I didn’t plan to be a financial planner.
When people ask about what I studied in college or where I started my career, they’re often surprised to find out I was originally a news reporter and anchor for a local TV station. Inevitably, the question they ask next is, “How did you get from THAT to THIS?”
The answer is simple: When my mother passed away unexpectedly at the age of 52, I figured out the hard way that people need help managing money. I was 24 at the time—not an age at which you’d expect to get that phone call.
I had just returned from spending the weekend at home with my parents. We had taken my two-year-old niece to her first play, and had eaten at a new café my mom had been excited to try.
The Phone Call No One Wants to Get
As I made the four-hour drive back from their place, I was thinking about what a great weekend we’d had, and how I almost hadn’t come home because I was too tired from a long week. Less than 24 hours later, my dad called me at work to tell me my mom had had a headache and passed out at work, that they were taking her to the hospital.
I jumped in the car and started driving; luckily, I hadn’t even unpacked the carload of laundry I’d taken home. Unfortunately, in the end, it didn’t matter how fast I drove; my mom died of a brain aneurysm before I got there. “There’s nothing anyone could have done,” the doctors told us.
I never had time to grieve. The next few days were a whirlwind. My dad was in shock and unable to handle any of the details on his own. As the oldest child, it was my job to step in and take charge. I don’t remember a conscious decision ever being made about this—it just sort of happened. I chose a funeral home, arranged the service, made call after call to our friends and family, and eventually had to deal with the “tackier” details: claiming my mom’s life insurance and dealing with all of the financial decisions that had to be made, like consulting an estate planning attorney once we realized my mother hadn’t written a will.
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Talk about confusing. The attorney helped us figure out what my mother’s share of the community property estate was and suggested we create a trust. It seemed like the easiest way to allow me to manage the assets for my father and distribute income as needed. But hold up a minute: You might be wondering why that job fell to me.