I interviewed my dad, who is 73 years old. He was a civil officer (for the French government) and is now retired (note that he worked until he had to retire and we all joke about him always working on various projects – mostly volunteering and a few consulting). I chose to interview him as I always go to him if I need advice about finance (and any administrative matters) and he always seemed to me as well-prepared and organized. I would not describe him a risk-taker or a finance guru, but someone who is efficient, organized, structured and diligent.
So I thought there will be a lot to learn from him and there was! :-)
Some background / family information
My dad is married to my mother who was a lawyer and is also retired. They are both healthy and own an apartment in Paris and a house in the countryside. They also have a car. (All of this has been paid). They don’t travel much (for leisure) and go to their countryside house during the holidays.
We are three siblings (my brother, sister and I). All of us have a job, a place to live and children.
Regarding helping their children, my dad said “the principle is: we paid for their studies and they should figure it out.” Yet, because of my brother’s situation (creator of a small business, divorced and living alone with 3 kids), he explained that they have to help him financially. He added that my mother also worries about my sister and feels she needs to help her and babysit her kids.
My grand-mother lives on her own and is completely financially independent.
Learnings: it is important to be aware of the bigger family context. And children, even when grown-ups, influence some parents decisions.
(Related side-note: one of my friends told me that her parents who are 80+ and needed some money, did not want to sell a property they have because they wanted to “keep it for their children”, who are all 50+ with a stable job and a house!)
My parents have accounts in 2 banks.
The only loan they have is for “financial accounting” because that “was cheap money” (due to low rate).
My dad is the one in charge of the finances. He does everything online.
When asked about security, he said “I’m not scared but I’m careful”. He checks his accounts generally twice a week, at least once, just to see if there’s any anomalies.
He pays everything by cards or bank transfers. The only time they go to the bank is when they have checks to drop (and this is very rare).
When asked about age and using technology, my dad said “I don’t think it has anything with age. It’s more about personality. know young people who go to the bank.”
When asked about financial advisors, he responded, “I haven’t found one who has useful advice!” so he does not have one. He then told me that when he had a problem, it happened two or three times that he found a financial advisor who was helpful for a specific case.
- Technology is not necessarily an issue for all 50+ and even 70+.
- Some people, when it come to money are “out there”, well-organized, conscientious and efficient, and they don’t necessarily need a financial advisor.
- Trust, but also competency is an issue with financial advisors.
I asked him about planning and asked him about now vs. when he was in his 50’s. He first noted that planning does not start at 50, but that for him planning was between 30 and 60.
He had a life insurance (his main issue was to have enough for the person staying to cover the costs and get back to a normal life). He will stop it when turning 75 because the premium then becomes too high.
He also took some education insurances for each of us so that we could study until we were 25 years old.
Learning: Planning does not start at 50!
He explained me that starting 40-45 years old, he started checking how much he will get for retirement and how my mother will get. Because they are in France, retirement is compulsory but you can consider taking a complementary retirement plan which he did for her at some point.
“You have to plan that your kids will cost you more as they grow. But usually there are no major extra costs and you can absorb them in your budgeting.”
We discussed that they did not have to worry about studies like people do in the US because in France universities are public and even private schools are not expensive.
Learning: constraints are part of life and you just have to be ready for them; one can think of loans in a creative manner.
… and dreams
My dad is not a dreamer but my mother has dreams. She always dreamt of having a family house and so when they were in their 50’s and became grand parents for the first time, they bought a house in the countryside. For that, my dad sold some stocks he had. He described this as “getting rid of a financial investment that corresponded to your mother’s dream”.
Learnings: one can balance dreams and efficient financial investment. When you’re married, people have different dreams and you need to find ways to fulfill them.
- Planning starts before 50. Let's keep that in mind when we move to ideation.
- Not all 70+ are scared of technology
- Trust about financial advisors is not only about security, it can also be about competency. Where to get information (trustworthy and understandable) is not easy.
- I was impressed by the organized and efficient approach of my dad but I also realized I was "far beyond". Although I unconsciously picked some tricks, I am definitely not a money organizer.