How My Father's Death Changed My Views on Finance

There’s no arguing that money can be an extremely emotional topic, but factor in a sickness or family death and those effects can be multiplied exponentially. I was 17 when my father was diagnosed with cancer, and seven months later, he had passed away. While he had spent a good amount of my childhood imparting financial wisdom upon me, there was still a lot I had left to learn as I headed out into the world three months later to attend college in a new city. Soon enough I would be on my own and forced to put those money lessons to use. Here are some of the ways his death helped shape my financial views along the way.

There’s No Such Thing as a Guarantee

This should seem pretty obvious in the topsy-turvy world we’re currently living in, but too often we get comfortable with the way things are and neglect to acknowledge that our situation (especially financially) could change any minute. However, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your family from this uncertainty. It’s always a good idea to have enough money in savings to cover three to six months of expenses. Should anything happen, this at least gives you a runway to figure out your next move. Life insurance is also worth considering. A term life insurance policy can cost you less than $20 a month and can help you sleep at night knowing that if anything happens to you or your partner, that you will be able to continue living your current lifestyle with as few interruptions as possible.

You can learn more about life insurance here.

Arm Yourself with Knowledge

While having one partner take on the majority of the financial related tasks in your house is common and often makes the most sense, it’s always good for both partners to have some understanding of personal finance. This is one thing I really learned from my mother. When my father passed away, she was able to jump into the role of main financial decision maker because she understood at least the basics of what needed to happen to keep things moving in the right direction. More than anything, she was willing to ask questions. If she didn’t understand something she would be the first one to reach out to the credit card company or the family’s trusted lawyer for help. In doing so, it made the transition on our family easier than most.

Keep Your Loved Ones in the Loop

This step seems so simple in theory, but is really hard in practice. Money is an emotionally loaded topic and so is death, but by keeping your loved ones abreast of the family finances you can save them a huge headache down the road. This means keeping a list of bills you pay and passwords available to them. You could even schedule time together once a month or once a year to review your financial picture and any specific items that you think might need extra attention paid to them. It also means keeping a list of any investments you have, insurance policies, and a will. Try to keep as many items tied in a neat bow as you possibly can. After my father’s death, my mother was really good about keeping her will up to date and letting me know where I could find a copy if anything happened to her. This open attitude and preparedness is something I have brought into my own young family. My husband and I each have a will and have notified our parents where it can be found as well as sending them electronic copies just in case anything happens to the hard copies.

Know When to Loosen the Purse Strings

This is where the all too popularized phrase “YOLO” comes into play. Yes, it’s true that you only live once, but chances are that you will still be alive tomorrow so finding some balance can be really important. Try to think about mindful ways to spend your money. Some of the best memories that I have with my father were from trips we took or just chasing each other around the yard with super soakers. Those memories have meant so much more to me than the pair of skis he bought me that is sitting in my basement to this day. It’s the time we spend together that is the most valuable, so make time for each other. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be special. As a new mom this is a lesson I am reminded of daily. I can’t wait to create those memories for my little one and hope that I have given her enough of an education that she will see the value in those someday.


Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook

Lindsay Dell Cook is a CPA, finance writer, and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband and adorable daughter. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, taking their lovable mutt for walks, or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.