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Putting Your Mask On First

By Mary Grace Musuneggi

Mary Grace Musuneggi

Today, when the word “mask” enters a discussion, we immediately think of mandates related to COVID-19.  If that isn’t the first thing to pop into our heads, it might be the whole Halloween mask thing.  But recently while on a flight out West, the flight attendant reminded me that if the cabin loses pressure and I am with someone who needs my help, I should put my mask on first.  The best way I can help another is to be sure I am okay first.

That thought reminded me of the discussions we have with clients who are trying to take care of others, while sometimes to the detriment of taking care of themselves.

You might be that person who has worked so hard and now is retiring. You got your pension, your 401k rollover. You’ve gathered up your investments. You’re feeling wealthy. And you should.

Or a person who lost a spouse. You got the insurance money, the money from their savings plan, the lump sum from their pension.  Seems like a lot of money now, and you are hoping it will be enough.

Or you are a child whose parents have passed away.  You are surprised at how much money they left you.  It is almost overwhelming. But you are very grateful.

In our practice we see situations like these all the time.  And for those who receive the rewards of their hard work, or the rewards from someone else’s hard work and planning, our plan is to help them get the most out of the money for their retirement years or maybe for a lifetime.

But sometimes we see retirees finding themselves spending their money on dependent adult children or siblings who have lost jobs and have no savings; who are going through a divorce and are not financially secure; or who have gotten into debt for overspending or just lack of self-control.  Sometimes when a client has inherited funds, there are other relatives that feel that the heir should share.  Or there are the kids who want help with a down payment on a house that they otherwise could not afford. 

It is wonderful if sharing and helping is an option for the giver. And it is a great opportunity if you can help others not as fortunate as you.  But on many occasions, we have seen givers, give with no concern as to how their giving will impact their own life.  Too often the recipient just assumes that those who have, have a lot more than what they do.  And too often there is no discussion of what is good to give and what is good to take.

If you find yourself in a situation being asked to help another, begin with a discussion of what you have that you can actually give.  Review your budget.  Contact us so we can update your financial analysis to see if you will retain your independence.  In other words, put your mask on first.  Then if all is good, be glad that you are truly blessed to share with another. 

The best thing you can do for your family is to stay financially independent which is the best thing you can do for you. Just like the mask on the plane, the best thing you can do for another is to be sure you are okay first.