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 Post subject: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:57 am 

Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:48 am
Posts: 2
I have been wrestling with an awkward issue in my family as of late: I am financially better off than my mother and step-father. This is the first time in my life that I can say that I have more financial resources than my parents. And I'm not sure I feel that good about it. I'm in my mid-late-twenties, married, about to buy our first home. Mom has made some not-so-great choices with her money, loan-taking, pulling from her mortgage (in order to open a retail store) that has put her and her husband in such a poor state that they are applying for food stamps. To add to the pile, my step-dad recently lost his job.

I feel terrible that they are in this place financially. My husband and I are doing okay, but we don't really have much to spare. To top it off, the other day my mother made a comment about how we were going to be buying a house and she might be losing hers. What am I supposed to say to something like that? Should we try to help them? I don't know that my mom would even accept money from me if I offered. And how much would I offer? We don't have that much but it breaks my heart when my mom tells me they can't pay their bills and she's maxing out her credit cards to stay afloat (step-dad allowed his kids to ruin his credit).

Any advice?

Thanks.


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:26 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 25, 2011 12:52 pm
Posts: 19
You can offer things other than money. Do you live close by or are they far away? If you are close, a bag of groceries every now and then, or offering to run errands for them could help a lot. If they live far away, maybe you could offer to take over one of their bills for awhile, such as the electric or water bill. This will lessen their fixed expenses and allow them to use what funds they do have on food and debt repayment. It will also allow you to help them in a regular manner without feeling like you have to figure out a dollar amount you can spare for a particular month.

All this being said, if you don't think you can afford to help them, then you can't. It may be tough, but you have made good decisions, and shouldn't have to give up your financial stability. Perhaps you could suggest some books or websites that may help her figure out her next steps.


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 11:36 am 

Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 4:16 pm
Posts: 959
Did she ask for your help? Don't give her a hand if you can't stay afloat yourself. You deserve the chance to do better.

Offer support in other ways, it doesn't seem possible to help her financially now.

I am slowly learning not to help others at a major cost to myself. It is not easy, especially when it comes to family.

_________________
Be what you want to attract.


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:07 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:01 am
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Never, ever forget the first rule of rescuing someone: Do not put yourself at risk in order to rescue someone else! Having additional victims does not help anyone.

As cold as it may sound, I think you should do your best to ignore what your mother is going through. If she makes bad choices she will continue to make them no matter what you do. In the meantime, if you give her money you will almost certainly create resentment with your husband, regardless of what he says, and you will not be able to buy a house and live your own life.

The comment she made about you buying a house and her losing hers sounds unbelievably manipulative and I think is very revealing about her character. I understand that she is your mother and you feel sorry for her. But this is the kind of situation that could lead to seriously bad long term consequences for you.


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 12:52 pm 

Joined: Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:29 pm
Posts: 1592
Location: Seattle, WA
DoingHomework wrote:
The comment she made about you buying a house and her losing hers sounds unbelievably manipulative and I think is very revealing about her character. I understand that she is your mother and you feel sorry for her. But this is the kind of situation that could lead to seriously bad long term consequences for you.


If it was manipulative then yes. However it was possible she was just bemoaning her situation. Without being there and knowing the context and seeing her body language, it's hard to say, so personally I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt. (I'm sure she'd be comforted that some stranger on the internets has decided not to judge her.)


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 1:06 pm 
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stannius wrote:

If it was manipulative then yes. However it was possible she was just bemoaning her situation. Without being there and knowing the context and seeing her body language, it's hard to say, so personally I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt. (I'm sure she'd be comforted that some stranger on the internets has decided not to judge her.)


Maybe I'm being too cynical. But I can't believe a parent would say that sort of thing to their child even if just bemoaning the situation.

But, in the end, that's one of the reasons that money and family don't mix.


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 3:12 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:15 pm
Posts: 1119
DoingHomework wrote:
If she makes bad choices she will continue to make them no matter what you do.

This is true. You'd be an enabler not a helper.


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2012 9:25 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:48 am
Posts: 2
Thank you for all the advice.

I live about an hour away and work long hours during the week, so it is difficult to get to see her even just to visit.

She has not asked for help, and I doubt she will. I just sometimes feel I should help the woman who gave me life. I agree that I should not put myself into financial troubles to help another out, and I agree that my husband would eventually resent it. He has indicated his opinion on the matter, which is to not intervene.

As to the remark she made about losing her house, it was said over the phone, so I couldn't see her body language. However, it felt to me like it was directed with a twinge of something, whether bemoaning or envy, or just the desire for more sympathy, I'm not sure. But I mentioned it because it was the reason for my post. It made me feel awful for her and her current situation.

I am very appreciative of the advice and comments. Has anyone else ever gone through this? I think all I can really do is be supportive of her emotionally and say some prayers.


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 11:28 am 

Joined: Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:29 pm
Posts: 1592
Location: Seattle, WA
I am in a similar situation as far as being better off than at least one, and arguably both of my parents. My mother is taking care of herself well enough. My father is in pretty rough shape, financially, due to a combination of bad luck and poor choices. Neither has ever asked me for money, nor have I offered (other than trying to pay back my mother for money she gave me for college, which she declined) or other support. Neither has compared my financial situation to theirs that I recall. In general I am not as generous as I could or perhaps should be, both to my relatives and to charities. I don't feel too bad about it most of the time.


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:21 pm 
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stannius wrote:
I am in a similar situation as far as being better off than at least one, and arguably both of my parents. My mother is taking care of herself well enough. My father is in pretty rough shape, financially, due to a combination of bad luck and poor choices. Neither has ever asked me for money, nor have I offered (other than trying to pay back my mother for money she gave me for college, which she declined) or other support. Neither has compared my financial situation to theirs that I recall. In general I am not as generous as I could or perhaps should be, both to my relatives and to charities. I don't feel too bad about it most of the time.


Perhaps my initial cynicism in my response was because I am also in a similar situation and always have been, well at least since around college. My mother used to kind of ask me for things, get me to do things for her that ended up costing me money, etc. None of this was a lot of dollars, it was the principle. She'd do things like invite me to dinner then expect me to pay - because I had lots of money. Or ask me to stop and pick up a few things on the way over to see her, which I never got paid back for. It was never so blatant as to say "can I have $XXX."

At first I was too stupid to see what was going on. Then, when I caught on I just stopped. It seems kind of petty because it was not money I'd even miss, but then she'd start with little statements like you described - "Oh you guys are so lucky"...."You can afford to ..." that kind of thing. She's not very manipulative so it was just kind of subtle things that seemed to be to make me feel obligated. It may not have even been intentional. It could very well have been subconscious on her part.

I guess the similarity to the statement quoted is what set off alarm bells!

Then she won the lottery - I'm not kidding. It wasn't millions but it was many tens of thousands. At that point she had more money than my wife any I. I suggested she invest most of it. It was the mid 90s. If she'd done as I suggested she'd easily be a millionaire now. Instead I watched her systematically blow all of it over less than ten years. I knew when it was gone because she started asking for little favors again. But I simply ignored anything she said about that kind of thing.

She has long since learned not to even bring up money. She still makes comments about how we can afford anything we want. (Of course that might be true but only because our "wants" are modest.) Sometimes it is very hard to hold my tongue and not point out that she had an unbelievable opportunity when she won the money.

She is not destitute. She is married, gets social security now, and her husband has a pretty good pension as well as social security. So we are not talking about saving her from starvation. But there is no way I'd give her anything that wasn't a true emergency.

But unlike you Stannius, I think the experience has made me MORE generous. A large part of the reason my wife and I have so much is because we live well below our means and always have. We do both have high incomes, live in a low cost area, and have saved a lot over the years. We have way more than we will ever need.

So we do give quite a bit to what we consider worthy causes. But the criteria are fairly clear - we only give to "people" causes when we are helping people help themselves. We don't support any organization that just gives handouts to people. We look pretty closely at what the organization does before giving anything then we try to be generous and loyal with our support. We have similarly been generous to other family members in the past. But it's always a one-strike-and-you're-out situation.

And I don't feel guilty about any of it either!


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:10 pm 

Joined: Sat Oct 22, 2011 8:19 am
Posts: 80
I agree with the people who are saying to leave it be. There are not many pluses to the situation and in my experience giving money to a family member usually ends up in them continuing in their bad habits or me getting frustrated when they spend it irresponsibly.

My wife and I are better off than both sets of parents, but we are by no means rich. We're still paycheck to paycheck (we're out of debt and building the EF now) but that goes to show how bad things are for the others.

My inlaws bought a distressed property bad in 2003 or 2004 (I believe) and they said they could get it fixed in a year. They already had a mortgage on the house they'd been living in, and they borrowed 120% of the value of that house and then maxed out how much they could borrow for the 'new' house. They thought they could get the new property fixed and move out there but it was such a stupid move that it baffles me they are continuing throwing money into the pit. It's further away from their employers, which adds vehicle costs, and they no longer have access to the same childcare. Then the bubble burst in 2007 and things got worse.

Do I feel sorry for them? To a point. I've heard them talk about it wasn't a good decision, but they continue to dump money into it. At what point do you have to say "i messed up" and learned from it and quit digging the hole deeper? So if they ask me for money and I give it to them I am only encouraging them to keep heading down the same path.

It may be harsh, but you have to look out for yourself first. Then lead by example. And if they still can't take the cues they should learn from their mistakes and move on.

IMHO.


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:24 am 

Joined: Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:37 am
Posts: 446
Yeah I'm in the same situation, both of my parents are in a bad financial situation. And in addition to working and earning plenty of money during some of the biggest boom years of the US, also inherited money from parents or grandparents yet anything they had, was squandered. At one point my mother inherited around 50K from her grandfather. And my father sold my grandmother's ancestral land pocketing around 140K from his share. In each of these cases, none of this money was shared with my sister or I (our brothers however were financially helped quite a bit). In fact, the one thing we inherited from the great grandfather, our mother never even let us look at it and kept making excuses for not giving us the item. I've come to the conclusion that she sold it and pocketed the cash. This was around when she bought herself a new car.
My mother brings up her various money woes in almost every conversation. She has even directly asked me for money. Initially I told her yes, but have now reconsidered and am putting my family (me my husband and our two children) first. It may seem harsh but you can't help someone who is not willing to help themselves at all.


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 11:57 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 9:01 am
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potatoslayer wrote:
They thought they could get the new property fixed and move out there but it was such a stupid move that it baffles me they are continuing throwing money into the pit. It's further away from their employers, which adds vehicle costs, and they no longer have access to the same childcare. Then the bubble burst in 2007 and things got worse.


Some people just don't think things through. I have a close relative who has plenty of money and is very intelligent, a medical professional that runs a lab in a major hospital. But this person seems to make a continuous series of poor personal decisions that baffle my wife and I. It just doesn't make any sense but there is very little we can do about it.


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 12:11 pm 

Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 5:15 pm
Posts: 1119
partgypsy1 wrote:
It may seem harsh but you can't help someone who is not willing to help themselves at all.

Bingo!


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 Post subject: Re: Parents financially strapped...
PostPosted: Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:31 am 

Joined: Sat Jul 11, 2009 10:59 am
Posts: 255
My rule is that I will not allow my parents to be homeless, cold, or hungry. Everything else is their deal. They are adults who got themselves into their own mess. My dad is trying to get out. My mother says she is, but then she turns around and asks me for $2000 to buy a particular new toy. Or plane tickets to go on vacation. Whatever. I'm like... you don't see me taking vacations. You don't see me buying completely unnecessary $2000 toys. That's why I HAVE the money you are asking me for. You'd have it too if you stop buying so much STUFF.


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