I should probably start by saying that I have a really strong aversion to sales pitches and salespeople in general. Whether it’s a person standing on a street corner trying to sell me on a politician or a religion or someone trying to sell me a magazine subscription or a timeshare or beauty products at LUSH, my first instinct is usually to run in the other direction. Unfortunately, since my mother’s death I’ve been forced to sit through some of those conversations in the process of completing beneficiary paperwork, most notably at my bank.
After my last visit to the midtown office of my bank several months ago in which I spent TWO FRIGGING HOURS filling out beneficiary paperwork and listening to suggestions (which felt an awful lot like sales pitches) about what kinds of accounts / credit cards I should have, I wasn’t really in a rush to go back. But over the last several months I’ve been receiving regular phone calls telling me that I needed to go back and have another meeting with them. Because yes, my IRA was now set up and yes the check had come through, but now I needed to have a conversation about “how I wanted that money to work for me.” Urgh.
So this morning I planned to go to the bank first and then go cheer up afterwards by going food shopping at Grand Central Terminal. Luckily I only had to deal with the extra-pushy lady who’s been calling me for a few minutes, and then she brought me in to see the Private Client Advisor. So he and I ended up talking and filling out forms for … an hour? An hour and a half? I’m not entirely sure; I just know that I was a little woozy by the end of it.
So the weird thing (okay, ONE of the weird things) about this meeting was that if you spend that much time with someone you start off as absolute strangers but little by little some tidbits of personal information and opinions start to emerge. I mean, first off, the ice is already broken because my mother is dead and I’m one of the beneficiaries. So there’s already a personal undertone to the conversation because this stranger and I are discussing how old my mother was when she died, how my brother was signed on to her savings / checking accounts, how I’m working with an estate lawyer, how I’m the beneficiary of several accounts but I have no idea how much money is actually coming in, how I’m single and have no children and most of my family is gone, etc.
The conversation occasionally took an awkward turn when he would ask a question about my other finances (401K, etc) and I wouldn’t know the answer. Then he’d try to give me a sense of perspective by saying something like, “Well, _______ would be a normal amount. I mean, I’M insured for two million dollars.” Well, thank God I wasn’t drinking at that moment because otherwise I would’ve done a spit take all over his desk. Lord knows that nothing made me feel more like a poor librarian in blue jeans than hearing that my banker was insured for two million dollars. And then he was telling me that he has four kids, and the standard amount is to be insured at half a million dollars per child … and I’m all, like, WHAT “standard amount” and why have I never heard of this? and Well, I don’t have ANY kids, so what am I supposed to do? Believe me, it’s weird enough whenever I list my boyfriend as my beneficiary and I watch them click the box that says “non-spouse.”
There were a couple of other weird points in the conversation, and at least some of those were my fault. Okay, in my defense, some of that is because the one thing that’s worse than having an awkward conversation about finances is having awkward silences in that conversation. We had several awkward silences while he was waiting for forms to print out or while he was waiting for someone in another department to pick up the phone. And because I hate awkward silences, I try to fill them. I filled some of those silences by talking about stuff that was personal but not too personal, like how I planned to come back to midtown later in the week to go to the holiday shops in Bryant Park (he had never been there before, and I was telling him what kinds of things they sold in the shops).
But perhaps chiming in to fill one of those silences with, “So … is this going to be the Death of a Salesman part of the conversation where you tell me that I’m worth more dead than alive?” wasn’t one of my better ideas. In my defense (I know, I keep saying that), I get really uncomfortable when I’m forced to talk about money, and banking, and beneficiaries, and death. So that might also explain why I decided to share the fact that when my boyfriend and I were first dating my aunt was worried that he was dating me for my money, which we thought was funny because I didn’t actually HAVE any money, but now over a decade later he was finally becoming my beneficiary and … well I MIGHT have said that I told him that if I died suddenly that he would now jump to the top of the suspects list …
Yeah, sometimes I should just shut up and not try to crack a joke and I should just sit quietly like a grownup. In my defense … um … no, sometimes I should just shut up.
But anyway, my weird off-handed comments and jokes must have broken the ice, or humanized the conversation, or something. Because after we’d filled out the IRA paperwork and then filled out MORE paperwork to create a “managed account” because I had too much money in ordinary checking and savings accounts that weren’t earning any money for me … well, that’s when HIS side of the conversation got weird.
So things are winding down and my stomach is starting to growl because I need to go food shopping. He’s apologizing for how long everything has taken, and starts explaining that the process of creating and linking these different types of accounts used to be a lot easier. And THEN he says that, “just between you and me,” the banking rules haven’t been the same since 9/11.
And that’s when I start feeling a little worried that the person I’m entrusting to manage my life savings (and who just finished transferring the majority of that money into a managed account that will, by definition, fluctuate with the market) might be a little … off.
So then he goes on to explain how after 9/11 there were many changes to many aspects of life in America, including increased security in airports, and issues with linking different kinds of bank accounts, and how the whole country’s economy has been suffering and will continue to do so for the forseeable future.
And then there was another awkward silence, and I wasn’t sure how to fill it. I mean, I could see that he meant well, but … I dunno. Maybe he felt like we were friends now, what with my oversharing and all? So I tried to tie things up with a joke by saying, “Well, thanks for saving the positive stuff for the end of the conversation!” And then we both laughed, and he asked how I was going to spend the rest of my day off, and I said that I was going to Grand Central Station, and then I reminded him that he should really check out Bryant Park before the season ended.
So THAT was odd.
Anyway, then I left and went to Grand Central Station, where my eyes were bigger than my stomach (as usual). I had a chili dog there, and brought home chicken, and chili, and tacos, and cupcakes. Because we needed them, apparently.
Tomorrow my boyfriend and I are both off from work, so we’ll be catching up on stuff around the house and eating lots and LOTS of leftovers.