Coping With Loss – Chapter 3 : Debt

If there is a positive in death, it would be the ability to leave all your problems behind. Though, just because you have left them behind, doesn’t mean they vanish. Regardless of how personal the problem is, someone will eventually be forced to deal with it once you pass. For those who are close to death, or contemplating taking your own life, it is always important to remember those who will be left to deal with your mistakes.

With the funeral done and over with, and my brain finally accepting the reality of my motherless situation, I had some work to do. My mother was fantastic with money, she taught me how to manage a checkbook, explained to me the value of a dollar and vigorously warned me about credit cards. Unfortunately, she was not a wealthy person. With much regret, I will admit that both my sister and I have always managed to find ourselves in situations where money was the only solution. Being that we were struggling to even make enough to live on our own, when financial issues arose, we generally looked towards our mother. She wasn’t some piggy bank or debt eraser, but she was far more knowledgeable on how to solve issues when it came to money.

So to my surprise, when I went through her financial situation, I quickly realized my mother was in a fair amount of debt. It wasn’t that she was trying to live beyond her means, or she wasn’t getting paid enough at work. She was in debt because she continually helped out me and my sister with anything we needed. Here I was, sifting through credit card after credit card, noticing all the charges were mostly for stupid situations her two children made. I felt awful, like I had been hindering her quality of life simply because I lacked the common sense to not make fiscally stupid mistakes.

Of course, if you asked my mother, she would never admit it wasn’t worth it. Regardless, with her gone, there was now a mound of almost nine thousand dollars of debt split between several plastic cards. I was angry, not at myself, not at her, but at the reason this problem could even exist. I let out a disgruntled sigh, and with the help of my grandmother, went through each individual account and got the totals, due dates and so on. It took a good hour or two before we finally had things situated.

Thankfully, my mother had a life insurance policy that covered her leftover debt, so the problem itself was less a crippling financial burden, and more of an emotional disgust with myself. The fact remains, the debt of the dead never vanish, someone will have to pay that money. It could be the banks that lent it, or the remaining family caught off-guard. While sometimes it is unavoidable, dying with debt is a bothersome problem. If you plan for it, props to you, thanks for making things easier. If it wasn’t for my mother’s pre-planning, I would be in a situation that could realistically cripple me financially.

While attempting to pay off her debt, I continually ran into a problem; my mother sucked at storing her usernames and passwords. While she wasn’t the most technically knowledgeable person, there is a very important distinction between ‘case-sensitive’ and not. There were so many minutes wasted trying to find the right website, figuring out if the password was case-sensitive or not and running into incorrect login issues. I was slowly getting more and more frustrated with her as the failed attempts began to pile up. I eventually lost it when I was locked out of one of her accounts because I didn’t know the right password or security question.

I just wanted to give some faceless company some money so they wouldn’t get mad, why was it this so damn hard? I knew why, because my mother, as much as I love her, is a complete idiot when it comes to password management. She Stored the damned things in a notebook with no information other than the name of the business the login is associated with. Dear mother, that is not the best way to deal with passwords. At the very least, always include a website. Also, make sure that you write down any sort of security questions you might have setup. Sadly, this woman could barely remember her iTunes password, let alone half of the security questions she set up over the course of her lifetime.

I spent a good hour just yelling at the top of my lungs about how mad I was with my deceased mother for her terrible password management. At the end, I felt no better, but I did get this feeling of nostalgia. I could remember a time I had done the same thing when she was alive, and her response was “Well thankfully you never need to know the passwords so what does it matter?”. Clearly that statement was short-sighted.

With her debt paid off, and my frustration of her bad password management relieved, I felt a sense of grief. Little by little, I keep slowly removing all the things that show that she existed. It is like wiping someone away clean, which in perspective is both sad to think about emotionally and philosophically. Debt is bad, but when the problem exists, it feels like that person is still around, and they still have unfinished business to take care of. Realistically, they can’t address those issues, or any issues ever again. I know that a person is kept alive through memories, but it is the little things that matter just as much to me.

I have my fair share of bad decisions when money is involved. I went, and failed, college twice due to immaturity and lack of patience. I’ve had to break a lease with an apartment twice due to extenuating circumstance and have lost multiple jobs due to poor people skills. In that time I have incurred my own looming debt I have slowly been paying off as I have the money to. I want to say that my life is back on track and I am far more responsible than I once was, but that isn’t necessarily true. Sure I am far more frugal about how I spend my money, but when I do spend my money on things I don’t need, they are usually things I legitimately don’t need.

Growing up I was always told that don’t buy something unless you have the money for it. The advice itself is great, especially for a child, but as time goes by, it starts to need some extra addendums. Just because I have the money for something, doesn’t mean I will not need the money for something important later, or that saving money could allow me to buy something even better much later in the future. Little addendums here and there that while don’t apply to a child, can really sent in stone some notions for an adult. When paying off my mother’s debt I really took to heart how scary it can be to play with magic money. Just because you have the money to do something, fake or real, doesn’t always mean it should be used because you’ve got it.

Money isn’t always that easy to come by, at least as fast as you can spend it. I currently have a job that pays roughly fifteen thousand a year, my mother at the time was making at least two times that. For her to have nine thousands dollars in debt, means that making more money doesn’t always mean you can be more lax with how you spend, because no matter what, you will always find a way to spend more than you have to. Losing a loved one can be scary, but so can living your entire life trying to pay off financial mistakes you regret.