Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hmmm, Dad.

I got an email from my father today in which he mentioned buying a new car. His last car was very nice, some fancy Eddie Bauer edition of a truck which he only had two or three years. It got about 10 miles to the gallon, so with gas prices rising as they are, he thought it would be prudent to get something a little more economical, so he financed a 2008 Hyundai. It’s certainly not the most expensive thing out there, so I guess I should be glad for that but GEEZ. I don’t understand why anyone EVER would purchase a brand new car? He lost 20% of the value in the last six days alone.

My dad is hard on vehicles and electronics. He also thinks he knows a lot about fixing and maintaining them and he’s only half right (he’s fairly good with cars and has put his Harley back in almost-working order after a wreck, but he really knows nothing about computers). Besides, he drives A LOT. He recently quit his job to become a full-time freelancer in a related profession, and it seems to be going well but it’s still touch and go from what I hear. I also understand he had a lot of technology problems a few weeks ago and wound up replacing basically an entire office worth of stuff (I’m still not really clear on what happened, but he dropped at least $2,000).
I don’t know how much I should be worried about his financial status. His profession is assumed to make very good money, and for all I know, that’s the case. He and his wife have not lived a flashy lifestyle. No fancy vacations or clothing or anything like that. They live in an area of the country with a very good cost of living ratio, and don’t have expensive hobbies. He paid piddling child support (usually but not always) for my sister and I after my parents divorced, and his financial contribution to our lives ended as soon as we turned 18. Judging by all these things, I could assume that he’s fairly well set for retirement and old age.

On the other hand, when he drives to visit me, he stays in campgrounds to avoid the cost of hotels. And he always finances his cars. For a while, they had problems selling their house when they moved, and he complained a lot about having to pay two mortgages (for a little over a year, if I remember correctly). Since I’ve been out of college, I’ve definitely noticed him complaining about money more—but is that my own increased awareness of personal finance, or an actual increase in his complaints?

I dread having to have any important conversation with money about him as he ages. The discussion in which my mother asked whether he was planning to help with my education very quickly devolved into profanity (on his end) and I’ve never asked him for money since then (or before then, actually, but whatever). I don’t know his financial philosophy or whether they have debt or investments, or even if his wife works for pay or out of boredom (I know she does things at the church school, but it might be volunteer work—I truly don’t know). I would feel as out of place asking him about this as I would an uncle or a family friend. I know that he made me feel like shit last summer when he figured I was making twice what I actually do, which might point to a really unrealistic expectation both for what people earn and how expensive it is to live in a city like New York (I’d love to make twice what I do—but I don’t need it).

I do know that I feel like his constant upgrading in financed new vehicles and other past behavior makes me nervous that I’ll have to help support him, which seems strikingly unfair considering how stingy he was with me when I was a kid.


  1. You have no obligation to take care of your father. Besides, parents need to think about the fact that some day they may need their children to care for them. I worked as a nurse and saw how that treatment or minimizing of children will come back to bit thee in the arse. Maybe dad will surprise you and leave you with a bit of something. If not, as you stated, you don't need it. Keep on being financially savvy.

  2. This is a tough one.

    I think that if I had a relationship with my father, I would expect to help him out if he needed it. I think it would be less about a judgment of him than it would be about the kind of person I want to be. I don't think I would be happy about doing it all of the time, but I would do it anyway.

    Of course, I may not be a very good judge. I don't have a relationship with my father at all and am not sure I want one. You're further ahead than I am.

  3. i know how you feel, sometimes i just want to scream at my parents about how they handle their finances and it scares me that i'll have to take care of them in the future...


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