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Flowers nice, but how about giving mom security?

Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM

Originally published: May 14, 2006

It’s Mother’s Day, and I have an idea that’s better than a card or flowers. It’s the gift of financial peace of mind -- and it’s priceless!

Plus, it’s easy for you to organize at the last minute.

Here’s a tip: Moms worry. They worry about a lot of things, and they worry all the time, even though it doesn’t show. (Take it from me. I’m a mom. Or ask my son!)

Mom’s worry about things they can control. And they worry even more about things they can’t control. Mostly, moms worry about their kids. They never stop worrying about their kids, no matter how old they, or the kids, get.

You probably dismiss those worries all the time. How many times have you said, “Mom, don’t worry about it. I’m fine!” But moms keep worrying anyway.

And at the back of a mom’s mind is always another secret, never-expressed worry that grows over the years. Moms worry about being dependent. They worry about growing old and running out of money, about being “bag ladies.”

In fact, that’s the basis of my Mother’s Day gift idea. It starts with getting your mother to talk about her financial worries, and being a patient listener. It helps to put a video cam between your eyes and hers. Just tell her you’re starting to make a family video, and want her thoughts on a variety of topics from stories about you growing up to her thoughts on the state of the world. Then move to the issue of financial security.

Single moms have different worries than those with spouses. But I’ll make you a bet that every mom starts this discussion with the words, “I don’t want to be a burden on you.”

That’s your gift opportunity. Now you can offer creative solutions to her deepest worries. If you have brothers and sisters, they can join you in financing the gift -- in case your parents can’t afford to buy it themselves.

What if dad dies, or has a serious stroke? It’s a nagging worry. But if your parents have a recently created, or reviewed, estate plan, some of that worry goes away. A Revocable Living Trust will give the successor trustee the power to make financial decisions if one parent is incapacitated. A health care power of attorney is a must. And a Living Will -- the end-of-life decision document -- can save heartache in trying times.

So type up a gift certificate for an estate plan. Better yet, contact an estate planning attorney in their state, and set up an appointment for mom and dad. Tell the attorney to send the bill to you.

They might resist. No one likes to plan for such a dark day, but once you’ve done this for your parents, they’ll feel better -- and so will you. Take it from me, that was my joint Mother’s Day/Father’s Day gift to my parents several years ago.

Nothing can devastate a family’s finances at a faster rate than the need for long-term custodial care. Current costs are $6,000 a month whether for care in the home or in a nursing home. And those prices will escalate as boomers start to demand that kind of help.

Long Term Care Insurance policies are designed to cover those costs. There’s a whole section of my new book, The Savage Number, devoted to helping you choose the best policy. But for a Mother’s Day starter, go to one of the following Web sites, just to get a quote:



Then you and your siblings might want to start the application process and even pay the annual premiums.

If one or both of your parents need this type of care, believe me, having a LTC insurance policy will be a godsend.

Instead of just giving mom a card with roses and a poem on it, give her the promise of a policy that will eliminate the “bag lady” worry.

I’ve written about reverse mortgages -- the monthly tax-free check seniors can withdraw from their homes without worrying about losing their home as long as they choose to live there.

Many older moms are silently scrimping on food and other basics as they struggle to keep the family home. But when heating bills and property taxes rise, the worries overwhelm them. And retired parents don’t qualify for home-equity loans.

As you’re taping your video, ask your mom how she feels about the family home, and what she worries about. Then, as part of your Mother’s Day card, next to the word “love,” write down how much income she could receive on a monthly basis from a reverse mortgage. To get that number, go to and use the calculator on the Web site. It will give you the amount based on her age, location and the value of the home.

That’s how to really celebrate Mother’s Day: with the gift of financial peace of mind.

Oh yes, you’ll still have that video years from now, to show your grandchildren. And in it, she’ll be smiling because you’ve taken away a huge worry. That’s the Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and the author of the newly published The Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Need to Retire? (256 pages, Wiley, $24.95). Distributed by Creators Syndicate.

Copyright © Terry Savage Productions

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