like hung out my own shingle wrote books, just everything you could possibly do so that I I just have a really weird breadth of experience, because of all the different ways I tried to do it. And now I have found like my sort of niche is really helping mostly women. Figure out how to manage their own finances in a way that doesn’t ignore emotions, but also doesn’t focus on them.
Maggie Germano 5:10
I like that. And and it must be really fun to have, you know, you’ve tried so many different things. So you know what you like, you know what you don’t like and to get to the point where you’re specifically choosing the area that you’re working in now based on like all the other kinds of experiences that you’ve had that must feel good and be fun.
Michele Cagan 5:31
Yeah, it is. And that I feel, I feel more like making a difference one on one than in other than in other kinds of ways. And I also do work with female founders and helping get their businesses off the ground from the financial perspective.
Maggie Germano 5:50
Oh, that’s great. I know, I get lots of questions about that from people, I focus more on the individual personal side of money rather than the business side of money. But I get a lot of people reaching out being like, if I want to start a business, how should I be doing that? Like, what are the steps? How to how should I be getting my business finances organized? And I have, like some basic advice based on my own experience, but I definitely don’t consider myself an expert in that. So I think that’s a really good part of it.
Michele Cagan 6:19
Yep, you can send them on over, and I will set up their books and, you know, make sure that they’re getting all the money that they’re entitled to and tax breaks, because a lot of times they don’t know about them, and they end up leaving 10s of thousands of dollars on the table.
Maggie Germano 6:35
Yeah, and that makes a big deal. That makes a big difference when you’re a business owner, especially in the beginning.
Michele Cagan 6:40
Maggie Germano 6:42
So today, I’m having you here to talk about something completely different, or maybe you know, tangentially different. But we went back and forth a little bit on Twitter about the kind of like the sandwich generation and the people who are in a position now who are caring for children, but also caring for older loved ones or parents and you chimed in that that was something that you’re very passionate about. So before we kind of dive in, can you talk a little bit more about what it means to be a double caretaker and kind of be in that role?
Michele Cagan 7:23
That role tends to be held almost exclusively by women, not saying no men do it. But it’s it women typically take on that mantle of being the caretakers of their children of their parents. When when situations come, especially when troublesome situations come up. And I’m not speaking for all women, but myself and many of the women I know we tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the list when it comes to caretaking kids, definitely first parents, you know, especially if there’s somebody who’s sick or can’t afford their home or something like that, there, that urgency goes ahead. And that includes finances. So we subsume our financial needs to our kids needs. And then if our parents are in need, we sort of do the same thing we put that emergency need, or that urgent need above our own plans and our our finances get completely derailed. So really, it’s taking a step back from the situation and putting a financial plan in place that doesn’t eliminate caring for yourself financially. I mean, emotionally, too, but I focus more on the financial part of the picture.
Maggie Germano 8:49
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And I, you mentioned that, like, typically women are the ones taking on this role. And I’ve heard that many times before as well. Why do you think that is that women are the ones stepping in not just to care for the children, but also for other family members who need it.
Michele Cagan 9:11
Honestly, I think it’s partly biology. I mean, women tend to have the, the nurturing genes just more, um, it’s I don’t know, it’s, it’s also partly societal expectations. And in the case of a lot of the people that I work with, they are single moms to begin with, so they don’t have the other person to help with the kids full time necessarily or sometimes even at all. And same with parents, they may be only children or their siblings may not, you know, be in the same place. And even if they have siblings helping out they tend to be the ones who organize it or you know, are in charge of the parents. I mean, a lot of times, there’s just no one else to do it. And we tend to take responsibility for other people’s issues all the time.
Maggie Germano 10:11
Yeah, I definitely have seen that. I mean, in my own life in my family members of my friends, I’ve definitely seen that. Is this a situation or scenario? I know, you mentioned that you help folks with that in your work. But is this a scenario that you’ve experienced playing out in your own life?
Michele Cagan 10:33
In some ways, yes. Um, I mean, lucky that I have a sister, who’s also like, when we’ve had to care for my dad, or grandparents, sometimes my mom, we team up and we do it together, always. And she actually often steps on top because she doesn’t have kids. And I do have a special needs a high needs child. So we have come across that situation in our family, a lot of times, unfortunately, between grandparents and parents. And we’ve kind of learned that you have to limit what you’re doing for the other people, because you have to also be able to have a foundation for yourself. Because nothing is going to step in for that if you don’t step in for yourself and advocate for yourself. And I definitely hear from a lot of people that that feels selfish, but it’s act, it’s 100%, not selfish. It’s self sustaining. And that’s not the same thing. Taking care of yourself is not selfish, hoarding everything you have and letting people around you suffer. Maybe that’s selfish, but including yourself as part of the people who are important and who need to be taken care of. That’s not selfish at all.
Maggie Germano 12:01
I totally agree. And it’s, it’s one of those things where like, if you fast forwarded to when you’re older, and if you haven’t taken care of yourself, whether that’s financially or emotionally or physically, and then your kids, if you have kids, then are in a similar situation where then they have to take care of you whether it is in that financial way, or as a physical caretaker, whatever it might be. And so thinking about like, how can you set yourself up in a position where you’re able to, like you said, self sustain in different ways, and not necessarily put your other loved ones in a similar situation that you are kind of going through? And how that is? That’s not selfish at all.
Michele Cagan 12:47
So the opposite of selfish?
Maggie Germano 12:51
Yeah, so tell me a little bit more, because you’ve alluded to kind of the financial impact of taking on this double caretaker role putting people first. But tell us a little bit more of what this financial impact can look like for women.
Michele Cagan 13:08
Okay, so for women in that double caretaker role, they often end up pulling from their retirement if they even have retirement because they, in general, women tend to need to save, for example, for their kids college or braces or camp. Every kid expense, especially with single parents comes before retirement because that’s later my kid needs this now, especially a lot of times with single moms, there’s that feeling like you have to double up on making sure your kid has everything. So they don’t feel deprived in any way, making up. And that’s a lot of the feelings of guilt from the mom. That’s your own kids. Either way, they’re going to be fine. You went to the you end up going into debt, pulling from retirement, not saving for retirement on that side, and then on your parents side, you could end up doing the same thing or just increasing your normal expenses to help take care of a parent who either doesn’t have enough money, who has become ill and needs care, you know, can you pick up my prescription and you go, you pay for it. It’s part of your budget. Now, if you need to pick up groceries for a parent or a parent comes to live with you, and they may be able to kick in their social security or something but all of the other living expenses that go with that, more higher electricity bills, water bills, an extra Netflix account, whatever like that is going to end up as part of your budget unless you sit down and make a family budget where everyone sees they have to contribute in some way. Even kids. Kids who are old enough to work can contribute money and kids who aren’t can contribute to helping him take care of the house.
Maggie Germano 15:04
Yeah, I really, that’s a very interesting way of looking at it too, that I think is important. And I, as I’ve mentioned, like I’m expecting my child and my husband and I, we have talked a little bit about like, how do we, from a very young age show our kid that like, we’re all contributing together, it’s not like, Mom is asking you to clean, it’s like, we’re all keeping this house like orderly and clean together, because we all live here, and we’re all contributing and chipping in. So that, you know, the pressure isn’t laying on one person all the time. And so I think, viewing it that way, whether it’s with your kids or with another loved one who’s living with you, or depending on you in that way, viewing it in that broader kind of framework of like, this is the family. We’re a family, we’re all contributing together. But what does that look like? Because not everyone obviously can contribute in the exact same way. But any kind of contribution matters.
Michele Cagan 16:06
Yeah. I mean, if your parents, for example, need to live with you, and they can’t contribute money, they can maybe contribute childcare or cooking or just something. And this isn’t really financial, but I have found that when you have another person, come live into your household, that creating a time and space budget, like where who can be where when, if you’re going to have people, you know, it sounds like a little of fun. I don’t know, maybe a little controlee. But it definitely helps avoid issues that come up that you don’t foresee coming up. So I advise definitely a time and space budget, too, especially if you have limited bathroom space.
Maggie Germano 16:54
Oh, boy. Yeah. I can imagine too, especially if you’re a grown up child, right, whose parent is going to be moving into view, and you’ve never had that scenario as an adult, and maybe your parents feel weird about having to make that decision to and so there’s a lot of emotions around that. And probably fears around losing independence and changes in that relationship, that parent child relationship. And so I like what you said about having kind of discussions around like, Who’s going to need alone time when who’s going to have like, their own movie night? If and like just being able to have access to communal spaces in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re never alone? Or you never get to make your own decisions? Because I could feel like, I could see how that would be high tension.
Michele Cagan 17:45
Yes, and then add teenagers? Yeah, so yeah, definitely, it’s, um, it’s a, it’s part of everything. And that part of that whole family plan. I think one of the most important things in all of this is that each person is equally important. And sort of, maybe just infusing that into the plan. So no one feels like they don’t matter. Or that their needs met or less, because they’re not in a crisis. Just because you’re not in a crisis doesn’t mean, you don’t have needs that or wants that have to be met, too.
Maggie Germano 18:33
I think that’s such a good point. Because I’ve seen, I’ve, like, even just my own clients who they’re interested in working with me, but they’re like, you know, I’m not in the middle of a financial crisis. I’m like, pretty much, okay. So like, I don’t know, if I actually need help, or I don’t know if I actually need support. And they feel kind of guilty about reaching out for guidance or reaching out to just make sure they’re making the right decisions and make sure they’re on the right track. And there is like, guilt around not suffering in a certain way. And I could see how that might come up with like being the caretaker and being the one who’s like, okay, or like financially better or healthier, or whatever it might be. And like you have mentioned this whole time, kind of ignoring their own needs and wants and desires, because they’re not the one who’s necessarily struggling in that moment.
Michele Cagan 19:28
Another thing that comes up a lot to is that parents have, you know, like the older baby boomer parents now, they didn’t have the same kind of retirement option plan options that we had. If they didn’t have a pension, they were just like, well, Social Security is going to be it and they, a lot of people don’t realize you can’t live on Social Security. reasonably, if it can’t, if it’s your entire budget, that’s a pretty small budget, even for couples, it’s not as much money as people think it is, especially if they start taking it kind of earlier. A lot of people also don’t realize that Medicare doesn’t cover a lot of things that you would expect them to like long term care, doesn’t cover it at all. And back, you know, like, my mom, never even considered Long Term Care Insurance. She just thought, oh, Medicare covers that. And I told her I didn’t. She was like, Oh, well, Medicaid will cover it, I’m like, well, Medicaid will cover some of it. But like, it’s not going to cover for example, food for you, or, you know, other other expenses that you need. So that can’t be your financial plan. I’ll go on Medicaid if I have to, and she kind of was surprised to, to start thinking about, oh, like, I really didn’t think about all of those pieces. Because it wasn’t just it just wasn’t something people thought about. And also being a woman who you know, was raised in the 50s. And 60s, she didn’t have a competent or secure relationship with money, it was always a dependent relationship with money. And it’s talking with, he definitely when you have a parent like that met mother or father, he definitely need to step back and talk to them in a way that they’ll hear. Because if they don’t listen, and don’t hear what you’re saying, it’s not gonna make any difference. But if you can talk to them in a way that they that they see what’s happening, without scaring them and show them things that they actually could be doing to help make it better, even now, that seems to work better. And that also will lower the financial burden on you, if it ever comes to that.
Maggie Germano 22:07
Yeah, that makes sense. And I definitely hear what you’re saying about trying to make it a little less scary or a little less intense when you’re having those conversations and be a little bit more solution focused. So what are some of those things that if you have an older parent who maybe didn’t or wasn’t able to save or plan too far for the future, but now wants to make sure they’re not completely kind of financially insecure, or want to be able to contribute? What are some of those things they could take action on?
Michele Cagan 22:42
Well, things that they could normally do, are sort of like thrown out a window right now, because of COVID. In a lot of ways, because you don’t want to tell them go out and get a part time job when they’re in super high risk group, right. So ways for them to bring in a little more income, or even go get part time jobs, like those are not really appropriate right now. But in general, they can do things like that they can find ways to bring in a little bit of money, they can ease your financial burden by helping out with, you know, if you pay for childcare, if you pay for a cleaner, or you know, things like that, or if they could do your grocery shopping for you. So that just gives you more time. Anything that frees up your money or time is just as helpful as something with them actually bringing in cash. Another thing is, even though it will be expensive, they can look at Long Term Care policies. Because as expensive as those are, they are not as expensive as the actual long term care costs. They also, you know, my mom’s answer was, well, what if I pay for it? And then I don’t need it, then it’s a waste of money. I have like 25 different answers to that. But one of the answers is now they do have kind of ones that are like, I’m not an insurance person. But I know that there are some policies now that are kind of like a conversion policy, like long term care, death benefit policy. So you could talk with an insurance expert and see if something like that might be appropriate for your parent. Um, the other issue is that I the other answer I usually give is, well, you have car insurance too. And if you don’t get an accident, you didn’t use it. So I mean, that’s just how insurance works, you you’re betting that you are going to need it the insurance companies betting that you’re not and so whichever way it works out, it’s still cheaper than paying for long term care, which is insanely expensive, even for kind of like the lowest level crappy nursing homes, um, are, you know, thousands of dollars a week. It’s it’s a lot so that’s Definitely Another thing to consider. If your parent does have pensions and social security to draw on. And they are spending more than they’re bringing in cash flow wise, you could talk to them about budgeting, you know, again, not I know people with parents who are like, well, I, there’s no point I’m not going to take it with me, I might as well spend it all but spending more than you have. That’s leaving your family with that. So it’s maybe having kind of a budget type talks. Again, in a in a non judgmental, and not mom, seriously, why are you spending money on this kind of way? Which is a little bit hard to do sometimes when it’s your mom. And I definitely said that, Mom, did you really just spend $150 on a toy? For my son, like that, that’s all part of the family budget, he does not need that kind of thing. So just, it’s just one of those things to talk about.
Maggie Germano 26:20
Yeah, it sounds like a lot of that advice, at least for communicating with a parent and older parent is very much around conversation, and like trying to have these consistent conversations around whether it is contribution to the household, or whether it is making financial decisions, like getting Long Term Care Insurance, or figuring out how to budget, it’s like just being able to have those conversations so that everyone’s not like anxious behind the scenes, but not communicating and getting frustrated with each other and having their finances impacted along the way, like everyone’s losing, if you’re not talking about it.
Michele Cagan 27:00
Yeah, absolutely. I actually made my mom at some point, like a homework list. Like Mom, I need to know where all your bank accounts are. And if you don’t have online access, online banking setup, we need to set up online banking, you don’t have to use it, but it’s the only way I can access your money. So let’s talk about you know, that’s one thing we need to we need to know, every medication that you’re taking right now, just like I gave her a list of, of homework things do you have, you know, this document in place, because if you don’t know, if your parents have that in place, you’re not going to want to scramble to find it during an emergency. So that’s another part of the conversation is getting information that you can have easily accessible. And that takes a boatload of stress off to knowing what’s going on. Yeah, I,
Maggie Germano 27:57
I did an interview, I think it was last year, late last year about how that is so important of like having those conversations with your aging parents. So that, yeah, if something happens, and they can’t, you know, pay for things themselves, or make certain decisions for themselves, that you actually have access to their accounts and to their medical information and know what they would want and know like how you can actually take care of them, whether it’s medically or financially. It’s just not something people necessarily think about, because I think people like to pretend that they’ll always be okay.
Michele Cagan 28:36
Well, yeah, you know, I mean, nobody wants to think about not being okay. But even even if you are okay, there, something could come up, you know, you could get in a car accident, and then you your rent still needs to be paid, and somebody needs to be able to pay that for you kind of thing. So it doesn’t always have to be like a big as long I guess car accident is dramatic, but doesn’t always have to be like a life long or life changing thing. Even small things can can cause setbacks going on a cruise, which nobody is doing right now. But, you know, like things still have to get done. So, you know, made my mom make sure that they have a financial power of attorney or limited power of attorney health care proxies. That kind of stuff is really important too. So it takes some of the burden off of you when their decisions are in place.
Maggie Germano 29:29
Right? Because then everybody knows, even if they’re not able to make the decision for themselves in the moment, you know, what their decision would have been? Because they’ve said it and they’ve written it down, they’ve gotten it notarized whatever it needs to be. So there isn’t going to be that added guilt. And that added stress around having to make those decisions because you already know what the other person would have wanted.
Michele Cagan 29:52
Maggie Germano 29:54
So when it comes to so we’ve talked about, like how to have these conversations with Like an aging parent, and how aging folks can start, you know, contributing and getting things together in terms like the finances. But when it comes to the caretaker, the woman who’s kind of in this sandwich role of having people on both sides that she needs to care for, what is the advice you would give to women who are currently in this scenario? so caring for my parents and caring for my kids? What are those financial decisions and financial safeguards that you recommend people are taking in that scenario?
Michele Cagan 30:34
Okay. Well, the first thing I would say is definitely take some downtime. But financially speaking, your current and future financial position needs to be high up on the list of your priorities. If you either don’t have retirement savings have stopped contributing or been pulling out of retirement savings. Rethink where that money is going. Because if you don’t have money to fall back on, it’s going to be much harder to find it when you’re 70 than it is right now. So no matter how hard it is to find money for that, now, it’s going to be so much harder when you’re 70, or 75, or 80, then, so that’s one and you won’t have the time on your side that you do now that where your money has even an opportunity to grow. And especially right now, if you have an opportunity to contribute to savings right now, in a time of uncertainty, I wholeheartedly believe cash is king. Right. So maybe you don’t want to put money in lock money into a retirement accounts, open a Roth IRA, because the money you put in, you can take back out at any time. It’s still a way to save for retirement, it’s still a way to get the tax advantages, but it doesn’t lock your money up in the same way. But you can still be focused on your future without sacrificing your financial security in the present by doing that. Right now everything’s a little bit weird. caches is really important. Another thing that you want to be really cognizant of is your own credit score. Because if you’re taking on other people’s finances, it could end up impacting your credit, it’ll it could affect your utilization, which can drop your credit score, if one of them is an authorized user on your account that can affect your credit score, if you’ve co signed a loan for a parent or a child, that can affect you. And it’s really, it makes a difference to more than just borrowing money your credit score, it can affect apartments that you get, it can affect utility deposits that you have to pay, it affects a lot of things, and it’s a lot harder to bring a score back up than it is to keep it up. So you want to be sort of aware of how all of your, the health that you’re giving other people is affecting your credit situation. And if you’re not using credit at all, because you know you’ve paid down debt, you don’t want to use credit cards, I would say that right now COVID wise for the you should start using a credit card a little bit $100 a month, pay it off right away, because you don’t want them to close your account, you want to have that space in case you need it. It’s not using a credit card as a as an emergency savings. But right now people are running through emergency savings. So keep space on credit cards, don’t cancel credit cards and use them. So because credit card companies are reducing credit limits and closing credit card accounts. Um, in normal times, you don’t want to give everybody access your parents and your kids access to your credit cards without some kind of accountability on their part.
Maggie Germano 34:14
No, that makes sense. I when I first learned when I was younger, I first learned about how you can add people as an authorized user. I was like, Oh, that’s great, because then you can see your joint expenses. And, you know, like, just use the same card and everything can kind of be in the same place. And like for my husband and myself, that works pretty well. I manage the finances in the house. So I’m he makes a lot of the money. So like, I trust him, it’s going to get paid. But yeah, but then when I thought about like, I actually had a friend who she added her boyfriend as an authorized user, and he was using the credit card. And then there was like a moment where he couldn’t actually pay her back for the amount that he had put on the card and she was like nope, not doing that anymore. Like you can’t have access to this anymore, because it really does affect you not just with your credit score and like the usage of the card and those sorts of things, but like how much you actually can afford to pay back to keep those cards current too,
Michele Cagan 35:15
right? I mean, if you’ve budgeted Well, you know, for this much, and then all of a sudden your credit card bill is double that. And that messes up your entire financial situation. And it doesn’t usually go away, if that kind of things happening.
Maggie Germano 35:31
Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, having what is what is some of you mentioned, like, Don’t give folks access to that, unless there are some kind of parameters in place. So what might that look like of holding people accountable in that way?
Michele Cagan 35:47
Well, you can build them. For example, you can like when you get your bill, if you’re the primary holder, you can build them. And then if they don’t pay you back, you can cut off, you can remove them as an authorized user from the card, and you can cancel their card. So I mean, that sounds drastic, but if somebody you know, is charging more than they can afford, it’s not on you to pay their bills. So it’s, you have to kind of be firm about it, you have to get them to pay you back, you have to have them look at what they’re spending money on. You can also put lower, even in some credit cards, not all, you might be able to put a much lower limit on an authorized users card, like they can only use up to this much a month. And you might be able to do that with the credit card company and tell them look, you need to this is your this is my card that you’re using. And here are the things that it’s okay to use it for. If you use it for anything other than this. You’re the card is you’re gonna lose the card. If you spend more than $50 on anything, you need to tell me right away so we can figure it out in the budget. That’s all part of that family budget idea that everybody has to be accountable, not just cash wise, but credit wise, too.
Maggie Germano 37:05
Yeah, I really like that. Because then it’s like you’re having those constant conversations. I feel like that’s probably really good for kids too, like teenagers being like, okay, you can use a credit card and learn how to use credit, but you only have like this amount of a limit to actually use so that they’re learning to kind of track their spending, but you don’t have to worry about them kind of going overboard either.
Michele Cagan 37:30
Yes, definitely. Lyft has definitely added, you know, Apple Pay, like it’s so easy to pay for things with your phone right now. And through apps that parents, kids, and people in the middle don’t always realize how much money they’re spending until they get a bill and they’re like, Wow, I didn’t realize I used to lift 11 times. And my bill is $240, just for just that. You know, it’s just so easy to do things like that. And then you’re you’ve got this big bill. So that’s another important part of budgeting is to know what you’re spending and when you’re spending it. Oh, absolutely rock and when you’re using apps, but it has to be part of what you’re tracking.
Maggie Germano 38:19
I totally agree. Because those little purchases, the like $7 lift rides, or the $5 coffees or whatever it might be, they add up really fast when you’re doing them consistently. And that’s one of the main things that a lot of my clients because I’m in the DC area to in particular, folks are in normal times, taking Lyft and Uber a lot. And so they’ll be just like, oh my god, it’s like not even that expensive of a service. But if you’re doing it, you know, five times a week, it adds up really, really fast. And if you don’t pay attention and track it, then your brain isn’t actually going to keep track of it for you.
Michele Cagan 39:01
Absolutely. And then add to you know, other people on to that as well. Like if you’re a parent or your child is also and nobody’s tracking that you could end up with some serious credit card debt without, with fully not intending that to happen.
Maggie Germano 39:15
Oh, definitely. So if someone is not currently in that double caretaker role, but they think they might be someday, like maybe they think their parents might rely on them, like, like you said, if they are an only child or perhaps are the only the child that lives closest to their parents, and they’re just or maybe they just want to be prepared in case this scenario plays out for them in the future. What kind of advice would you give them to kind of prepare themselves so that they feel as financially and emotionally ready for that kind of thing?
Michele Cagan 39:55
Honestly, the very foundation of this whole thing is communication. clear communication. I have found that if you’re upfront and honest about what you expect, what you can contribute what you expect other people to contribute, especially before there’s an issue, it’s people can bristle when you when you approach it in a businesslike way. But it makes everything much smoother when the situation changes, and it becomes part of your lives because there’s already a plan in place. So you already have this foundation, and you, you know, with your kids, it’s easier than with your parents, because you as the parent can train your child and a lot of adult children are financially dependent on their parents, at least partially, but at the very least, the parents still pays their cell phone bill or just something like that. But be you know, you don’t have to do that. If it’s harming you financially to support somebody else. That’s, that’s not a tenable situation. So these family conversations, and if you do have siblings, involving them in the conversations, whether they plan to participate or not, because what if something happens to you, and you can’t be the one in charge. So everybody in the family has to participate in these conversations and figure out what they are honestly able to contribute, and what kind of expectations they can reasonably meet. And then you’ll find gaps there. So now is the time to fill the gaps before the problem exists. So that those gaps don’t just automatically fall on one person who may not be emotionally or financially, or men are just equipped to take it, it just just because it falls on you doesn’t mean you can manage it without damage to yourself.
Maggie Germano 42:00
That’s a really good point. Just Yeah, just because you’re the person in the family who people think you should do it doesn’t mean you can.
Michele Cagan 42:09
Yeah, and if but saying that, you know, I know you all expect me to take care of mom, here’s how much I can do. Here’s what I need you guys to do. Because I cannot do this myself being clear about it. And I mean, I don’t know how to say this without it sounding off. But you don’t want to be that martyr, you don’t want to be in that role, where everybody’s expect you to do everything, and you meet that expectation, because you don’t want to disappoint the other people. Because you’re only going to end up burning yourself out in every possible way. And that includes financially.
Maggie Germano 42:50
Yeah, absolutely. So it sounds like it’s a really, a really big piece of setting expectations early having those conversations of like, do you do you think you will need support in the future? Like, if you’re talking to your parents, like, do you know, do you feel comfortable in terms of retirement? And who would you expect to be caring for you, and then also having those conversations with siblings and other folks that are around so that no one’s surprised when something is needed?
Michele Cagan 43:23
All right, just imagine finding out right, you’re pregnant or whatever right now, and you’re planning for your baby and everything. And just, you know, three weeks from now, you find out that your your parents just expected that they could move in with you. And you were not prepared for that at all. But it was just the family expectation. And now they’re like, well, we don’t have somewhere else to go and you’re like, I don’t have room for you. But okay, here. Again, it happens. So people surprise you, in ways that you don’t expect, and not always good ways. No, they just assume that. Yes, of course. Now he will take care of me. Of course she will.
Maggie Germano 44:08
Yeah, the unspoken expectations or maybe their own history with their parents or going back in their own families, but having not actually communicated that with their children or their grandchildren. And that can just really shake things up and make make things really difficult. And it might not be a scenario of like, Oh, I didn’t want to take care of you or I didn’t want you to live with me. It’s more like you were saying of like having the space having the resources having the mental and physical and time capacity for all those kinds of things. But being able to talk about that and and then depending on what people are capable of finding alternate options and solutions.
Michele Cagan 44:52
Yeah, definitely the time to deal with this is before it happens. I like that If you’re already in the situation, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have the conversations now and change how the situation is unfolding. Because you don’t want to end up with a lack of emotional and financial resources and then end up in a crisis yourself because of other people’s crises.
Maggie Germano 45:25
Right, because then that’s just perpetuating
Michele Cagan 45:28
and then your whole family is tapped out. And then where do you turn?
Maggie Germano 45:32
Yeah, exactly. No, that makes a lot of sense. So like having having those awkward, potentially awkward, uncomfortable conversations,
Unknown Speaker 45:40
whenever they need to be had are definitely awkward and uncomfortable. But there are ways to minimize that. And sometimes having a person like you involved in the conversation is a way to make it just more palatable. Kind of like family money therapy. You know, people don’t think about doing that when they’re having family money conversations, but bringing in a neutral financial professional, to say, Well, I’m looking at this financial picture, and I see it as a fan, you know, I see where the resources are. So I can tell you the best way to manage this, or I can help you as opposed to each person saying what they think they can do, which may not be realistic, and maybe what they wish they could do or what they’re afraid they can’t do. So I would actually advise whenever possible to bring in someone like you or me, or just any kind of, you know, a trusted financial neutral advisor who can look at everything and really help you piece together a plan that works for everybody.
Maggie Germano 46:54
Yeah, because then it’s objective, it’s about what is actually possible with the finances. And there, that third party can be unemotional. in that conversation, they can be that voice of just reason and not emotion, not bringing family dynamics into it. And just like, speak from, from the side of just the dollars.
Michele Cagan 47:19
Yeah, and setting family wide goals. It doesn’t, those wouldn’t negate, like, each person’s personal goals. But as a family, you know, my Our goal is to keep our parents in their home or, you know, bring in care, or, you know, whatever it is planning for it is the way to make it happen the way you want it to happen, and not some default way that nobody’s happy with.
Maggie Germano 47:45
Oh, exactly. I think that’s such an important thing to remember is planning ahead is actually better for everybody, because then it’s not just falling into what is the necessity later on. So is there anything else you want women listening to know whether they’re currently in this double caretaker role, or they might be eventually, just anything we haven’t touched on that you want to make sure they take away?
Michele Cagan 48:12
I know, I think probably the most important thing at the heart of all this is you. woman who is in this situation, you matter as much as everybody else. And you need to put yourself at the top of the list. Because without you, everything’s gonna fall apart. So you take care of you.
Maggie Germano 48:32
I think that’s really, really great advice. It’s something that women easily forget. And it’s a really, really Paramount thing to remember. Yeah. So how can folks get in touch with you if they want to either reach out to work with you or just follow the work that you do?
Michele Cagan 48:47
They can visit my website at MicheleCaganCPA.com. They can email me they can reach me on Twitter, or Facebook or Instagram. And, you know, if even if you just have one question, don’t be afraid to ask it. Because I’m happy to answer.
Maggie Germano 49:05
Right. And I will attest I was asking questions to you on Twitter about the PPP loan. So and you were very quick to answer.
Michele Cagan 49:14
Well, yeah, I just, I want everybody to have the answers they need when they need them. Which obviously, I can’t help everybody all the time. But you know, it’s a it’s knowledge. I’m happy to share.
Maggie Germano 49:28
Great, and we always need more of that. So thanks so much for being here today. I think this was a really important topic that a lot of people just don’t necessarily openly talk about, but it affects a lot of people. So I know that listeners will get a lot out of it.
Michele Cagan 49:44
I’m really glad we got a chance to talk about it. And I hope it sparks some comfort in some women out there who are worried about this kind of stuff.
Maggie Germano 49:54
Yeah, me too. Well, thanks so much.
Thank you so much for listening to them. Money circle podcast this week. If you like the conversations we’re having here and you’d like to go even deeper, join the new money circle community. In this safe intersectional feminist space. We will break down money, shame and build community and safety for everyone so that you can find the support you need to gain control over your finances. Visit Maggiegermano.com/moneycircle to learn more and to join. If you’d like to get more connected with me, subscribe to my weekly newsletter at Maggiegermano.com/subscribe. to learn more about my financial coaching services, my speaking and workshop offerings or just to read my blog visit Maggiegermano.com. You can also follow me on instagram and twitter @MaggieGermano. I look forward to hearing from you. Bye bye.
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