I’m trying to get my house in order: My financial house.
For the past few years, I’ve avoided looking at my 401K or IRA statements, a smattering of funds I started before I had kids and went part-time, i.e. sans benefits.
It’s been a pretty stagnant portfolio, rocked hard by market downturns and haphazard monitoring on my part as I tended to another nest—this one without a nest egg but full of loud little birds.
So, to start anew in 2010, I went back to my faded files, wistful of an era when I had the time and brain-power to label folders and put paperwork crisply inside—alphabetized, in order by date, and indexed for future reference. (It’s hard to concentrate on such things with a seven-year-old and a four-year-old playing Pirates and Scallywags—a game identifiable by the ballast-busting bellows and closet-raiding cross-dressing in this season’s pirate couture—my daughter in my son’s too-short tattered jeans, my son in her abandoned white slip, dueling it out with plastic baby spoons, Mardi Gras beads flying and eye patches askew).
The last statement I find is from 2003. I hope the telephone number is still good.
An obviously bored woman answered the phone: “Can you confirm your name and address?”
I tell her I actually need to update my name from my maiden name.
“How long have you been married?” she asks.
I hesitate, but don’t lie: “Nine years?” (This was actually just before our 10th anniversary).
“Nine years???” she says. “Girl, you’ve just make our job a lot harder.” (I can’t actually remember if she said “Girl,” but it was implied.)
What should I say? Time really skips by? I wade through a century of tasks every day while my children grow and change by the minute. Even my daughter thinks things are moving too fast. “This second is over,” she told me the other morning. Her solution: “I held onto a tree branch yesterday to stop time.”
My husband and I, in fact, still feel a bit post-college, if you judge by our battered Ikea furniture (or, at the least post-graduate school, where we met). I explained to the financial lady my reasons for procrastination and discombobulation:
“I’ve had a few kids during that time. So, I think I need a beneficiary change form, too.” I flinch.
The last thing I want to do—after I’ve calmed the plank-walkers and straightened up the village post-pillage—is get on the phone and talk about complicated financial matters. Or be scolded by the person on the other end.
I think she started to feel sorry for me. She noted that I’ll need a bank guarantor anyway, so I can do both at the same time. “So, this works out great!!” she says.
I guess there are other reasons such transactions have taken me so long to finalize, especially the name change. These funds are something I managed when I was a single, would-be savvy investor with control over a career and future. A given name and a persona listed, in print, on the top of an official statement: Joanne P. Cavanaugh. Seems a small point, I know. Still, this is the last hold-out of that earlier self.
I went to the bank a couple of weeks later. I thought I had it all together: Marriage license. Driver’s license. Signature form.
But I was back to Start (Sorry!): A financial statement, which are apparently all online now, was required, and I’ve no clue about how to access such things. So I ask my husband for help.
To reconnect my ID, he needs to know my childhood best friend’s name and a number of other secrets I can barely recall myself.
I tell him.
I guess he really is a part of me now.