The last part of the conversation with Ada’s lunch group, a piece that I didn’t address, is whether you should talk with your adult family members about gifting, or just tell them what you are going to do.
I think money is a fascinating topic, and I don’t know why anyone would choose not to talk among family members about how resources are distributed. Like all other aspects of life, our experience of money is highly individual. Some of us use money as a measure of self worth — and society tends to do that too. Some of us profess not to care about money, yet we resent not being paid well enough for the work we do. Some of us are by nature frugal. My late husband Jerry had an LLBean blue blazer that he loved. When he got a moth hole in the sleeve, he darkened the lining with blue ink and insisted that the jacket was fine. When he wasn’t looking, the jacket went to the Good Will. Some of us are spendthrift; money flows through our fingers. The notion that providing for ourselves in retirement takes decades of patient saving and investing is a discipline too hard to bear.
The important point is “talk among” — not dictate. We can’t dictate the choices of other adults, even those who are family.
For me, money has multiple symbolic as well as practical meanings. But in the simplest sense, it’s a piece of the puzzle — an essential piece at that. My dear friend Minga is coming to terms with living with dialysis. Having choices is important to her. She wanted the choice of being able to go home after each treatment, even though it involved a 90 minute chiva ride into the interior. She has to do the hard physical work of getting from the hospital to the bus terminal to the actual vehicle that will take her home, after a full day of grueling dialysis. She has to get a family member to accompany her. The missing piece was money — taxi fare from hospital to bus terminal, and chiva fare to Rio Hato, which is $3 per person. In many ways that’s the easiest piece, and I was happy to give it to her.
What is money to you? That’s a really great place to start a family conversation about money. I recommend it.