My mother is in the hospital. Her health, which had been deteriorating lately, took a turn for the worse over the weekend. On Tuesday, she was admitted to a local hospital, where she’s likely to remain for a week (or more).

My brothers and I have been sorting through mom’s financial documents, trying to piece together a complete picture. It’s difficult. If she had used Quicken, the job would be relatively easy, but she’s Old School, and does everything by hand.

We’ve begun to realize there are a lot of unanswered questions.

  • What are mom’s finances like? How much does she owe and to whom? How much has she saved? Fortunately, we’ve been able to answer this to some degree. She does have some savings (though we’re unsure if it will be enough to cover her medical expenses), and she receives regular “passive income” from the box factory.
  • What is her health insurance like? Mom is covered through the family business, and has the same health insurance as the employees. We know how this works for routine things, but what is it like for extended hospital stays? We need to find out.
  • How will she live in the future? Will she need live-in care? Will she need to move in with one of the family? This is a huge question, and one that we’ll be wrestling with over the coming months.
  • What preparations need to be made in the case of mom’s death or incapacitation? The time to create a will or to draft a power of attorney is before a problem occurs, not after. We see that now.

As I ferried mom from doctor to hospital on Tuesday, these questions never entered my mind. I was focused on her health, on getting her help. In situations like this, money is not an issue.

But we all know that money is an issue eventually. The vagaries of mom’s insurance and her savings will have a huge impact, not just on her but on the entire family. This is a financial puzzle that we must all work together to solve.

Ironically, it was my father who seems to have planned the best for this situation. As he was dying from cancer in 1995, he explained his vision for the box factory. “I’m leaving the business to provide for all of you,” he said. “It’s going to give jobs to you boys, but it’s going to to be even more valuable for your mother. She doesn’t have any retirement savings. This is her retirement.”

Mom will survive this crisis, and we’ll move into the murky future. Obviously, her recovery is my primary focus right now. Get Rich Slowly is important, but family more so. I am distracted (and have been for the past week).

Starting Sunday, a number of great writers will be stepping to the plate to pinch hit for me. I’ll be back full time as soon as possible.

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