“Caregiver” Redefined

I’ve thought of myself as a caregiver for years now.  I give lots of care to three beautiful, smart little girls. However, I realize now that parenting and caregiving are separate realms.  All the love and devotion I invest in my children I get back threefold. That’s just standard for a normal parent.  Your kids will always (at least at their young ages) run to see you with open arms yelling “mommy” with big, wide smiles and eyes glimmering like they’re lit from the inside…and all feels right with the world.

Caregiving for a loved one (especially one whom has dementia/regressing mental function) isn’t like that.

My grandfather has always been my patriarch and idol.  I don’t know how many evenings I sat listening and soaking up his advice and wisdom in my youth.  His words hovering in the back of my mind over so many decisions in my life. He was always there during difficult times assuredly telling me to “suck it up”, make a plan, and move forward. He’s always been a rock I could lean on reminding me that “life is good” (a normal end to most conversations) and to focus on the blessings.

On bad days now he doesn’t recognize me, but knows he should know me. On the worst days he doesn’t remember my father, hence my existence is wiped away as well.  On bad days he wakes up throughout the night confused, on the worst days he “wakes up” but is still in his dream-state and is riddled with anxiety/fear with no knowledge of reality.  His bathing and toiletry are no picnic for me, but I know that I must go into it laughing and smiling or my alpha male’s morose and apologetic attitude due to his need for assistance can quickly turn to a depressed state. His frailty may worry me, but it makes him disconsolate.  He feels as if is body is his foe not allowing him to do even the little daily tasks so many of us take for granted.

My two year old believes they are best friends, as if they share some unseen connection, and is always at his side. At a doctors office recently my grandfather says “J, be quiet already”, she just looks at him and says “No Papa” and starts laughing uncontrollably and she crawls up on his lap. Then he starts laughing uncontrollably, then I am, and the nurse joins in too. These good moments are unforgettable.

On his best days he’s still giving orders, asking questions, and making demands like the Plant Manager he was most of his life. We have coffee every morning and dinner together every night and chat about family, news, weather, finances, and everything in between.  Our conversations aren’t as deep or as filled with wisdom like those we had when we were both younger, but his good days still outnumber his bad days and I relish the time we have together after so many years living hours apart.

Starting this journey I didn’t know the heartache I’d experience when someone you love doesn’t recognize you, the pain it would cause me to feel his self-consciousness at needing help, or the frustration and many obstacles of dementia.  I didn’t realize the full-context of a caregiver nor the simple lessons I’d learn.

I’m happier (although more exhausted) than I have ever been.

My grandfather is teaching my little family to take things in stride, how to more fully appreciate simple things, and how to just live in the present. My life had been so much about the plan, the budget, things to get done, my career, etc. (all still important), but it’s just as paramount to focus on the day and not lose the moment.  Balance.

Thank you Grandpa. Life is good.

gpa and j

 

 

Update – Added to Our Household

Becoming a caregiver.

I’ve been out of touch for a while. My apologies. I’ve added a chapter to my story and I believe it’s an important one to share more frequently so you’ll be hearing more from our tribe.

My father was the full-time caregiver for my grandfather (his father).  After he passed and much deliberation, my grandfather decided he wanted me to take care of his affairs.  This was a huge task because my hands are quite full with my own nuclear family.  However, in the end it was what he was most comfortable with and made the most sense because his affairs were so closely entwined with my fathers and I was trying to close out his estate/businesses (still haven’t completed this almost two years later).  It’s amazing the work left behind from death.

Fast forward a year (and hopefully that explains my absence as well) and my grandfather was showing severe signs of dementia.  This summer, after many family and close family friends had multiple discussions, it was decided my grandfather would move to Texas and reside with me. My once 6’2″ alpha male grandfather was a mere 150 lbs and completely fragile when he arrived.

The last four months my three girls and I have been adjusting to life as caregivers.  When I initially made up my mind to do this I thought it would be like adding a child to the household. We’ve done that before…nothing out of the ordinary for us. Oh, how wrong I was!  However, it reminded me of something I say to expectant mothers, “you’ll never have a job so hard, but so rewarding”.  Becoming a Caregiver for a loved one is the same.

grandpa

The ONE thing I’m sure of in this adventure is that it was the right decision (despite the multitude of days I’ve collapsed with exhaustion on the bed thinking this is impossible).

Happy Thanksgiving to all! May you focus on all the ways you’re blessed and forget all the reasons you should be stressed.

Emergency Fund as a Roth?

I’ve read so much literature on why you shouldn’t use your Roth as an emergency fund account.  However, I want to delve into why I do.  First of all, I do have anywhere from $250-500 in my regular savings account that easily transfers to my checking for any day-to-day “emergencies” (e.g. new brakes, plumber, etc).  I have an automatic contribution of $50 from my paycheck biweekly that goes to this savings account so I don’t have to even think about it. Generally about the time my savings is above $700 I deposit $500+ into my Roth accounts.

Let me tell you why I do it this way.  I do understand that I can only deposit $5,500/ year and once I take out my contributions to this account I cannot “catch up” so to speak. However, for me as a single mom just having a Roth is a luxury.  Plus, my savings account gets basically no interest (0.03%), but if I put it in my Roth I am generally making about an average 7-9% return.

So my money is doing double duty by saving for retirement and providing major emergency relief, if needed. Once you put money inside of a Roth IRA, it can be invested in a wide range of options such as stocks, bonds, bond funds, money markets, or mutual funds. Depending on your risk tolerance and desired returns, investments ranges can be selected from varying degrees of mixed portfolio. While the Roth IRA might not provide the instant liquidity of a savings or checking account, it can still provide access to funds within a few days.

This summer I did have to withdraw from my Roth when my A/C went out and needed replaced.  Tax rules allow us to withdraw contributions tax-free at any time (just don’t touch investment gains until retirement or you’ll be hit with taxes and penalties).  So by the time the A/C man was available to install the money was already transferred into my checking account and I didn’t need to put anything onto my credit cards.  I look at this differently than some people because I’m not using my Roth as an Emergency Fund, I’m making my Emergency Fund a Roth.  If no major repairs come up then that money is staying put for retirement and I’ll be able to pull out the earnings tax free when I’m over 59 ½.  However, in the event something drastic happens I do have it there and it helps me sleep better at night knowing that it’s there.

Let me be clear that I will NEVER touch the earnings on the Roth either.  I only have withdrawn the contributions and only as-needed.  I don’t dip into Roth for vacations or other nonessentials because I can’t simply “return” the money later. Any money put back into a Roth is considered part of the allowed contribution for that particular year.  For example, if you’re allowed to contribute $5,500 a year to your Roth and you withdrew $1,000 for plane tickets in January, you can’t put in $6,500 ($5,500 + the $1,000) when you get your December work bonus. You can only contribute $5,500 total/year regardless of how much you took out and that’s it.

I personally use both Betterment and WealthSimple for Roth accounts (I like to diversify).  If you’d like to test them out here’s a link to get 90 days free through Betterment  and this link for WealthSimple gets you $15,000 managed free for one year. Currently, my Annualized Earnings for my Betterment account are 9.8% (I’ve had it for two years now) and for WealthSimple are at 3.8% (I just opened it in April). I have really liked Betterment, but I’ll write more on WealthSimple after I’ve had the account at least a year.

Do you have a Roth account?  If so, who do you use and why do you like them?

Easter Weekend

We spent Easter weekend visiting my grandfather’s ranch.  Honestly, it wasn’t in my budget.  However, I can’t imagine how he feels losing his youngest child and I’m trying to spend as much time with him as I can (even though we are several states apart).  It’s good for him, it’s good for me, and it has helped my daughters with their loss as well.  Sometimes….you just have to forget the budget and do what’s right in your heart.

KamillaGrandpa
Milla and her Papa D

We all know I’m a DIYer. It’s just how I am and what I do.  So I did some DIYing for my sweet grandfather.  It’s amazing what a little paint can do.

granddad porch before
The beginning of painting the deck on my “vacation”.

The deck was worn down by weather and three different colors of paint.  Plus, random natural boards that had been replaced….something had to be done. lol

granddad porch after
Ta Da — I love after pics

It’s not a lot, but I figure if I can fix one thing up every time I’m visiting it will make a difference.  I’ll never replace my father, however, the least I can do to honor him is make his father as comfortable as possible.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter holiday and were able to spend the time with family! Remember, family is not an important thing…it’s everything! Enjoy every moment.

Death in the Family

My apologies for taking a break from the blog.  Losing a loved one is still one of the hardest things to survive.  Unfortunately, I’ve lost more than my fair share.  The passing of my father has hit me very hard.  It’s also made me go into overdrive on organizing my death as well.  It has also made me want to make people aware of some things that I honestly never knew much about until this.

  1. Power of Attorney (POA) expires upon death.  You cannot get into accounts, safe deposit boxes, etc unless your loved one has you as a joint owner or TOD (Transfer on Death) for these types of items.
  2. Have beneficiary’s listed for retirement accounts.  If you do not, it can go to the estate/probate to pay medical bills, etc.
  3. Put your property as a beneficiary deed or TOD. Do not just leave property via your Last Will and Testament only.  Many states do beneficiary deeds for property and TOD for vehicles, etc.  Check to see what states rules apply to you.
  4. Have a list of ALL of your accounts. All of them. From banking, electric, cable, life insurance, etc. If they have verbal or electronic user IDs and passwords have them as well.  Even if you just have this in your safe deposit box, it can save your family a lot of time and costs from certified copies of death certificates and jumping through hoops.  And if they can’t get it canceled or get it canceled quickly, it’s just added fees/costs taken from the estate.
  5. Mark things as sold/expired.  If you switched life insurance companies, keep the old document and mark “cancelled on…” and where you transferred to or if you didn’t transfer anywhere and were just cutting costs.  Trust me when your family is going through files and they find payments to Company A, then they go through a lot of time just to find out it was cancelled six months ago. Not fun. Very stressful.
  6. Be sure people know your plan. Not just end of life wishes, but post end of life wishes.  I have two people who have copies of my Will, my properties, and my preferences now.
  7. When you make a Healthcare POA please put a main person and a backup person.  If your main person is unable or has passed away you still have someone that can speak on your behalf and you don’t have to go through the expense nor hassle of drawing up new paperwork
  8. Be over prepared. Don’t assume anyone knows anything. I recently bought the Five Wishes book for $5.  Here’s a link to a sample. If you don’t know where to start it will help you.

I hope this helps at least one person out there.  I was unprepared for my fathers death in so many ways.  He just decided to retire and buy a home close to me so he could spend more time with his grandchildren.  Two weeks after we had a definitive plan he went into the hospital and 30 days later I was planning a funeral.  Life is short in more ways than we realize.  Take advantage of the time you have.  –SS

*FAILED!* No Spend November

Well, I made it three days in and then completely, utterly failed my No Spend November.  HOWEVER, before you shake your head and are completely and utterly disappointed in me, it was for good reasons-ish!

Frontier Airlines ran a special and I’m going to be able to take all three of my daughters to Colorado for a long weekend this weekend and the total cost for our flights? Less than $200.  Not per person, I’m talking about the receipt for the entire family.  I bought the Discount Den (good for a year and priced at $49.99) and our total came to $193.99.  That’s for me, Milla, Cici, and Baby J (who will still be a lap infant).  I was able to secure a hotel with indoor pool with views of the mountains for our arrival night, and then we’ll be staying with friends in Denver for the rest of our stay. Here’s my Frontier Airlines invoice:

frontier-invoice

Since there are always incidentals on trips, I’ve decided to postpone my No Spend month until January which may work out better for me because of Christmas preparations, etc.

I know, I know.  I totally failed. However, when things like this pop up I just can’t overlook them.  Flights for all of us are generally “cheap” in the $1,000 range for the whole family.  $200 to go somewhere we’ve never been before and for the girls to see snow for the first time? Priceless.

I’m a huge cheapskate. I penny pinch on everything.  But, this is why I do it.  So that we’re not just surviving, but still have the ability to have a good life — to thrive!  I’m bound and determined to give my girls memories and experiences they’ll cherish forever.  Along with a sense of responsibility with money and a you-can-do-it-yourself attitude.

On that note, my eldest also joined Girl Scouts this month.  I was in Girl Scouts and that service-oriented atmosphere stayed with me my whole life.  I am already impressed with our first meeting and can’t wait to see how they progress from here.  I truly think that 2017 is going to be utterly amazing for us!

So please forgive my failings and mistakes.  I’m a work in progress.  And just a reminder that we’re not seeking perfection, only improvement!

How’s everyone else doing on their No Spend November?  Did you find any leaks in your budget? Let me know!

No Spend November

Growing up I didn’t have a lot, and if I’m being completely honest, my nuclear family now actually has more. That being said, I try to have a contentious relationship with money. So when I became a sole provider I knew that it wasn’t just a big, insane life change — I knew that it would be a battle to just get by. I don’t have family nearby and even if I did, there would be no calling my parents should something go wrong and I need a loan to for car repair or other unforeseen circumstances. They wouldn’t be able to help even if they wanted to.

Therefore, I was intrigued when I read about No Spend November (especially with Christmas around the corner). It’s like a financial detox. You only spend money on necessities such as utilities, rent/mortgage, milk and eggs, gas.  I put “milk and eggs” instead of food because this is a time to use up whatever is in your pantry so you can start fresh for Christmas or 2017.

Tips for Success

If you’re struggling with specific ways to handle spending differently during your spending freeze, here are a few ideas others have found successful and I plan to utilize:

  • Track what you’re saving over the course of the month. Every time you think of making a purchase, write the number down. There’s no greater motivation than seeing that number grow larger and larger.
  • Take your credit or debit cards out of your wallet, and freeze them in water until December if you have to!
  • Take out a set amount at the beginning of the month for gas.

The Why?

The goal of a No Spend November is not perfection but progress. Remember, small steps can lead to significant changes! *cough* Small step for man, giant leap for mankind! I couldn’t help myself….

Hopefully, by December 1 you will:

  • Find ‘leaks’ in your budget
  • Have more money in your pocket
  • Have a better handle on debt
  • Find clues about your next financial moves
  • Declutter your garage (I plan to spend some of this time MAKING money as well)

I plan to entertain myself with other forms of fun and amusement so I don’t get bored. I’ll be using the time otherwise spent eating out, renting a movie, or buying home improvement items to finish some current projects. I will spend a little more time with my family, invite friends over for a cocktail and/or potluck, finish some painting, get some sewing done, and put some items in my garage up for sale on NextDoor and OfferUp.

My hope is that I can find some time to volunteer with my girls as well.  November is such a perfect month for volunteering and paying it forward.  I really want them to realize how blessed we are and how things could be so different for us. To show them how thankful we should be to have the wonderful life and opportunities we have.

That being said, they say to set up ground rules.  Mine will be very basic: no spending on anything that isn’t absolutely essential.

I’ll blog every day in November and let you know how I did, what I didn’t buy, and what I got done as I kept myself busy. I think I’m really looking forward to cleaning out the bottom of my freezer and pantry on this challenge.  I have a tendency to stock up on things when they’re close to free…so I have a lot of some of the same things! lol

I hope some of you will join in with me!  It’ll be nice to hear others encouragement or issues! Here’s to a successful No Spend November!