I am sure many have memories of hearing their parents talking about important papers that were put away in a special place, separate from everything else in the house.
These papers could be stocks, bonds, passports, naturalization papers, birth certificates, wills, marriage certificates, bank books (which almost no one has anymore; we have all graduated to bank statements and online accounts), as well as property deeds, title insurance for the house, etc.
It is still common for people to have a safe-deposit box in a bank that holds all their valuable documents to keep them from getting lost or stolen or destroyed, G-d forbid, in case of fire.
But important documents also need be kept in a safe, accessible spot in the event of emergency, such as in the case of sickness or death. In such cases, whoever is in charge of taking care of family business must be able to find or access any necessary important documents and be fully aware of what is in those documents and what has to be done to make sure the financial strength of the family is stabilized while waiting for the recuperation of a loved one. Or, in the case of losing a loved one, these documents should enable the person in charge to pick up the reins and continue easily with complete knowledge of the family’s circumstances.
Years ago, it was also common for the husband/father to be in charge of all financial matters while the wife/mother was busy with the children and the house. As long as the husband and wife were healthy, and had a healthy relationship, this arrangement was OK and usually went smoothly.
But what happens when things do not go as planned? A couple divorces, or a husband gets sick or passes away suddenly, and the wife does not have a clue as to what the husband was doing financially to support the family and how to go on.
Today this should not be such a common predicament, as girls are now educated to be aware, not clueless. Yet, when I am in the process of selling houses to young people or getting them a mortgage, I still keep hearing, “I know nothing about our finances or what we can afford” or “Put everything in my husband’s name; I do not want to deal with it!” or “I will have my husband tell you.” My internal reaction is, “Why don’t these young women have more knowledge of their financial situation?” Even if they don’t work, why aren’t they discussing their financial situation so they are fully aware of what it is and where everything can be found in case of an emergency?
I cannot count the times I have had to sit with women after the fact, when the husband was no longer in the picture due to illness, divorce, or death, and these women literally brought me cartons of documents, asking me to go through everything and help them figure out where they stood since they never thought to get involved or ask questions when their husband was around.
It is so important as a wife and mother to be involved in all financial aspects of the family. This is crucial in case of emergency, but it’s also prudent in general, as it removes some of the pressure of everything sitting on your husband’s back. It is important to teach our daughters to be more involved, aware, and responsible as they move toward their futures.
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real estate broker (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and a licensed N.Y.S. loan officer (FM Home Loans) with over 20 years of experience offering full service residential, commercial, and management real estate services as well as mortgage services. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa@AVCrealty.com.