Mindy: Okay. Cameron Huddleston, author of Mom and Dad, We Need To Talk, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast. How are you doing today?
Cameron: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me on your show.
Mindy: I’m really excited to talk to you. I have seen you at FinCon a thousand times, and we’ve chatted, but I’ve never gotten your whole backstory. So, I’m excited to hear how you got into money. How did you get into money? How did you discover the concept that you can trade little pieces of paper? No. So, let’s start with your backstory. Where does your journey with money begin?
Cameron: Well, I did discover that you could trade little pieces of paper for, in my case, model horses. When I was little, I got an allowance, a dollar a week, a whopping dollar a week. This was a long time ago. I would save up that money to buy these little model horses that I collected. This was really the only introduction I got to money from my parents. They didn’t talk to me about money. They didn’t talk to me about the value of saving money. I just figured if I could save it, I could buy things that I wanted. I remember when I went to college, they gave me a credit card, but didn’t really teach me how to use it responsibly, just saying, “This is for emergencies.” In my case, I thought, “Oh, here’s a clothing catalog. This is an emergency. I need a new sweater.”
Cameron: So, my parents really didn’t teach me much. They didn’t talk about money much. I was raised in this proper southern household where it was impolite to talk about money. My dad would tell me that, “You don’t talk about money. You don’t ask people about money. You don’t ask them about their income.” I never learned about money in school. Most of us don’t. When I gotten to the real world, I knew very little. I remember my first job they asked me if I wanted to contribute to a 401K, and I was like, “What is that? What the heck is that? You want me to set aside a portion of my very small paycheck? No way. I need every cent that’s coming to me.”
Cameron: So, I happen to fall into the world of personal finance writing. It wasn’t that it was my choice of careers. I was a journalist, and ended up getting into business supporting, decided to get my master’s in economic journalism. When I graduated from graduate school in 2001, we were heading into a recession. The company I wrote for, Dow Jones Newswires, they had a hiring freeze, so I couldn’t get my job back. I wanted to write about the economy for Bloomberg. They had a hiring freeze. No one was hiring, but Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine was. They were hiring someone to write for their website, and one of my professors from grad school knew someone there, interviewed, and got the job.
Cameron: Some people might think this is absolutely crazy. Why would they hire someone to write about personal finance if they were not an expert? Well, with journalism in general, you typically learn on the job. When I had my first job, writing about police, I didn’t know about cops and courts, but you learn. So, I learned about personal finance on the job. I’ve been doing this for 17 years now. So, I stuck with it. I’m glad I did. I learned everything I know about personal finance on the job, and I’m so grateful because if I hadn’t learned that, if I hadn’t had the job allowing me to write about personal finance and interviewed all these experts, I don’t even know where I stand financially right now. It would probably not be good.
Mindy: So, what does your dad think about your job because it’s impolite to talk about money, and then you talk about money all the time?
Cameron: Well, unfortunately, my father passed away many years ago. It happens to factor into this book that I’ve written because my father, even though he was an attorney, he died a the age of 61 without a will, and within a second marriage. So, anyone who thinks their parents are on top of their finances, let me tell you, think again. They may not be on top of things as much as you think they are. So, I think my father would have certainly been proud with where I have gone with my career. Unfortunately, he just did not live long enough to see me get to this point.
Scott: Going back to, jumping at the beginning of your career, you get your first job. It’s as a personal finance journalist, right? Then-
Cameron: My first job was actually as a general reporter.
Scott: General reporter? Okay. When was first personal finance gig?
Cameron: So, that was in 2001 with Kiplinger, and at that point, I was in my late 20s. So, I had worked as a reporter at a variety of other publications before I landed in personal finance field.
Scott: What I’m trying to get a sense of is, did that reporting change your financial habits or the way that you approach money? Was there a shift in how you handled your personal finances over the course of that career when you got that gig in your late 20s?
Cameron: Yes, it did. I think I’ve always been somewhere between a spender and a saver. I’m not a big spender, but I’m not a natural saver. When I got my start writing about personal finance, I was living in Washington, DC. It’s an expensive city. I was doing a pretty good job of living frugally, but I certainly learned so many more tricks of the trade, so speak.
Cameron: Once I started writing for Kiplinger’s, I really did learn more about the benefit of saving as much as you can. Early, I learned about credit and credit scores. I learned about borrowing, and just so many things that have affected me down the road. I’ve learned about things that I think most of us don’t know about, the ins and outs of insurance, especially things like life insurance and longterm care insurance, saving for college, and evaluating your needs versus wants. So, it’s affected me, for sure.
Scott: Got it. Sorry. We’ll take a quick pause here. Mindy, I thought you’re writing something here.
Mindy: Yeah. I was writing something about the shift in your thinking. When you’re a kid, you think that your parents know everything, and then when they died at age 61 with no will, you realized, “How do you reconcile that?” I think I want to ask that a little bit later.
Scott: Okay. So, let’s take a quick minute break here. I think we want the bulk of the show to be about that dialog, the book, your book, the concept with how do I interact with mom and dad, my parents, right? Do we want to spend more time on your personal finance story or is that something that you want to shy away from?
Cameron: I mean, we don’t have to. I think I’ve given you a lot already. So, I don’t know if there’s a whole lot more to tell.
Scott: Fair enough.
Mindy: You know what? I do want to make one comment on how now you’re really good with money, so it’s not that hard to learn.
Mindy: You picked this up. Okay. Oh, good. I’m not muted. Okay. Ready? I think it’s really interesting. I have known you and your name and your journalistic reputation for a while, and I’m actually a little shocked that you weren’t brought up learning about money. I think it’s very interesting that you were able to learn about it over the course of your job, and then that changed your whole financial life. I want to point out to people who are listening who might be thinking, “Oh, well, I didn’t learn about it as a kid, so I’ll never going to be good with money.” You can change. It’s not that difficult to get your finances in order once that’s your goal, once you learn about it, once you figure out money. You can make that change, and you can change your financial future.
Cameron: I agree 100%. I hear this all the time from my friends who say things like, “Oh, you’re so good with money.” It’s like, “Yeah, but I wasn’t born this way.” I wasn’t born knowing what a Roth IRA is. I learned this. I taught myself, and you can, too, and you have to. Honestly, sometimes it blows my mind when people say, “Oh, I know nothing about money,” but I mean, honestly, our lives do revolve around money, not that every decision you make in life should be based on money, how much money you’re going to make or how much you’re going to spend, but it does really affect our life, and how well we’re living, and the things that we can do, and the things that we can’t do.
Cameron: You should make an effort to understand money and how to make the most of the money that you have, so that you’re not wasting it. Sometimes it takes some effort, but it’s not impossible. It’s not like learning calculus. It’s not. It is not because I struggled with calculus in college, but I get personal finance, okay? So, you do not have to be a calculus wiz or even a math wiz. You just spend a little bit of time. There’s so many free resources online. Just get on there, and Google the things that you want to learn, and you can learn them.
Mindy: Yeah. What are the tenets of being good with money, spend less than you earn, save? I mean, this is all written out in my favorite finance book, The Richest Man in Babylon. Don’t invest money with people who don’t know what they’re doing. In the book, he invest money with a plumber to go by rubies. He’s like, “Why would I do that?” The plumber doesn’t know anything about rubies. He doesn’t know how to get quality rubies. It’s an old, old book, but it’s a goodie, but yeah. I mean, invest wisely. Save money, spend less than you earn. It’s not that difficult. Then yes, everybody’s situation is unique, and sometimes you have medical bills, and sometimes you have chronic conditions and all of that, but you just have to account for those in your spending.
Mindy: So, okay. A moment ago, you said that your dad was an attorney, but he died at age 61 with no will, which makes me feel slightly better about still not having a will yet, even though I have children. I’ve emailed my sister, “Hey, you take the kids and all my money,” but that’s probably not going to suffice.
Cameron: No. No. I don’t want to lecture you here on your podcast.
Mindy: That’s okay. I totally deserve it. I 1,000% deserve to be lectured for not having a will.
Cameron: Mindy, Mindy, it doesn’t matter what you told your sister. That’s not going to hold up in a court of law.
Mindy: I know.
Cameron: Laws are going to determine who gets the kids, and who gets what. Put it in writing.
Mindy: I know. I need to put it in writing. You’re right. I’m going to make a note right now.
Cameron: No. We get off this interview, and you’re going to call an attorney and schedule an appointment.
Mindy: Make a will, so Cameron doesn’t call you next week to yell at you, which she totally should.
Cameron: Yes. We’ve rewritten a will and we’ve had to update the will. So, we’ve done it twice.
Mindy: Oh, wow! Okay. So, Cameron Huddleston, expert on money.
Cameron: … and wills, and estate planning. No, not quite, but I have to yell about it.
Mindy: So, let’s go back to your dad because I don’t want to be on the hot seat anymore. When you’re growing up, you think your parents know everything, and then when you become a teenager, your parents don’t know anything. It’s really difficult to reconcile that shift where you realized, “Oh, I know more than my parents about not just how to get online and use your phone.”
Mindy: My mom still texts me, “Mindy, why does my phone do this?” I’m like, “I didn’t design it. I don’t know,” because just hit delete. It’s fun, but it’s also a little frustrating. I don’t know anything about that. I’m not an expert just because I’m younger than you, but on the subject of money, sometimes you do become an expert, and you look at your parents and you’re like, “Oh, you’re making mistakes.” How do you reconcile that shift in now the student becomes the teacher or the student becomes the master? How do you do that? How do you reconcile that in yourself?
Cameron: Well, I think when you reconcile it out loud with your parents, you do it very carefully. I think it’s easy. I think it’s easier to reconcile it internally because you realize that maybe you had access to information that your parents did not. Their parents probably did not talk about money because they’re from an even older generation where no one talked about it. It’s more and more a common place for generations to be talking about money, but I’m talking about our generation talking to our kids.
Cameron: Mindy, you and I are close to the same age. Our parents probably did not talk about it to us. Mine did not because their parents didn’t, and they were taught not to. So, I think it’s easier for you to say, “Hey, I get it. I grew up with access to the internet. I was interested in this, and maybe my employer offers me these resources.” My parents didn’t have these things, and that’s okay. That might explain part of the reason why they’re not as good with money as perhaps maybe I am now, but you don’t want to say that to your parents.
Cameron: You’re not going to go up and say, “Mom and Dad, I can see that you’re having some trouble with things. Those scammers are calling you, and you pick up the phone, and then you answer, and you give them the information you shouldn’t.” You don’t want to embarrass them. That’s the last thing you want to do because as we all know, once we’re put on the spot, we get defensive. You start making excuses for doing the things that you do or you just don’t even want to talk about it. So, we shut down.
Cameron: The last thing you want to do if you’re going to talk to your parents about these things because you see they need help is to have them shut down the conversation. You want to open that door as wide as possible. So, you want to do it as carefully as possible.
Mindy: So, how do you start this conversation? I mean, I have not, just like I haven’t done a will, this is the Mindy Sucks At Everything Show, I have not had this conversation with my parents or with my husband’s parents, and I think that’s going to be the conversation to have, but how do you start it without just … I think if they shut down, getting that door open again is going to be a thousand times harder.
Scott: Mindy, I’ll let you off the hook a little bit here. I haven’t done these things either.
Cameron: It’s okay, you guys.
Mindy: Thank you, Scott.
Cameron: You’re not alone. The majority of adult children have not had these conversations with their parents, an overwhelming majority because they either don’t realize that it’s an important conversation to have or even if they do, they’re afraid to have the conversation. I get it. I mean, it is awkward. It ranks right up there at the very top of awkward conversations like the birds and bees conversation that your parents have with you or that you have with your kids, but this is not one of those conversations that you can just not have and assume everything’s going to work out because it won’t.
Cameron: There’s so many reasons why you need to have these conversations sooner rather later. I know I’m not answering your question exactly, but I really want to drive this point home with people using my own example. My mother was 65 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I was 35, okay? Even though I was a financial journalist and still am a financial journalist, I had not talked to her about her finances. It wasn’t something that I was thinking about. I had young kids. I was trying to understand how about my own finances. As I saw her starting to have memory issues, I knew that I had to take action really quickly.
Cameron: Now, if I had had conversations beforehand, they all could have been about hypothetical what ifs. “What if this happens, mom? What can we do? What should we do? Let’s talk about your finances, so we can plan.” Once that health emergency or financial emergency comes up, you’re not talking about a hypothetical anymore. You’re talking about, “We have a crisis, and we have to deal with it.” Emotions are running high, and the last thing people want to talk about is money. They want to just talk about how to get through this crisis that they’re dealing with.
Cameron: So, you got emotions to deal with. You’re not acting rationally. Your parents are not acting rationally. You have fewer options. Having these conversations sooner gives you so many more options as far as what you can do when emergencies do arise, help you plan, help you come up with all of these worst case scenario responses. Most importantly, it helps you ensure that your parents have things like a will, power of attorney, living will, which can also be called an advanced healthcare directive.
Cameron: When my mom was starting to lose her memory, I was like, “Mom, we’ve got to meet with an attorney right away to update your legal documents.” The reason this is so important is you have to be competent, mentally competent to sign these documents. So, if I had waited any longer with my mother, her memory probably would have declined too much then an attorney would have said, “No. I’m sorry. She’s no longer competent. We cannot allow her to sign these documents. We can’t allow her to name you power of attorney because she doesn’t realize what’s going on anymore.”
Cameron: Fortunately, she was so competent. I’m her power of attorney, so as my sister. She spelled out what sort of end-of-life care she wants, and a living will, named me as her healthcare power of attorney, updated her will. Without those documents, if she had not named me power of attorney, I would not have been able to step in and managed her finances. I would have had to go to court to be named her conservator. It’s a very lengthy, expensive process. You’re basically putting your parent on trial to prove that they are no longer competent. It’s something that no family should have to go through.
Cameron: So, if you think, “Oh, mom had a stroke. She’s in the hospital. I need to make sure her bills get paid. I’m going to go to a bank.” They’re not going to talk to you unless you are your parent’s power of attorney. I mean, they can’t. It is for the protection for their client.
Cameron: So, this is why people need to have these conversations. The way you go about it, there are a variety of ways you can do it. One is you can use a story. Your listeners are hearing me talk about my mother. So, they can go to their parents and say, “I just heard this podcast. This woman was talking about how she had to step in and take over of her mom’s finances when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but she had to make sure these things were in place first. Mom and Dad, let’s talk about what needs to be done in case something happens to you, so that I can help you if you need it.”
Cameron: If you’re younger, like in your 20s still and you’re just starting out, a great way to start these conversations is to ask your parents for advice. Even if you think you know more than mom and dad, it doesn’t matter. Parents love to give advice.
Mindy: Parents don’t take any advice, right?
Cameron: Yes. They love to give advice, so make it look like you’re asking for advice. “Mom and Dad, I just got married. What do you think? Do I need a will now? Do I need life insurance?” Their answers are going to clue you in, hopefully, on what they’ve done. They might say, “Ooh! Yes, a will. I’ve been meaning to get around to that,” or “Yes, we drafted a will the day after we got married because we’re on top of things and, oh, by the way, you’re going to be the executive of our state.”
Cameron: “Oh, I am? Okay. Let’s talk about what that means.”
Cameron: So, asking them for advice, finding a way to ask them for advice can open the door to more conversations using that story. It can hopefully open the door to conversations, talking about what if scenarios, “Mom and Dad, let’s talk about what would happen if … What would happen if you’re in retirement and maybe you find that things aren’t as comfortable as you would like to be? What sort of help might you need from me or let’s talk about longterm care. What are your plans in case you ever need longterm care,” because I will tell you, most people don’t have a plan, which means you as the adult child are your parent’s longterm care plan, and you will be taking care of them.
Mindy: Oh! So, what can … Excuse me. What can you do if your parents say that their finances are none of your business or they don’t want to share any of their information with you? I mean, I can see someone who, especially somebody who’s good with money has parent who are bad with money. They might be embarrassed about it. They might just want to shut down, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Don’t ask me these questions. It’s impolite.”
Cameron: Your response is to kindly say, “I understand. I understand this is a very difficult topic for you. I know you think it’s none of my business, but Mom and Dad, it could be my business someday. If something were to happen to you, if you have a health issue that leaves you in the hospital, how are your bills get paid? Who is going to make sure that your rent gets paid or your mortgage gets paid or your electricity stays on in your house or that your medical bills get paid while you are in the hospital? How is that going to happen? What’s going to happen when it’s the end of life, and there’s no will, and my siblings and I have to figure out what you wanted? I need to know what your wishes are. I need to know what sort of care you want.
Cameron: I need to know how I can help you out because, Mom and Dad, you raised, and I love you, and I appreciate that, and I want to be able to return the favor, but the only way I can do that is if you do share some information with me. I get it. It’s uncomfortable, and you don’t necessarily have to tell me, but what you can do is write it down. Write everything down, all the information about your accounts, how your bills are paid, what insurance policies you have. Write it down, and put it some place safe, and tell me where to find it in case I need it. Those legal documents, make sure you have them. Put them in the same place, so that I can access them if something happens. You don’t even have to tell me. Just do this. Put it some place safe, so I can get to it if I need it.”
Scott: In that conversation, just thinking out loud here, things that might be very uncomfortable for parents to share might be things like the amount of money in a 401K plan or the amount of money on a bank account. It seems like what you’re saying is that is not necessary for this conversation at all.
Scott: If something were to happen, how would I at that time go about accessing these accounts and those types of things? Is that accurate?
Cameron: Yes. It’s 100% accurate. If your parents think money is a taboo topic, really, you don’t need to make the conversation about money. “Mom and Dad, I don’t need to know how much money you save for retirement. I don’t need to know what’s in the bank account. I just need to know where you bank. I need to know whether your bills are paid automatically or you’re writing a check. I need to know if you’re writing a check, whether you’ve given me the legal authority to write a check for you if something happens to you. I don’t need specifics. I just need to know some basics, so that I can help you if you need help.
Scott: You don’t even need to see the will, right? You just need to know that it exists.
Cameron: No. I just need to know it exists. I just need to know that you’ve named the power of attorney, and if that power of attorney is me, please let me know. If it’s someone else, make sure they know, so that if something happens, they could actually know where to find the document and step in and help you. It doesn’t do any good to have these documents if no one knows where they are.
Scott: Okay. So, do you have a checklist of information and questions? What does success look like in terms of having this taken care of?
Cameron: I do. I have. In the book, there’s a whole chapter of what you need to find out, and I break it down based on how comfortable your parents are when it comes to talking about this, so the basics, find out what legal documents they have and how they pay their bills. If they’re willing to share that, dig a little deeper. If they’re an open book, then I list everything you should get from them.
Cameron: I also have on my website, which is CameronHuddleston.com, a form that you can download and give to your parents to pull all this information in it, and then they can hide it away until the day comes that you need to access it.
Mindy: Wow! When you first started talking about this, I’m like, “Okay. It’s about the amount of money, and it’s not. I think that that would also be parents who aren’t necessarily comfortable sharing that. I think that would be what they are assuming you’re asking as well. So, I’m really glad that you were able to clarify that because that just, “What do I pay? is not “How much money are you leaving me when you die?” which could be what the parents are thinking you’re asking.
Cameron: That’s what they often are thinking, which is why they’re reluctant to talk. They don’t want to talk about who’s getting what because sometimes parents don’t divide things equally, and they don’t want to tell their kids that because they don’t want fighting to occur. You can tell your parents that, “I don’t care what you’re leaving me in a will. I don’t care how you divided it up. I don’t care if you’re not leaving me anything,” because, honestly, you shouldn’t.
Cameron: You should not be relying on an inheritance. If you get something, awesome, but don’t be relying on it. You just let your parents know, “I just want to know if you have these documents. I just need to know some basics, so that if something happens, I know that things are lined up, so that there’s not any financial disaster, there’s not some legal disaster,” because you think your family gets along until someone dies. Then every estate planning attorney I know will tell you that that’s when the fights are out. People you think who got along don’t.
Scott: So, I want to get into that topic in a second. I know it’s an uncomfortable one, but I’m just going to go there, but before we do that, can you give us a quick overview of some of those key things to have in place. I know that they’re in the book and on your website, but could you maybe just give us a quick overview what those look like?
Cameron: Okay. So, are you talking about as far as what your parents should have?
Cameron: Okay. So, legal documents, a will or a living trust, which will specify where your assets go when you die. If you do not have a will or a living trust, the state has one for you, basically. State law will dictate who gets what, and it might not be the person you want getting your house or your savings or your stock certificates or hidden in a shoebox under your bed.
Cameron: So, will is very important, and a lot of people think, “Well, only rich people need wills.” That’s not true. That is not true at all. If you have any assets, you need to specify who gets them. Need a will, but I think even more importantly is the power of attorney document. As I mentioned before, this allows you to name someone to make financial decisions for you if you cannot. So, so important. It doesn’t mean that if you name your child your power of attorney, that suddenly they can just get in and access your accounts. It means they can access your accounts if you are no longer competent to do so yourself.
Cameron: The thing is they can’t do anything without that actual document. They can’t just go into a bank and say, “Hey, I’m my mom’s power of attorney.” They’re going to want to see the document. So, again, if you tell your parents, “Please make sure you have this document. Let me know if I’m your power of attorney. It’s okay to put it some place safe. Just tell me how to access it.” So, they don’t have to worry if they don’t trust you very well. If they don’t trust you, they shouldn’t be naming you power of attorney, but tell them they don’t have to give it to you now, just tell you where to find it.
Cameron: Then the final thing is the advanced directive or it’s also called a living will. It spells out the end-of-life care you want, whether you want to be on life support, and it also lets you name someone to make healthcare decisions for you. This is so important. My mother, she’s in assisted living now because she has Alzheimer’s, but she’s had some surgeries, and I’m so glad that there’s that living will because when I fill out documents for her, I have to mark whether she has one, and I’m glad she decided beforehand what end-of-life support she did or did no want because I don’t want to have to make that decision for her.
Cameron: I don’t want to have to be the one to decide whether my mother should stay on life support. That’s not a decision you want your family members to have to make because they can argue over it. Someone might be practical and say, “Why should we spend thousands of dollars every month to keep someone on life support when there’s no chance?” Whereas someone else says, “No. We could never do that. We can’t take mom off life support.” So, it leads to these huge fights. So, you want to make sure they have these documents.
Cameron: You also want to find out about longterm care. Had they done any longterm care planning? Do they have longterm care insurance? I will tell you that most people do not. If they don’t have longterm care insurance, do they have savings to help cover it? Do they have maybe an annuity or do they have a life insurance policy that has a longterm care benefit? What are their plans? There’s a good chance they don’t have any plans because most people don’t. That’s when the conversations really need to start happening because if your parents have no plan for paying for it, that means, especially if you’re an only child, you might have to be the one to provide that care for your parent.
Cameron: I could tell you longterm care is so expensive. I mean, we’re talking $4,000 to $5,000 a month for assisted living, $80,000 to $90,000 a year for nursing home care. I mean, it is astronomical. So, if you’re going to be the one providing that care, which most family members are the caregivers, that means you might need to be preparing your finances now to help your parents out if they need it. That might mean you plan for early retirement, so that you don’t have to leave a job to help care for mom or dad. You have this nice big cash cushion to help out or maybe you’re setting aside money now to help your parents pay for that care. You and your siblings have a discussion, “Mom and Dad have no way to pay for longterm care. We’re doing well financially. Let’s start saving money for them. Let’s get a longterm care insurance policy for them.”
Cameron: These conversations, if they happen early enough, can give you so many more options as opposed to, “Oh, my gosh! Dad just had a stroke. He has to go into a nursing facility. How are we going to pay for it?” Medicare will cover some of the cost if it is a health-related incident that sends you into longterm care, but if you have dementia, for example, Medicare does not pay for that. Medicaid will, but as you and your listeners probably know, I mean, you have to have very limited assets to qualify for Medicaid.
Scott: One of the things, and going through this list, you named a number of things to have in place that even to me seem a little overwhelming. What professional or what resource would I go to in order to set all this stuff up? Who do I call?
Cameron: An attorney. You call an attorney, an estate planning attorney.
Scott: Estate planning attorney.
Cameron: I know that people would say, “Well, there’s a cost to this.” Yes, there is. You are going to pay a few hundred to a thousand or more for an estate plan, the will or the living trust, the power of attorney document, the advanced healthcare directive, but that cost, that upfront cost is going to save you potentially astronomical legal cost down the road if you don’t have these documents in place, and your kids are going to be the ones who had to pick up that most likely. If they end up in court fighting over who gets what because you died without a will, they’re going to pay for that. If they have to go to court to get conservatorship for you because you did not name them power of attorney, that’s going to cost them thousands of dollars.
Cameron: So, yes, there is a cost, but it’s so worth it, and I would recommend meeting with an attorney, especially if you have any complicated situation. There are DIY type of documents and those documents are certainly better than nothing. If you go to Nolo.com, for example, they have wills, power of attorney documents, living wills. If your budget is limited, having those documents are better than nothing. Maybe as the child having this conversation with the parents and you know that they don’t have thousand dollars to spare to get estate planning documents, you might suggest that, “You and your siblings pitch in and help.” “Hey, Mom and Dad. We’d like to do this for you, so that you can make sure that your wishes are spelled out, and put in writing. We would love to help pay for you to meet with an attorney and have these documents drawn up for you.” It’s something that you could offer. It might help. Then maybe even they’ll let you go with them.
Cameron: “Let’s do it together. You know what? I need to get a will, Mindy.”
Cameron: “Mom, maybe we make sure your documents are updated. We’ll just all go together,” and then everyone gets on the same page. We know what role everyone is expected to play. So, meet with an attorney. If you can’t afford the attorney, use one of the DIY options if you have to, but certainly, the attorney can be a better option just because it’s less likely to be contested in court. It’s going to stand up better to any sort of challenge because it is tailored to your specific situation.
Mindy: That was just going to be the next question I ask, should the adult children meet with the attorney? So, where can you find an estate planning attorney?
Cameron: So, the easiest way is to do a Google search. Type in estate planning attorney, and the name of your city. Sometimes you can go and start looking on their websites to see whether they’re part of an estate planning attorney association. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more qualified than any other estate planning attorney out there, but it’s something to look for. Ask for recommendations from your friends, “Hey, have you had a will drawn up? Is there anyone you can recommend?” That’s certainly a good way to go about it, too. So, either just start with a Google search, and then ask around for your friends.
Scott: Okay. This has been very helpful. It’s the same topic, but I want to transition slightly to what are some of the problems that you’ve come across? A parent passes on, and there’s a bunch of drama that goes on because of lack of preparation in these types of things or even in some cases where maybe things have been well-thought out, but there are still problems because of the way the will was structured or whatever. Let’s start with … How do I phrase this question? I’m trying to think about this. What are some of the fights that occur in your experience that can be easily prevented or just prevented in general even if they are tough decisions?
Cameron: It’s funny. People can get over fights, get into fights over the smallest of things when a family member dies. An attorney I interviewed for my book, an estate planning attorney said that there was a family, and they were arguing over reimbursement for mowing the lawn at a parent’s house after the parent had died. One of the kids have been doing it and, “You need to pay me for mowing mom and dad’s lawn now that they’re no longer there, and I’m taking care of the house.”
Cameron: I mean, really, seemingly insignificant things, people can fight over them after someone dies. Mowing the lawn isn’t necessarily going to be in someone’s will, but it’s just, really, people can start arguing over the smallest of things that you would never think people even care about. They’re going to argue over which China, who gets the China or who gets the dresser drawer that was in mom’s room that you thought was really awesome for some reason.
Cameron: Sometimes the arguments happen when a parent dies and there’s another parent left behind, and the argument is over, and oftentimes, it’s going to be the woman, the mom who’s left behind, the spouse, the husband dies. Mom is left on her own, and the kids are arguing over, “What do we do with mom now? Where should she be living?” I interviewed a woman for my book who found herself in the situation. She and her brothers had not had any conversations before their father died. I mean, he was ill. They knew he was not going to live much longer, but they never said anything before he died about, “Let’s make a plan together as far as what should happen with mom after dad dies. Where do we think she should go?”
Cameron: So, what happened is when he did die, they were all panicking, “Oh, my gosh! Mom’s on her own now. What do we do?” One of them said, “Well, she should stay where she is. This is our childhood home. I don’t want her to move.” The other one said, “She should move closer to me.” The woman I interviewed really thought mom should move into a retirement community, so she could be around other people her age and not have the responsibility of caring for a house. The siblings were all arguing over it, and the best decision was not made for mom because they had not gotten on the same page beforehand. Mom ended up selling her house that was paid off, moving to a house closer to her sons, getting a mortgage in her 80s in a house that had stairs to get up into it and a neighborhood where there weren’t people her age. She can’t maintain the house on her own. The sons are too busy with their own lives to help her. Now, she’s saying to her daughter, “I should have listened to you. I should have looked into the retirement community.”
Cameron: The woman I had interviewed said, “I don’t think I approached it the right way, though. My mom was just thinking, ‘Nursing home, old people’s home, not retirement community with people my age where I can be social, I don’t have to deal with maintenance costs.'” So, a lot of these conversations are about how you frame them. Yes, if the parent die without a will, that causes a problem, but part of the reason you have these conversations is to talk about what will happen before they die as they age like, “Mom and Dad, maybe it’s time to move,” which is a very difficult conversation.
Cameron: “You’re in this big house. I know it’s causing a lot of stress for you, and it’s draining your finances that you could be using to enjoy your retirement. Let’s talk about whether it’s time for you to downsize, whether there’s some place else you could be living that’s better for you. Maybe you want to move closer to us.” Maybe, if you’re that kid who really loves your parent, you say, “Maybe you want to move in with us.” These are the type of things that you can discuss that can help avoid those worst case scenarios if you wait until you’re already in the middle of them.
Mindy: So, you mentioned in that story that the mom was thinking old people’s home, and you were meaning retirement community. What’s the difference?
Cameron: There are so many levels of retirement communities, assisted living, and there’s so many options out there that your parents might not even realize exist because they might just be thinking nursing home, the place you go to die, and no one wants to go to a nursing home. There are surveys out there that have found that people would rather die than go to a nursing home. I don’t blame people. It’s not like anyone says, “Oh, when I get old, I hope I spend my golden years in a nursing home.” No. There are all sorts of communities out there, and some are certainly more affordable than others. I mean, there’s a Jimmy Buffett-themed retirement community.
Cameron: Actually, it’s in my book. I’m struggling to remember the name of it. I think it’s Latitude Margaritaville or something like that. I mean, you can find a retirement community to fit any niche. There are golfing places in there, places that have spas in them. I mean, there’s some really nice ones. Of course, you’re going to pay more for that. I mean, there are even condominiums and apartment buildings that are specifically for the 50 and up group. For your parents, that might be ideal. It might be a lot better than the house they’re living in, in a neighborhood where they’re just a bunch of young people, and they don’t have anyone their age, and they’re having to take care of the yard, and they’re having to maintain the house.
Cameron: So, so many options out there now for older adults to find the type of lifestyle that they want. Oops! Hang on, guys. My thing is telling me to find another power source because my battery is low, and I don’t know why. Let me make sure … I know it. We don’t want to lose this.
Scott: This has been great, by the way.
Mindy: Yeah, this is awesome.
Cameron: Let’s pause for a second because it looks like my power source will go out of my computer. Okay. Okay. I’m plugged in. That would have been a disaster. Okay, guys. Sorry about that.
Mindy: No worries.
Cameron: All right. I’m ready.
Scott: Okay. So, one of the things I’m picking up on this discussion is it’s less about money. It’s not really about having a conversation with money. It’s just about all of the ways that you want your life and situation to play out over the years having that upfront in advance because it can be very painful if you don’t have it advanced ahead of time.
Cameron: Exactly. It is. It’s all about making sure your parents can age comfortably and making sure that you are able to help them if they need help, and making sure that they have spelled out their final wishes and writing. It’s all about your parent’s best interest. That’s what these conversations should be about. You’re approaching them as a loving child, and letting them know that you want to be able to help them, not that you’re being nosy, not that you’re trying to figure out what you’re going to get when they die. It’s all about, “Mom and Dad, I want to help you. I love you, and I want to help you.” These conversations will give us both peace of mind.
Scott: Now, from our position, the folks that are listening to the show probably, a lot of those folks are probably the ones that are going to be potentially having this conversation with parents. Aside from becoming very wealthy and retiring early so that you can react with no consequences financially to whatever life hurdles are thrown at you, what, I guess, conversations should you be having with your parents about mistakes that they can avoid going into this situation?
Cameron: Mistakes they should avoid as they go into retirement or as they age?
Cameron: Well, they certainly, a lot of people who I’m sure as you know, they’re saving for retirement, but they don’t even know how much they should be saving or they’re counting on Social Security, which you can live on Social Security if your mortgages are already paid off, if you live in a place with a low cost of living, if you don’t have any other debt, but if you’ve got a mortgage, if you’ve got whatever, a car loan, if you are in an expensive city, living on Social Security alone is going to leave you with a very bare bones existence.
Cameron: So, one of the things you might want to discuss with your parents very carefully is if they’re not in retirement yet, just go ahead and simply ask them, “Mom and Dad, what does retirement look like for you? Do you think you’re going to be traveling much? Do you think that you’re going to be staying where you are? This might give you some insight. You’re not asking them, “How much you’ve saved for retirement?” You’re just asking them what retirement is going to look like for them or if they’re already in retirement, “How’s retirement going? Are you enjoying it?”
Cameron: They might say, “Well, it’s not going as well as I thought it would be. I thought we were going to have enough money.” They might not say that. If they’re embarrassed, obviously, they’re not going to come out and say, “Hey, we’re struggling,” but some other things might give you some clues, “We thought we were going to travel more, but we haven’t been able to.”
Cameron: “Oh, really? Why not? If you want, I can help you, I can show you how to get good deals on flights, on hotel rooms.” Oftentimes, offering your parents help, “I can show you ways to save money on groceries. I can show you how to eliminate those fees on your bank account,” can help open the door to some of these conversations. So, you want to make sure if you can talk to your parents about, obviously, the legal documents, suggesting they meet with an attorney, you might even suggest that they meet with an accountant or a financial planner, “Mom and Dad, I met with a financial planner recently. It was so helpful. We’ve mapped out how much I should be saving for retirement or how I’m going to get through retirement. You might benefit from it. Hey, do you want me to give you the name of my financial planner?”
Cameron: They might say, “Oh, no. I don’t need a financial planner,” and say, “Try it out. It’s okay. It’s on me. It’s on me. Just try it out and see what you think.” Then if you can get them in the door with a financial planner, that might help put them on the path to avoiding a lot of mistakes and it also might help open the door to conversations with you. Oftentimes, you have to give a third-party involved with a parent because they see you as the child. They don’t want to share this information with you. If you ask a trusted family friend, a financial professional to let them know, “Please, can you encourage my parents to talk to me?” If they hear it from someone else, they might be more willing to do it.
Scott: Got it. That’s great advice.
Mindy: Yeah. That’s awesome. This has been really helpful not only in shaming me to get myself a will, but also just in general. I’m going to need to have this conversation, and I’m not all that excited about doing it, but focusing on it’s not about the money. It’s about the process of making sure your assets are protected. I think that’s really great advice for people who … I mean, I don’t want to have this conversation. It seems really, really awkward. So, making it not about the money seems to take a huge amount of stress and pressure off of both parties.
Cameron: I can tell you, though, Mindy, that not having the conversation, the situations that you could end up in are so much more awkward. They’re so much more stressful. They’re a lot scarier. I just want you to ask yourself and anyone who’s out there listening, what are you so afraid of? Why are you so afraid of this conversation? These are your parents. They are going to love you, hopefully, no matter what, hopefully. They might be a little put off that you bring this up initially, but most likely, they’re not going to blow off. They might try to blow you. They’re not going to blow up. They might try to blow you off a little bit. That’s why this can take time. They might say no the first time. They might shut you down and say, “No. This is none of your business.”
Cameron: You know what? Try another approach. Keep at it because sometimes it can take a while. Find little ways to start the conversation. Find little ways to get them to open up, and just take those baby steps. Really, you just have to remember that these are your parents. They are going to love you. I mean, I know you have kids, Mindy. I mean, I look at my 14-year-old daughter who makes me mad almost everyday, but I still love her. I still love her.
Cameron: I don’t think this is going to make your parents that mad. It might make them feel a little bit uncomfortable, but at the end of the day, they should still love you, and if they see that you’re having this conversation because you love them, hopefully, they will see the benefit, and they will appreciate that you have asked them for this information. You might be surprised. They might even say, “You know what? I’ve been meaning to have this conversation with you. I just didn’t know how to bring it up.”
Mindy: Oh! Well, you’ve given us several great starting points for getting this conversation started, and that’s really, really helpful. I am going to make this phone call by the end of the week. I promise.
Scott: Oh, man!
Mindy: You heard it here. What did you say, Scott?
Scott: I said, “Oh, man!” When is this show get released?
Mindy: June 24th.
Scott: Oh! So, you have several, several weeks before that end of that week, right?
Scott: We will share this in advance. I’m giving Mindy a little buffer zone here.
Mindy: Oh, no. By the end of this week that we’re recording in right now, I will have made this conversation. Okay. Cameron, this was wonderful. I’m super excited for your book. I have been since I heard your title and your topic, I’m like, “Yeah, I need that book.” Is there anything else you want to share with our listeners before we make it to our famous four questions?
Cameron: Well, I’ll just recap quickly. These conversations need to happen sooner rather than later. Keep trying. It can take a while to get through your parents. Don’t be afraid. It will probably not be as awkward as you think it will be, and just to follow up on what you just said, Mindy, that you’re going to call your parents, realize that a lot of times, these conversations are going to have to happen over time. You’re not going to be able to sit down with your parents and get all this information at once. You might have to call and say, “Hey, Mom and Dad. I really want to have this conversation with you. Let’s schedule a time to sit down and talk when we’re all relaxed.” You don’t want to do it in the middle of Thanksgiving. Do it when everyone can be relaxed, when everyone is calm, but certainly, realize that these can take time. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t give up.
Mindy: Ah! Don’t give up. Perfect way to end that. Okay.
Scott: I’ll throw in just per another piece of advice you gave us all earlier on the show, do it yourself, right? Have your own documents ready to go as an example.
Scott: I think that’s a great way to break the ice and put that in.
Cameron: Yes. I just did all this. You can even say that to your parents, too. I know we’re trying to wrap it up here, but you can just say, “Hey, I just found this form online where I can fill out all my account information, so that my spouse, my partner can have it if something happens to me. I want to give it to you, so that if something happens to me, you can help out. I think it would be great if you fill one of these out, too.”
Mindy: Wow! I’m getting guilt on both ends, but you’re right. It’s well-deserved guilt. I should have this. My kids are 12 and 9. I should really have had this 12 and 9 years ago at the latest. So, I should get this financial guilt. Okay. Great. Yeah. I’ve got a lot of things to do. Scott, I’m going to need you to take the afternoon off. Okay.
Mindy: Cameron, this was so helpful. I’m super excited about your book, but we’re not done with you yet. We have our famous four questions, the same four questions and one command that we ask of all of our guests. Are you ready?
Cameron: I’m ready.
Mindy: What is your favorite finance book?
Cameron: So, I read a lot. I think one that comes to mind is David Bach’s Smart Couples Finish Rich. I loved it because it got me thinking about some of the things that my husband and I need to do to work together better as a couple on our finances. So, that’s one that I read recently that I liked.
Mindy: Yes. Somebody else just said that recently, too.
Mindy: I can’t remember exactly who, but yeah, David Bach has some pretty great books.
Cameron: The thing that makes them so good is that they’re so easy to read. Even though he is a financial professional, they are in a language that anyone can understand.
Mindy: That’s what I really appreciate about some of these finance books that are recommended on the show is they’re not … I love The Richest Man in Babylon, but if you don’t love Shakespeare language, that book is going to be so hard to get through. I think it’s great because I love that language, but if you don’t, I mean, it’s like reading the King James bible. I mean, they’re easy to learn financial lessons, but they’re still, the language is difficult. Yeah. I don’t want all these legal terms and mambo jumbo. I want plain English, and yeah, you’re right. Those are really easy books to read.
Scott: Love it. What was your biggest money mistake?
Cameron: So, my biggest money mistake really does tie in to the reason I wrote this book, and it’s not talking to my mom soon enough about her finances. I had a really good opportunity to have the conversation with her before she developed Alzheimer’s, but I just dropped the ball. When I look back now and I’m like, “Oh! Why?”
Cameron: I had mentioned that she should get longterm care insurance. She went and met with an insurance agent, and she found out that she cannot get coverage because of a preexisting condition. It was not Alzheimer’s. It was something else. At that point, I should have said, “Hey, mom. Let’s come up with a plan. Let’s look at your assets. Let’s figure out how we could pay for longterm care if you ever need it,” but I didn’t. I didn’t even think about it. So, then I had to had that conversation as she was losing her memory, which made it so much more difficult.
Cameron: I have other ones, too, like the life insurance benefit that I got from my dad when he passed away, and I just blew it. I look back and I don’t even know what happened to that money. That was before I was writing about personal finance. So, in my defense, in my defense, but I should have known better. I don’t even know what happened to that money.
Mindy: We will forgive you.
Scott: I think it’s a very relevant fantastic example of a mistake. It was just, I think, a little hard to react to. It seems like the mistake is being proactive, not being proactive enough about a situation that you know has a reasonable likelihood of coming up in the future and needs to be addressed.
Mindy: Yeah, but we’re not here to beat you up. We’re just sharing. I think it’s really helpful. That question, actually, came from the lessons that we learned from the BiggerPockets Real Estates Investing Podcast. I hear from so many people who say, “I learn the most from other people’s mistakes.” Yes, you had a success, but what you did wrong helps me or hearing what you did wrong helps me avoid that same thing. So, I like to ask that question just to hear that nobody is perfect. Even Scott made a money mistake.
Cameron: I spell it out in the book. I mean, I write at the beginning, in the introduction, I say, “This was a mistake that I made. I’m writing this book because I don’t want people to make the same mistake.” I didn’t realize it. I just didn’t realize it because I didn’t have any friends my age who were going through a similar situation.
Mindy: Yeah. It stinks to be the trailblazer. Okay. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?
Cameron: Save, save, save. Take advantage of that 401K or the 403(b), whatever retirement account your employer offers. I know when that first paycheck is small and you think, “How can I even impart with $10, $20?” but if you start when you are younger, you really need to set aside less than if you wait till you’re 30, 40 or 50. You have to set aside three, four, five times as much to get to the same amount of savings at the age of, say, 65 if you retire then than if you had started when you were in your early 20s.
Cameron: I mean, you hear about the magic of compounding, but it is true, and I wish I had done that. I have had to play catch up because I didn’t start saving enough when I was younger. So, now, I’m having to work twice as hard, save twice as much just to get to that point that I probably could have reached it even a while ago if I had started sooner. Your listeners are on this because they are planning on retiring early and they got it. They got the message somehow.
Mindy: Yes, but this episode might be shared with a lot of people who, hopefully, please if you know somebody who’s going through this situation, please share this episode with them, and maybe they’ll start to see that, “Hey, I could retire early, too.” I don’t remember where I read this. I remember that I was in my 20s when I read it, something about if you save $2,000 a year every year from 22 to 30, you’ll have more money at 65 than if you saved $4,000 a year from 30 to 65.
Cameron: You’re probably right.
Mindy: Yeah. The compounding, assuming the same rate of return and all of that, but yeah, it’s amazing, the power of compound interest. It’s the eighth wonder of the world according to Albert Einstein, I think. That might be a fake quote.
Cameron: We’re going to go with it because it sounds good.
Mindy: It sounds good, and he’s really smart. So, definitely, that’s exactly how that happened. Okay. The best question.
Scott: What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?
Cameron: Okay. So, the sad thing is I don’t even have a good joke to tell at parties.
Mindy: That’s okay. These are never good.
Cameron: I mean, I can’t even think of a good joke to tell at parties. I don’t even know any, but we have an Alexa. You guys, you know what I’m talking about?
Mindy: Yes, the dot or whatever.
Cameron: Yes. It’s not me, it’s my husband who loves tech stuff. My daughter, my middle child will ask Alexa everyday, “Tell me a joke.” So, I really need to start paying attention to those jokes. They’re pretty corny, but at least it would give me something to say at a party. No. I don’t have any good jokes. I honestly have no good jokes that I could tell at a party.
Mindy: Well, my nine-year-old-
Scott: I need to get Alexa.
Mindy: Yes, you do need to get an Alexa. We have an Alexa. Somebody gave it to us, and my children also ask it jokes and play terrible music on it, but Daphne will save you today. If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?
Cameron: Hay fever. Allergies.
Mindy: Pilgrims, but yeah, both.
Cameron: I got that one. My seven-year-old told me that. I can’t believe I forgot.
Scott: Is that an Alexa joke?
Mindy: I don’t know. Daphne told me that as we were driving down the road the other day.
Scott: That’s great.
Mindy: She’s a very funny girl. Claire is actually much funnier or she can say that.
Cameron: I don’t even need jokes. I can just tell stories about my kids because they do, especially my youngest who’s seven, does the craziest things. So, that is like plenty of fodder for stories at parties, but you know the thing is, too, because I have kids, I don’t get out to many parties. I am just laying, I guess.
Mindy: Yeah. I’m right there with you. You’re saying all these things, I’m like, “Yup, we’re the same person. We’re the same person.”
Mindy: Okay. Here is the command. Tell me where people can find out more about you.
Cameron: Okay. That is easy. You can go to CameronHuddleston.com. That’s my website, information about me, my book, and because this is airing the day before my book comes out on June 25th, you still have time to pre-order. Hopefully, it will still be the discounted price, so you can lock in the low price, and you can get, if you take a screenshot of your pre-order and email it to me, you can get a downloadable conversation started cheat sheet, which recaps, a lot of the stuff in the book. It walks you through some of the things in more detail. So, it’s a freebie.
Mindy: Where are we emailing that to?
Cameron: So, you go to my website, and there’s details about this.
Mindy: Okay. Perfect.
Cameron: Yes. Just go to CameronHuddleston.com and there’s all the information about this.
Mindy: Perfect. We will link to all of this in our show notes, which could be found at BiggerPocket.com/MoneyShow78. Cameron, this has been awesome. This has been a huge kick in the pants that I really do need to get myself going both directions, up to my parents, and down to my kids. So, thank you so much for not only writing the book, but for coming on today and talking to us about it.
Cameron: No. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
Mindy: Okay. We will talk to you soon. Have a good day.
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