In our “Let’s Talk Money” series, we ask respondents from all walks of life the same set of raw money questions. The answers reveal intimate details of their financial lives.
Talking about money is one of the longest held taboo subjects in our culture. With this weekly series, we open people’s wallets (and with them fears, hopes, and closely held beliefs). We don’t approach this with a certain outcome in mind—we just want to open doors and find out if money is taboo for good reason, or if remaining quiet is keeping us all down. We hope you’ll join us in considering this question: Is it time to reimagine polite society when it comes to money?
From Dona: Age 58
Location: Houston, Texas
HipLatina: How do you make your living?
Dona: As a registered nurse at a publicly traded medical device company.
HL: How worried are you about money? How do thoughts of money affect your life?
D: At this stage of my life, I have little to no worries about money or debt. My thoughts of money have to do with how much I will need for retirement and when I can retire so that I have enough to live on until the end of my life, depending on how long that turns out to be. I do worry about what the government will do with our social security.
HL: How do you spend your money? How would you describe your level of debt?
D: I have a negligible amount of debt at this time of my life (less than $1,500). I spend my money mainly on groceries, gifts, donations to charitable groups, travel, entertainment, cat care, and my own vanity.
HL: How would you describe your credit score? How does that number affect your life (for good or for bad)?
D: It’s excellent: 834. This enables me to obtain a loan quickly, with decent interest rates and terms. Equally, I can obtain any credit card I want with low interest rates. My dad’s advice was a single woman could never go wrong with a good credit rating.
HL: What regrets do you have about money–decisions you’ve made, actions you’ve taken, or not taken? Have you changed anything because of these regrets?
D: Oh, how I wish I could have saved more when I began my first “real” job and continued from that point on. I also wish I’d never been ridiculously in debt to credit card companies throughout my twenties which I paid off after living at home for a couple of months once I was released from the military, and again after I married for the first time. I didn’t heed my own fairly conservative advice about not buying out of my means when I was with my first husband. I bought him his “toys” even if it meant I went into debt. So, when we divorced, there was no splitting assets. It was splitting debt. So much wasted time.
HL: How do your parents talk about money–with each other, with you?
D: My parents have passed, but my father controlled all the resources. My mother had open access to it – he didn’t allot her an allowance. She was more frugal than he was, though. She was always afraid of “debtor’s prison,” which I thought was a joke when I was growing up, but in the earlier generations was apparently a real thing. My mother was the “Paragon of Clothing Deals.” Sales, sales, sales—nice clothes, but always on sale. I didn’t know much about dad’s resources (a.k.a the family’s resources) until he was getting into his nineties and he began to share with me and my sister so we’d know. At that time, he put us on his account at the credit union so we’d have full access.
HL: Are you in a relationship? If so, how much money does the other person make–do they make more or less than you? How do you handle money issues in your relationship?
D: I’m married. He makes approximately $25K less than I. We keep our finances separate. House taxes, HOA fees, repairs, upgrades, etc. are shared 50/50. We have a joint account for travel, entertainment, and small repairs in which we each both deposit $250 a paycheck. I do believe his Vanguard accounts make more money than my combined stock/bonds portfolio: IRA’s, mutual funds, and a 401k (if only by a little).
HL: Do you have children?
D: We have no joint children and none planned. He has a 30-year-old daughter who makes more money than her father. He had to learn to cut the bank strings when I entered their life. He was being manipulated by her. He still loans her money from his own accounts, but asks her to repay it. She has a trust fund from her grandfather which she will receive when she’s 40.
HL: Do you have friends in different economic situations? How do you make social decisions with friends who have different incomes?
D: I am sure I do. But finances aren’t really discussed.
When going out to dinner, it’s usually “dutch” if I have anything to do with it. Or they pay one time, and we pay the next. The only vacation I have ever taken with a friend was all paid for separately. Another was a gift from us, but they definitely paid it back by paying all the bar tabs.
HL: How does your financial life differ from others in your life, such as friends, family, or neighbors?
D: My nieces and nephews are struggling along as we all did when we were younger, and based on their choices, have less money than me. My sister is a recent widow and is shocked to find she has money and doesn’t need to worry about it (though she worries anyway). I have no idea about our neighbors. We are a mixed neighborhood: some retirees, some young folks with kids, some working like us.
HL: If you had more money, what would you do with it?
D: In this stage of my life, continue to save it and travel. Depending on the amount, give it to my niece, nephew, and their kids. I would pretty much carry on as I am now.