Monday, January 16, 2012

Closing The Books On 2011

Well, it’s January and time to do that thing I really hate doing….closing out the last fiscal year. Granted the spread sheets are done every month, so it's just a matter of printing them out and attaching them to the bills, but's like a mini review of my life and trust me when I say it's not nearly as interesting as it sounds. 

I used to run the family books back in the day. I paid bills and juggled the financial lives of us:  newlyweds... new parents... and then new homeowners. I did a pretty good job of it until Steve entered the land of stock options and stuff like that. He took over and I never gave it a second thought.

BIG mistake.

I should’ve been paying attention. It never occurred to me that one day I might have to do this again. I won’t go into the details of “if I knew then what I know now,” but even after losing over 2/3 of our household income when Steve died, I've managed to figure out how to keep the house, keep us afloat, and keep at least some of my sanity. (Okay, that's a stretch. I admit it.) My records are impeccable; every penny can be tracked. Even the junior son would be hard pressed to find fault with my bookkeeping skills. 

As widow, I’ve had to deal with the leftover pieces of Steve’s financial life, and let me tell you, it’s been quite the adventure. Seems he every time he changed jobs he left a 401k behind. Kinda like his shoes in the bathroom. That drove me crazy. And like the shoes, I avoided the issue by not confronting it. 

Once the medical bill saga drew to a close, it was time to consolidate my resources. Just like health insurance companies, each time I'd call one of those banking houses, I'd get a different answer. My favorite had to be the first call to Putnam requesting account name change forms. The guy told me I wasn’t the beneficiary. After I picked  my teeth up off the floor, I said that in the State of Minnesota that really didn’t matter since I was the widow. The guy then told me that when we filed for divorce, my ex-husband must have named his new wife as the beneficiary. Astounded, I demanded to know why this new wife hadn't been doing her share of the laundry or dealing with hospice. The guy on the other end of the phone did not seem to be amused. 

And just like health insurance companies, those big boys threw brickbats at me at every turn. I'd ask what kind of death certificate they wanted (and there are several kinds from which to choose) and send the damn thing in, then they’d tell me they wanted the other kind.  I'd ask for forms, and they would tell me to send an email. I’d send the email, and they wanted a fax. I would send the fax, and they would send forms to sign. I'd send those back, only to have them tell me those weren’t the right forms and I have to do it all over.  And as if that rigmarole weren't enough, they all insisted I had to open an account because they won’t send a rollover cheque unless you already have an account in their bank. 

I was getting ready to track down the imaginary widow to make her deal with these monsters when Stuart the Attorney rode to the rescue with a list of financial advisors who specialized in decomposing widows. 

Armed with a set of questions, I conducted interviews. And in the end, there was not even a moment’s hesitation about my choice. Lauri Salverda over at Clerestory, a small financial planning firm right here in little ol' Mendota Heights, answered my endless list of questions…and the ones she asked me in turn were the ones I wanted to be asked. She got that I was green all over: a complete rookie interested in green and ethical investment.

Lauri understood “the notebook” as soon as I handed it to her; she took the bottomless bucket of snailmail and handled the disbursement. She held my hand, handed me tissues, and even laughed at my very bleak humor. The papers are finally filed and the transfers are in progress.  It still won’t amount to much, but I will be able to stop worrying; this is a good thing.

But I will tell you all this one last thing: the banking industry is NOT your friend. They want to hang on to your money and not pay you a sou for the privilege of using your money. That's how they make their money...the stuff that makes them 1%'ers.  Be aware...they are not there to help you no matter how many toasters they promise. 

And for my next  trick....I will attempt to  do my own taxes!

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you have large amounts of money ...large meaning anything over 50 bucks, 
find someone you can trust and let them teach you what you need to know.
You'll sleep better. 
I promise. 


  1. Sigh. More and more I believe in delegating these things.

    It just isn't worth the stress.


  2. How does one make this more interesting for 2012?

  3. Came via the NYT to confirm the global laughing stock bit. But in truth it's beyond funny. It's sad.