When Cathy Sikorski became caregiver for both her two-year-old daughter and her 92-year-old grandmother, she felt like she’d become trapped in an alternate universe. If her daughter took a snack from the dog’s dish one morning, her grandmother would do the exact same thing, then say, “Well, she’s doing it.”
Cathy has been a practicing and consulting elder law attorney for over 30 years, with a special focus in financial and legal preparation in the aging crisis. She’s the author of Showering With Nana: Confessions Of A Serial (killer)… Caregiver and the Amazon bestseller Who Moved My Teeth?: Preparing For Self, Loved Ones, And Caregiving. Cathy has made many television, radio, and podcast appearances, and her work has been featured by the Huffington Post, AARP, and Women’s Media Center in Washington, DC. She also serves on the board of directors of Nancy’s House, a nonprofit dedicated to respite for caregivers.
Today, Cathy joins the podcast to talk about how hard caregiving can be, especially for women. She shares the story of what happened when she became a caregiver for eight different family members over 25 years, why so many caregivers end up below the poverty line in old age, and the plans to make right now to protect yourself decades down the line.
Overcomer Playlist Recommendation
Pearls of Wisdom
- Know you’re doing the best you can. You are not giving yourself enough credit.
- Ask for help. If you are a caregiver, you are definitely a person who probably isn’t going to ask for help because you’re a take charge person, but you’ve got to do that.
- Pay attention to how caregiving is going to affect you financially in the future.
Tweetables“Being selfless does not have to set you up to be broke at 82. You are too valuable.” - @LIFEwithArwen Click To Tweet “It really comes down to some pretty simple things, which is just one word, which is: plan.” - Cathy Sikorski Click To Tweet “You have my permission. This is the biggest thing is giving people permission, giving women permission, even caregivers permission. You have my permission to turn off your phone, to turn off your doorbell, to turn it off, and close… Click To Tweet “I did the best I could. I did the best I could. That's all I can say. And I did the best I could and, in my heart, that's what most caregivers do.” - Cathy Sikorski Click To Tweet “My grandmother used to say, ‘You can wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which gets filled first.’ Stop wishing to make a financial advancement. You’ve got to do something.” - Cathy Sikorski Click To Tweet “You are born into this world and you may never know to whose dreams your life is the answer.” - Cheryl Hickerson Click To Tweet
- She Handled It, So Can You!: An Inspiring and Empowering Financial Guide for Women
- Showering With Nana: Confessions Of A Serial Caregiver
- Who Moved My Teeth?: Preparing For Self, Loved Ones And Caregiving
- The Pillars of the Earth
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Connect with Arwen Becker
Arwen Becker: So, today's topic is something that I see all the time in my retirement planning and financial planning business. So, I wanted to actually read a snippet from my book, She Handled It, So Can You!, because I think it's extraordinarily appropriate for what we're going to be talking about today.
As I look back on my journey or more accurately battle with money, I marvel at my mom's willingness to sacrifice so much of her current comfort and future financial security to meet my sister and my needs. The more women I meet, be they in their 40s or 90s, or anywhere in between, the more universal this principle of self-sacrifice seems. My mom is one of the millions of selfless women who will do anything necessary to give their spouse, children, grandchildren, and parents what they need, often at their own expense. But it's a fascinating twist, and just as vital as it is to them to not be a burden on their extended family, ever. It's a very perplexing dichotomy. Women will sow all of their seed, give away the harvest, yet never want to be left begging for assistance. Sadly, though, it's often because of this deep desire to help loved ones often at all costs, that women will give up their financial security.
You want others to be happy, you want them to have peace and not struggle, you want the best for them, and it's so overwhelmingly noble to care for those who can't care for themselves. But we must be extraordinarily mindful that if we do that our entire lives, financially, we may become some of the many women living in poverty, something we are already much more likely than our male counterparts to do. I don't want that for you. You deserve better. You deserve safety. You deserve to see your loved ones happy but must that come at the detriment of your own security? No. And you know that. If you love those around you and value those relationships, don't let your love make you a martyr. You can wake up and break whatever cycles are keeping you from having control of your own life. Being selfless does not have to set you up to be broke at 82. You are too valuable. Do you know that? You are. Walking that truth. This is not the end. This is just the start of the very best years of your life.
And today's guest is going to talk to us a lot about what that looks like.
Cathy Sikorski is a practicing and consulting elder law attorney for over 30 years. She speaks to promote financial and legal preparation in the aging crisis. She's the author of two books, Showering With Nana: Confessions Of A Serial (killer)… Caregiver, and her second book premiered as number one on Amazon, Who Moved My Teeth?: Preparing For Self, Loved Ones, And Caregiving. With many television, radio, and podcast appearances, she's also been featured in the Huffington Post, AARP, and she is a SheSource Expert for the Women's Media Center in Washington, DC. Cathy serves on the board of directors of Nancy's House, a nonprofit dedicated to respite for caregivers. She can also be seen on the West Chester Story Slam YouTube channel.
Arwen Becker: Cathy, I am so grateful that you took the time to come and spend on the show today. Thank you for coming.
Cathy Sikorski: Oh, Arwen, thank you for having me. I'm so honored that you chose that piece out of your book. I'm quite verklempt. I mean, it's very perfect. It's very perfect for what we're going to talk about today.
Arwen Becker: Yeah. When I saw kind of the topic that we are going to be discussing today, you and I were speaking before we actually went live and it filters through so much of both of the people that we've worked with over the years, and we've just seen how significant of an issue this is for so many people, especially women. It's just such a passion that both you and I have.
Cathy Sikorski: Exactly because we see it, right? Because we see it all the time.
Arwen Becker: Yep. And we just don't want women to be making that same mistake. So, hopefully, we'll be able to move some of them out of that difficulty and be able to move them into a better place after today's show. Well, you bought us a song to add to our overcomer playlist. What song did you bring? And why did you bring it?
Cathy Sikorski: So, most of your wonderful people I noticed because I love your podcast, and I listen to it, bring you big hyped up exciting songs. And this one's kind of slow and thoughtful but it's been around for a very long time and I think people will continue to relate to it. It's called You'll Never Walk Alone and it's from, I'm a big fan of Broadway. It's Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel but it's exactly what we're talking about today with these women.
When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
But the key today for me is this one, because you and I are going to talk about this at length about those women who have given up so much with their financial security and probably some other things in their lives that
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Right? Though your dreams be tossed and blown. They give them up all the time and it doesn't have to be that way.
Arwen Becker: Right. But the important part is being able to get the education that's needed to avoid that down the road. Because there is a statistic, I'm sure you've heard, that 80% of widowed women collecting Social Security live below the poverty line, and the sad truth is most of them did not when their spouse was living. That to me and to you is absolutely unacceptable and that's why we have these conversations and that's why we speak on stage, and that's why we want to have a big voice to be able to reach a lot of women and go, "This is a significant problem,” and it's a problem that affects thousands and thousands and thousands of families. And we want to make sure that we can change that. So, hopefully, today we'll be able to reach into a woman out there and be able to help guide her and steer her to the proper place. So, I know that you are going to be addressing something as it relates to the aging crisis. But it wasn't just a need that you saw and you were like, “Okay. Well, I see this, and now I need to go out and fill it.” It was actually a very personal journey that affected you. So, why don't you take us back there? What happened?
Cathy Sikorski: I'd be delighted to take you back there because I think when people understand that people like us have had, in fact, this very experience, it gives us the credibility for them to understand that we know where this is coming from. So, my grandmother basically helped raise my mother's six children because my dad died as an army helicopter pilot when my mom had five little kids under the age of 10 and was pregnant with a sixth. So, we came home and lived with my grandmother. We came home from Germany and lived with my grandmother and I'm one of those middle children which was why I'm an extrovert and boisterous and all of those things, typical middle child. So, we lived with my grandmother for many, many years until my mom remarried, which was my two sisters were already married. I was a teenager, etcetera. And then my Nana came to live with my mom in an apartment, where she was living with my stepfather. My mom was living with my stepfather and her teenagers and blah, blah, blah. And then, of course, time went on and my Nana went into her 90s and had a little bit of dementia, was certainly not able to live by herself. And my mom was traveling with my stepfather so Nana needed a place to live. And at 92 she came to live with me when I had a two-year-old.
Arwen Becker: And how old were you at the time?
Cathy Sikorski: I was 32. So, 92, 32, 2.
Arwen Becker: Wow. You definitely have the ends of the spectrum. That's the official sandwich generation.
Cathy Sikorski: Yeah. We were all on our terrible twos. Let me tell you. So, it was a time of all kinds of craziness and that's what my first book is Showering with Nana that you talked about, Confessions of a Serial, and I have killer there. I crossed out caregiver because there's many a time you wish you were a serial killer. But you know, Nana took care of me and all of my siblings and I was just basically returning a favor. I was already an attorney but I stepped out of that role to be a stay-at-home mom and a stay-at-home caregiver, and this continued on for many years because what happened was I became the go-to caregiver. I ultimately became a caregiver for eight different family members and friends over the next 25 years.
Arwen Becker: Goodness.
Cathy Sikorski: That included my brother-in-law who had multiple sclerosis and ended up wheelchair-bound and bed-bound because my sister, his partner, passed away at age 41 from breast cancer. It became my great aunt who was from Australia, was really my husband's great aunt and lived here and had no family here except us, and my mother-in-law. And my mom and my girlfriend who fell down a flight of stairs and had a traumatic brain injury, and her husband left her because he couldn't handle being a caregiver. I mean, it was just a myriad of experiences in caregiving. And that's what led me to become the caregiver/elder attorney. That is really what honed my practice as a lawyer.
Arwen Becker: And what was this time period? I mean, you just kind of went through all of those people. What was the span of time from when 32 and your grandmother moves in with you that kind of all these things were happening and you decided to go really focus on elder law?
Cathy Sikorski: So, I'd say maybe two or three years in with my grandmother, I started to see the writing on the wall about what I needed to know to deal with her and to deal with Medicare and Medicaid and things like that. And then my great aunt was only a few years behind her in age so then I needed some information for her. And then my mother-in-law was also by that time in her 80s and 90s. My mom was having issues with her health insurance so she was also at that time in her probably 70s and 80s. And all these people were asking these right and important questions, and these were just people in my life. It wasn't necessarily my practice. But then my clients became older people and I was able to answer these questions more from my practical experience than my legal experience. It was just I needed to know this and how to do it and etcetera, etcetera. And then about, let's see, 10 years, so maybe seven or eight, or 10 years into it, that's when my brother-in-law really needed my help and that's when my girlfriend fell down a flight of stairs. And that's when it sort of expanded my practice into all elder law issues.
Arwen Becker: Wow. So, you have how many siblings?
Cathy Sikorski: There's eight of us total.
Arwen Becker: Okay. So, were you predominantly the person who was doing all of this out of all of you?
Cathy Sikorski: Isn't that an interesting question?
Arwen Becker: It's not like you're an only child or something.
Cathy Sikorski: The answer is yes.
Arwen Becker: Wow. So, I have to ask. I know we have a lot to talk about but I have to ask. At some point, were you resentful?
Cathy Sikorski: So funny. You're asking that because just today I had a little battle with a sibling about this actual thing with my mom. My mother is 92 and is as healthy as a horse and we're trying to keep her that way in light of this pandemic, right?
Arwen Becker: Yeah.
Cathy Sikorski: And so, we're working very hard to keep everybody who gets to her isolated and I'm in her pod so it's only six people that come and go in her house and blah, blah, blah. So, I am, of course, going to tell you that resentment has a piece of it but, Arwen, I'm guessing you're like me and I could be wrong, but I'm also a control freak.
Arwen Becker: Mine stems from growing up in an alcoholic home. It's very, very much like that, the caregiving that is very, very typical for a kid of an alcoholic. But that's still significant. I mean, for you to have as many siblings as you have and to have brought so much of that upon you and I'm sure you'll talk about that a little bit and maybe how to get out from underneath that pressure of not feeling like you have to do all of it. But, wow, that's crazy. So, here you are. You're doing your best to, to use your word, control all of these different circumstances, having to deal with so many different families, so many different personalities, so many different pieces that what are the finances that can support this person versus this person versus this person and making sure that they have their needs? How in the world was this all happening? And then you were also being a mom and trying to still be an attorney and serve other people?
Cathy Sikorski: Yeah. But I got to tell you, the very first thing that you must understand is I have an amazing husband. Always. Always super 100% supportive of all of that.
Arwen Becker: Wow. Kudos to him. What's his name?
Cathy Sikorski: John.
Arwen Becker: John. Go, John. Woo-hoo!
Cathy Sikorski: Yeah. Exactly, in a big way. Absolutely.
Arwen Becker: So, you had a safe place to come home to?
Cathy Sikorski: Always. Always. Although my husband was a traveling salesman. So, he's not stupid, Arwen.
Arwen Becker: He was supportive when he was there.
Cathy Sikorski: Exactly. But, I mean, they were different people. You know, my friends were not my family's responsibility, right? My mother was, of course, sure, my siblings’, but my-mother-in law is my husband's family and he has just one brother, 10 years older than him. So, these people came from all different places in my life. I guess, there's a piece of me that has to say, I'm really grateful because my practice super benefited from the fact that I had to practically learn how to and understand how to do all this. I mean, you can do a lot of things in theory but once you do them in practice, you are ever so much better at it.
Arwen Becker: Of course.
Cathy Sikorski: But the heart of this conversation for you and I telling women about this is don't think for a minute that I did not lose massive amounts of ground financially.
Arwen Becker: Yeah. Tell me about that.
Cathy Sikorski: If I was single, it would have been horrible. Right? I am so fortunate to have a supportive partner and a supportive spouse who is able to continue to build our mutual family wealth. But if this were just me trying to build something, I would tell you right now, I would be in a very, very unsafe position.
Arwen Becker: Yeah. And that happens over and over and over again, especially what we're seeing with the pandemic because women already were really starting to gain some ground in closing the wage gap, and really being able to financially care for themselves, but the moment that those families were now hit with a pandemic, the vast majority that lost their jobs, being in hospitality, I mean, overwhelmingly female. And if it wasn't in that industry, now you have kids who have been home for now almost approaching a year. Who is going to be there to take care of them? Typically speaking, it's the mom. And so, she's either working less, she's not working at all, she's now losing ground and skills and experience because she's having to be at home. She's not putting into her retirement. She's not putting into her social security. So, now we are now moving backwards another 10 years or more in this fight to be able to be secure to know that you're going to be okay when that time comes and you're in your 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond.
Cathy Sikorski: Right. And I'm sure you saw this statistic just the other day that said all the jobs that were lost in the month of December were women. All of it.
Arwen Becker: I didn't.
Cathy Sikorski: Oh, you didn't? I'll send you the link but it said something like the jobs report was 144,000 jobs were lost, and 156,000 women lost jobs. So, 100% was women.
Arwen Becker: If any of you who are listening this is why Cathy and I are so passionate about communicating this message because we come through this understanding of how finances filter into everything. Knowing that we already have a leg down, as you know, being female in finances in generating income and being able to have a healthy retirement, that is why she and I are working so hard to make sure that you are taking responsibility, that you're aware of what you need to do, that you are educated, and that you as I like to say it, you're inspired to get educated because a lot of people don't even think they can do it. It's too boring. They don't understand it. And it's not that. It's not that complicated. But it does require you to put in the effort. Even if you're like Cathy and even if you're like me, you're fortunate enough to have a wonderful spouse that supports you, she just like me has seen it. One day you can be on top of the world and the next day your life can crumble and you can find yourself widowed. You know, the average age of a woman that’s widowed is 59.
Cathy Sikorski: And the thing is, Arwen, it really comes down to some pretty simple things, which is just one word, which is have a plan. You need to have a plan and not just for you. Have a plan for your parents. Have a plan for the elderly person who might be the person who's going to take you out of the workforce. If you know that Alzheimer's or dementia is something in your family or your husband's family and you're going to be the expected caregiver, how are you going to operate around that? You have to pay attention and have a plan. Is there a way to pay for that without you losing your job? Is there a way to pay you as a caregiver? It's just don't ignore this financial piece because it makes you sound like you're a mercenary because that's absurd in every possible way.
Arwen Becker: Right. And statistically, women will spend 15% of their working years out caring for kids or parents. And that's compared to 1.6% for men and actually, most of that time that men are out is not specifically caring for family members. That's just being laid off. So, that's huge.
Cathy Sikorski: Or it's them being sick and their wife is taking care of them.
Arwen Becker: Right? Yep, exactly. So, you found yourself taking care of I don't even know how. It sounds like you've named like 8 to 10 people during this time period, learning a lot of skills that were, of course, extraordinarily beneficial for your practice but I still have to come back to you as an individual because I personally have not had to walk through that. My mom's very healthy. She's been caring for my dad. So, I've been watching this as he continues to age and really struggling in his health, but I personally have not had to bear that weight, so to speak. Tell me more about what was this like mentally and physically? And there had to be a time where you just felt like you couldn't do it anymore? I mean, what does this all look like?
Cathy Sikorski: Okay. Really, from a day-to-day basis, it looks like you are constantly putting in forethought about what is my day going to be tomorrow? What is my day going to be the next day? What do I need to do to get a person to doctor's appointments, to have an appointment myself for whatever I need? Can I get a gym exercise in for myself? Do I have food for dinner? When do I go grocery shopping? When do I get prescriptions picked up for the people that I'm taking care of? Do I need to talk to a doctor today or an insurance company or pay a bill? I mean, you will find I think generally that caregivers are very well-prepared and people of forethought. I tell them all the time. If you don't put that in a job interview or whatever, all of the skills that you are using on a daily basis to be this amazing, incredible human being, you're really missing an important point. Because you are greatly skilled. But yes, their caregiver burnout is not a joke, and it's not unheard of. In fact, there's some statistic like 25% of caregivers die before the person they're caring for.
Arwen Becker: Wow. Goodness.
Cathy Sikorski: Mostly in the elderly, of course.
Arwen Becker: Sure. Yeah. Because when you were talking about that, first of all, I'm task-oriented so it's like get things on a task list and then what's going to be these things and get very organized about your time. Not everybody is that way. If you're the only daughter and you have one brother, chances are extraordinarily high, you're going to be the one that's handling this. Maybe that's not your forte, but even the most organized individual that can care for somebody else often does not apply the same techniques to their own self-care. Is that correct?
Cathy Sikorski: Well, sure. Self-care is also the worst thing they leave for the very last, which is a constant. I mean, if you read anything about caregiving, they're always going to be, "Take care of yourself, take care of yourself,” and caregivers resent that tremendously. Because they think, “I don't have time for that. I don't have the resources for that,” which is why I'm on the board of Nancy's House, which is this amazing organization that actually provides weekends of respite for caregivers, like for you to step away, get some sleep, get some meditation practice, learn how to translate this into a way to take care of yourself as much as you possibly can, and as you need to. It is so critical and it is so missed as much as the financial piece to be perfectly honest with you. But the bottom line here is, and most of these caregivers are trying to go to work, Arwen. They have a job so they're trying to sneak at work a conversation with a nursing home or a conversation with a doctor, unless they're higher up in their company, and they can get away with it. But if you're at a lower level, you are trying to hide that you're, in fact, doing this job, which is just another form of stress and pressure.
Arwen Becker: Right. And with the self-care piece, I just have to believe a lot of that falls into guilt. I feel guilty if I take time for myself because look at the person I'm caring for, they're suffering much greater than I am so why do I get the joy of spending the day going and getting a massage or having a pedicure or going for a hike or something like that? And just the logistics, that's a big challenge for a lot of people of finding somebody who can step in and care for somebody so they can even do a day trip somewhere.
Cathy Sikorski: Exactly. Logistics and cost, it always comes down to that but see, and so here we are again from the beginning of this conversation that you and I are having. It's a financial question. Because if money were not the problem, if you could just bring somebody in and pay them, it probably would advance that self-care.
Arwen Becker: Sure.
Cathy Sikorski: But cost is very, very often an issue, a big issue.
Arwen Becker: When you were going through all these pieces with your family, do you think that there are things, I guess, maybe if I'm talking to somebody out there who is facing this, they've got siblings. Are there things that you wish your siblings would have said or done? Or not said or done during these years where you were caring for so many people, that you think would be helpful for that woman who's facing this decision?
Cathy Sikorski: To the person who's listening to this who has that same thing, I would highly suggest, even though it doesn't always work, family meetings are always helpful and you have to ask for help. You have to. Everybody's going to tell you they'll help you but unless you specifically tell them exactly what you need them to do, it's not going to happen. “I need you to come on Thursday. I need you to be in charge of mom's doctor's appointments. I need you to do her grocery shopping.” Whatever it is, you've got to stop being a control freak that you are because I know that and ask for and take help. And if it's not perfect, you have to get over it. You have to let it not be perfect.
Arwen Becker: Right. 80% is better than zero.
Cathy Sikorski: Right. Exactly. This just happened to me today. My mom called me to tell me that my sister sent me a link for my mom to sign up for a vaccine. My mom is 92 and she's, I’ve said, amazing. And I said, "Call her back. I'm doing a big project today,” Arwen, “and tell her to sign you up.” Well, so, I had to call my sister and say, "Could you just please sign her up? Stop sending mom a link. She's 92. It's not working.” She's pretty good on the computer. She's got a smartphone, a computer, an iPad like that's pretty amazing but it's not working. It's that kind of thing.
Arwen Becker: So, be very specific in the needs that you have. So, this arbitrary, “Yeah, I could use a little help,” well, what does that mean?
Cathy Sikorski: Yeah. Or. “Just let me know if you need any help.” Yes, let them know.
Arwen Becker: Yes. That's good. That's really good. Are there things along the way that you wish people wouldn't have done? Or wouldn't have said that were not helpful that just made you feel bad or just made things worse?
Cathy Sikorski: I really can't think of anything, honestly. That doesn't seem to ring true with me. I'm sure other people have answers like that.
Arwen Becker: Sure. Do you think, I mean, as you look back on asking for help because I just think that this is such the important component that a woman needs to hear, would you say predominantly when you asked for help, the response was positive?
Cathy Sikorski: If you were extraordinarily specific about what you wanted, if you just say, “I can't do this. I'm burning out. I'm tired,” you're going to get nothing. If you say, “I need you every Tuesday to be here from 12 o'clock to three o'clock,” you're going to get something. You might get, “I can't come Tuesday,” but then the question is, "Well, when can you come?” So, it's all in the framing. That is what I learned. Yes.
Arwen Becker: And has it always been family members? Or do you find that there are a lot of times girlfriends will help extend?
Cathy Sikorski: No. Yeah, no. Well, of course, I had two people who I was a real significant caregiver who were not my family and it's interesting. Friends, no problem. Their family, a problem. Interesting, right?
Arwen Becker: Yeah, sure.
Cathy Sikorski: So, I'm going to say, yeah, family is a problem.
Arwen Becker: Did you ever feel at some point, I mean, throughout all these times in your life, was there ever a feeling like, “I don't know if I can do this. I don't know how I'm going to make it through?” Or was that just when you really had to rely on your husband to just be that support for you?
Cathy Sikorski: I am so not Superwoman. Who are we kidding?
Arwen Becker: Right.
Cathy Sikorski: I will tell you one thing though, man. I learned how to hide. I can hide with the best of them.
Arwen Becker: What was your favorite hiding spot?
Cathy Sikorski: Oh, just even my own room. You know, the door is closed. The phone is off. Do not come in here and that's it. It's not happening. You know, even if you ring the doorbell, I'm not answering. Because in this day and age of email and whatnot, who can hide, right? People think they can get you but that's the other thing is you've got to turn off your devices. Turn them off. You have my permission. This is the biggest thing is giving people permission, giving women permission, even caregivers permission. You have my permission to turn off your phone, to turn off your doorbell, to turn it off, and close the door.
Arwen Becker: Yeah. That's so good. You know, I was talking to a friend of mine who she was on a prior podcast, and her mom, dad, and father-in-law all passed away within an 18-month time period. And so, of course, going into this caregiving role and just having a thrust so quick and so fast with people, of course, that are very, very important to them. But one of the things that I had asked her and I'm curious about what you have to say and how you worked through that was when you were now facing this moment in time where a person who had given you care that you relied on, that was your parent or grandparent that sowed into you and you always could have them there whenever you needed it and now all of a sudden, you had to start treating them like a child where you had to do these things that they had done for you, how do you work through that? It's just got to be so hard.
Cathy Sikorski: It is because there's the guilt, right? There's the challenge. So, I had a two-year-old and a 92-year-old at the same time, and they were very similar in what they were doing in terms of defiance or in terms of, they actually really like to gang up on me and do things like get a snack out of the dog dish in the morning while I wasn't paying attention. And you're looking at your grandmother and saying, “Nana, what are you doing?” And she looks at me and says, “Well, she's doing it.” Like what alternate universe have we entered here? And, of course, you do react like you would with a two-year-old and then the guilt, of course, comes down on you hard. But I'm going to say, honestly, I mean, I did the best I could. I did the best I could. That's all I can say. And I did the best I could and, in my heart, that's what most caregivers do.
Arwen Becker: Yeah. You did the best that you could with what you had to work with.
Cathy Sikorski: Including myself.
Arwen Becker: Sure. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. So, when you look back on all this that you have experienced throughout your career and throughout your personal life and how it's all intertwined, what would you say are the biggest takeaways and the things that you've learned throughout this process?
Cathy Sikorski: So, number one, know that you're doing the best you can. I don't think people give themselves enough credit. If you've stepped into the life of a caregiver, I am so impressed with you and I am sure you're doing the best you can under the circumstances you have. Obviously, number two, ask for help because you are definitely a person who probably isn't going to ask for help because you're a take-charge person, but you've got to do that. Whether it's in the short term or the long term, ask for specific help. And number three, pay attention to how this is going to affect you financially in the future. This is not a joke. This can hurt you so terribly and you don't want to be that person. And if you're taking care of a person who is in a financial bind, and that's why you're there, you're just propagating the same thing over and over again. So, you've got to look at it and figure out a way and there are ways. I mean, Arwen, you agree there are ways, right?
Arwen Becker: Right. Yeah.
Cathy Sikorski: You got to start paying attention now.
Arwen Becker: Right. And you said it early on when we were talking is that you have to have a plan. You know, I did a radio interview just a couple of days ago, and he said what is the biggest mistake that people tend to make? And whether it's couples, singles, we see it all the time. Most people just don't have a plan. They don't know how all these pieces of what they have worked to earn financially over their life, how they fit together, and they haven't seen just that piece and then the overlay with what we're talking about. What happens if you have to stop working early? What happens if your spouse becomes sick? This is the big issue is that the spouse becomes sick, they drain the assets, they pass away, and now you're left destitute. This happens to women over and over.
Cathy Sikorski: Or they don't even have access to the assets because they didn't get the proper paperwork in order to get to those 401(k)s, those IRAs, those 403(b)s.
Arwen Becker: Yeah, just terrible. Both Cathy and I can't say enough. Getting a plan, sitting down with somebody talking through this, making sure that you have your legal affairs in order, making sure that you, I mean, just the basics is, that's the thing. We as women and I'm guilty of it, we think it's going to be complicated and too complex, and we're not going to understand it because we don't have a background. That's why you talk to a coach, a financial advisor, an attorney, people who work that can distill it down into little bite-sized pieces that you can understand because it's truly not that complex. When you see everything just in conjunction of an overall plan, it gives you so much more freedom and peace of mind knowing that you have at least as much as you can in order.
Cathy Sikorski: Know that and you don't have to be what you think is a “rich person.” Do not make that your stumbling block. By the way, there’s a lot of dumb rich people.
Arwen Becker: Yes, that's true.
Cathy Sikorski: Aretha Franklin, Prince died without a will. All these people didn’t do what we're asking you to do. Rich is a very nebulous term. It means almost nothing in terms of what we're talking about. You can afford and can have a plan that will help you in the best possible way so that if you come to this place where somebody is sick and it's going to affect you in some financial debilitating way, you are prepared. You can do that.
Arwen Becker: Yep. And it's just like finding a great doctor. It doesn't happen overnight. You need to find somebody that you can communicate with that makes you feel safe when you talk to them that doesn't use big words that make you go, “I don't know what that means but you're too intimidated to actually ask them what that means and you're just nodding your head and it's kind of just going in one ear and out the other.” That's the same for an attorney. That's the same for CPA. That's the same for a financial advisor. Yes, it takes a little bit of effort, but talk to people. Who do you talk to or who's your person? Why do you like them? Because I need somebody that I can talk to. So, Cathy, you and I could go on all day long on this topic.
Cathy Sikorski: We could.
Arwen Becker: We're going to change the world. This is what we're working on. So, your last three rapid-fire questions. So, first one being, what is the best piece of financial wisdom you've been given?
Cathy Sikorski: Oh my gosh, this is so funny. I hope it's funny, but my grandmother used to say, "You can wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which gets filled first.” And what that means is stop wishing to make a financial advancement. You've got to do something. But it means something. It means everything. You can wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which gets filled first.
Arwen Becker: God, I love that. Brilliant lady. We're going to put that. That's going to be the quote. And what's your grandma's name?
Cathy Sikorski: Margaret.
Arwen Becker: Margaret. Grandma Margaret. Or is she the one that you called Nana?
Cathy Sikorski: Nana.
Arwen Becker: Nana. Yes, I had a Nana too. I love that. And then what's a recommended book and why?
Cathy Sikorski: You know, I love to read. I'm a passionate, passionate reader but not necessarily about self-improvement and finance and things like that. I read to bring joy into my life.
Arwen Becker: Nothing wrong with that.
Cathy Sikorski: But here's a great book that will help you understand how to overcome, everything is possible. It's called Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. And it is about how they built Gothic churches. Not like a history. It's a story. It's like just these stories about these amazing people and it's so, I mean, it's very Hallmark-y.
Arwen Becker: Oh, I love that.
Cathy Sikorski: So, you would love it. People will love it. But every time you turn the page, you're like, “Oh my god, how are they going to overcome this?” and they do all the time. So, there you go, my friends.
Arwen Becker: Love it. Beautiful. And then a favorite quote and why? Although we got Nana’s quote, but do you have another one?
Cathy Sikorski: But this is really the best one and I share it with our dear friend, Cheryl Hickerson, all the time. “You are born into this world and you may never know to whose dreams your life is the answer.”
Arwen Becker: Can you read that again?
Cathy Sikorski: I can. You are born into this world and you may never know to whose dreams your life is the answer.
Arwen Becker: I love that.
Cathy Sikorski: And that's by a Scotsman from the 1700s or 1800s by the name of O. Chambers.
Arwen Becker: Love it.
Cathy Sikorski: Great, isn't it?
Arwen Becker: It's so good. It just lands. It just feels good because it reminds you that your life is intertwined with everybody else's. So, how can our listeners get ahold of you? Anything that you would like to tell us about, your books and all that kind of good stuff?
Cathy Sikorski: Yeah. So, you can get my books on Amazon. You just look up my name Cathy with a C, Sikorski, like the helicopter, S-I-K-O-R-S-K-I. You are welcome at my blog site, and my speaker page, which is www.CathySikorski.com. And my speaker page is /speaker. And you can email me. I would be delighted to hear from you if you have any questions, and that's just firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arwen Becker: Oh, good. And then you also speak to when we're doing more live speaking as well. Is that correct?
Cathy Sikorski: Yes, but I do lots of webinars. So, if you are especially, especially I'm sure, Arwen, you're thinking about this as well into companies. There are so many women's groups in companies right now, women in diversity or whatever, and they should be hearing what we have to say, right?
Arwen Becker: Yes, indeed.
Cathy Sikorski: They should be paying attention. There are corporate benefits that they're not paying attention to that have to do with finance and that have to do with disability costs, that have to do with caregiving, like they don't even know that there are things in their companies that they could be taking advantage of. So, yes, I would love to be speaking to your group and all of us are doing webinars now. So, they're all available all over the country. It's great.
Arwen Becker: Yep. That's very good. I love that. Well, my friend, I thank you so much for the time today and the wisdom and I just know that there's a woman out there that is going to really take this very significantly and start moving forward in the right direction to protecting her future. So, I just appreciate your passion. I appreciate your wisdom, your knowledge, what you've been through, and that you're willing to openly share it. So, thank you so much.
Cathy Sikorski: Yeah, me too. Thank you. This was delightful. And yes, we did help someone today. We may never know.
Arwen Becker: That's right. Agreed. Well, thank you very much.
Cathy Sikorski: Thank you.
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