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Adult children financially supporting broke parents

This is a discussion on Adult children financially supporting broke parents within the Open Discussion forums, part of the Cathe Friedrich Fitness Forums category;; I read an online article just now about the fact that there has been a steep uptick in the number ...

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Old 10-19-2008, 12:02 PM
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Default Adult children financially supporting broke parents

I read an online article just now about the fact that there has been a steep uptick in the number of middle-aged adult children supporting one or both parents who are broke or close to it. This article very much hit home for me, as my own mother has been financially irresponsible all her life (sorry - I know that makes me sound like a puppy-kicker but it's true), as well as very indifferent to building a solid work history since our parents' divorce back in 1976. (Yes, 1976.)

My older sister, who has always kind of been the Martha for my mother's life, has born the brunt of this problem, and it's a problem that does nothing but grow. In addition to being absolutely broke save her Social Security monthly payments, my mother is also morbidly obese due to her love of food and loathing of exercise. It's getting to the point where she has made herself a recluse in her tiny little efficiency apartment because of a combination of embarrassment about her appearance and the difficulties in simply standing up and walking.

Sometimes, one's parents (one or both) are truly socked with a calamitous event that renders them destitute despite careful earning and savings habits. But increasingly in these post-modern times, I believe we are going to see a tsunami of aging spendsters who have never saved for a rainy day, who have leveraged themselves to the hilt, and their adult children are going to be expected to take care of things in addition to raising their own families and managing their own lives.

What are the moral obligations here? I confess, I go around and around about it. On the one hand, I deeply resent the possibility that the hat will be passed to yours truly for the sole reason that I have scrimped and saved and gone to the effort of maintaining a stable worklife and lived underneath (well underneath) my means and now with DH have something to show for it. On the other hand . . . this is a parent we're talking about here. It's never easy and it's never clear.

Is anyone else here facing this dilemma, or anticipating it? I would welcome everyone's comments and insights.

TIA -

A-Jock
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Old 10-19-2008, 12:14 PM
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Default from the other side of the equation

For about 18 months now I've been living at home with my parents while I'm creating a new business (great timing I know.) I think the obligation starts and stops at a roof over their head and healthy food in the refrigerator. Thats it. No entertainment. I personally provide home cooked meals and clean the house in exchange for my folks supporting me during this time. I feel sorry for the mother in question, its really hard to get out of obesity once you are in it. A lot of people don't have the gumption and intelligence to do it. Its taken me the 18 months to lose nearly 70 pounds. And it was hard. I had to change my job and the process is emotionally draining. The chemistry that gets dumped into your system when you are losing weight (especially if you have ptsd) is toxic. My mother says I look like I was hit in the face (black dark circles) when I'm losing weight. Putting together a weight loss plan that works is not an easy thing. I was coming off of an injury and a high stress job ( I was working 20 hours a day and 6 days a week.) I had absolutely no confidence that anything would ever work. I heard a radio story about yoga helping people lose weight. I was going to prove that it just couldn't help at all. That it was bogus. I counted my calories, did 1200 calories a day and that night I did 10 min of yoga. The next morning I had lost 4 pounds of fat. I could see the divet in my upper abdominal area. ok. . I'll get down from my soap box. But you get the idea.
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Old 10-19-2008, 12:21 PM
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I worry about this everyday of my life. My father is fine, but my mother, I just don't know what will come. To your point, she's a parent, and no matter how much I don't want to financially support her, and I know I will resent it greatly, I can't let her end up homeless if it comes to that. It just stinks. In addition, my in-laws are not financially sound either, maybe even worse off.

I'm not proud of it, but the idea of shelling out a couple thousand dollars a month, and reducing my future financial security and curbing my lifestyle to support all of these people makes me angry.
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Old 10-19-2008, 12:28 PM
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A-Jock I so understand the position you are in. My mother (and I love her to death) is basically the same way. I ended up filing chapter 7 a few years ago because I had to struggle to pay for her living as well as mine and I was doing everything in my power to NOT have her come live with me. It is so hard when it is family, you know they need to get off their butts and take care of themselves but still, how do you let them just end up in the street? Especially a parent?

So basically for a year and a half I was paying the househould expenses for two homes and it killed me. When I had to file, she acted as if that was just too bad so I've learned my lesson. I will never so much a loan her a dollar again. She is on her own, if she needs help due to her health failing I will do what I can but I will never go in to debt for someone else again.
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Old 10-19-2008, 12:30 PM
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Growing up in a tightly knit Asian community in America, it would be considered a great shame if I sent my mother to a nursing home or didn't take care of her. My father is no longer living. Belive me, if it happens, it won't be emotionally easy. My mother can be bossy and demanding. However, I was far from the perfect child when she raised me. I highly doubt that I would be resentful. I might not consider it a blessing at the time. I might not consider it an opportunity for growth either. Family is too important to me to not give back to the woman who birthed and raised me to the best of her abilities. My mother is more valuable than money.
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Old 10-19-2008, 12:47 PM
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A-Jock: Did you get my ESP message??? I have been pondering this point after a recent conversation with my DF who recently borrowed money from us (and another long time friend of his) and in the process of "remodeling" his house has managed to run out of money and can't finish! He has never been known to make sound business decisions, caused major financial stress to his now ex-wife, and now straining our relationship due to financial issues. About a year ago walked away with a just shy of 6 figure divorce settlement from his ex-wife (who was a financial genious apparently), all of which was gone within a few short months... will not divulge what happen to it... which totally pi$$ed me off when he had the guts to ask to borrow money! ...but I did it anyway, with his assurance that he was fixing up his house to sell and would be paying me back shortly... I was STUPID!!! Hind sight is 20/20 I guess.

I have been blessed with a good head on my shoulders, ambition to work hard, and a great job with great pay and bonuses. I work hard for what I have! Why does that now make me responsible for the rest of my family who do not have these drives? I do what I can, am not a scrooge, but absolutely do not remotely feel the need to be the "go-to girl" when their financial lives fall apart. I can sympathize and truly empathize with their (and your) situation. It is not a warm fuzzy place to be... and only arrive at this decision after finding out that all the money in the world thrown at the problem will NEVER be the answer and in most cases only exaserbates the issue.

I submitted a thread a month or two ago about my sister who also could be a clone of your mother, who asked me for a "loan" (yeah right, who are you kidding here???) to which I received unanimous support with the cry "HELL NO!"" by everyone on the forum! It is called "ENABLING"... and I have yet to find someone that says "what's wrong with you? You should be throwing money at your family to bail them out if you have the means!" It has been a constant internal struggle because you definately do NOT want to see anyone on your family struggle or be homeless either...

I do not consider you a puppy-kicker, nor do I believe that the "responsible and financially secure" sibling/child should be responsible for the support of irresponsible family members! I worked HARD to get where I am at this point in my life and I'll be darned if I will reward the bad choices of others and potentially jeopardize my own position in these ever-changing difficult times.

If that makes me a bad person, then so be it. I guess I would feel very different if it were due to physical limitations (NOT of their own making) or something that they could not do anything about, but I flat out refuse to be sucked into the notion any longer that I am morally obligated to bail out any family member that could actually do something about their situation and do not!

RapidBreath: I would not exactly consider you on the opposite side of this issue.. I say this because I have read some of your other posts and this one here, and the difference I see is that you are contributing and working towards being independent! that says LOADS about you! There is no EXPECTATION of someone else taking "care" of you, nor do you allow your parents to do everything for you! Herein lies the difference. In my family, with my sister especially, she is totally CAPABLE of working, but has excuse after excuse, of why she can't keep a job, pay her rent each month, etc... It's called taking responsiblity for your actions... if something isn't working the way you are doing something, QUIT DOING IT THE SAME WAY! It's not a difficult concept for the majority of us, but oh so difficult for those in the "ME generation" and era of entitlement.

DELA: I feel your pain, and loathe the day that I will be forced to deal with my father. The day WILL come... and sooner than I could ever imagine I'm sure...

There definately is no easy answer to this but more and more people in this unstable financial time will be in the same boat...
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Old 10-19-2008, 12:47 PM
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I have no parents that are living and my father taught me well how to be financially sound. My brother and I are doing well compared to most our age. If all continues pretty stabily, we will be comfortable when we retire.

And my in laws have done well also. We may someday be helping out with them but there are 6 children so we won't bear the entire brunt.

That being said, I cannot relate at this time - but deep in my heart would agree that I would do what needed to be done. However, I would most likely be regretful and angry if I had to help someone who has never helped themself and continues to refuse to do so. That doesn't sit right with me.

Then again, my kids are not totally self sufficient either and only put in part of the effort they need to in order to succeed. That is almost parallel to what you are speaking of.

I feel for all of you who will have that decision to make.
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Old 10-19-2008, 12:52 PM
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Although I am currently not supporting my parents, I have watched them repeatedly make bad money decisons. They have no desire, at this point, to be out of debt. They make statements like, "We'll never be able to pay off the house anyway, we owe more than it's worth" or "Dad would like to retire, but we have nothing saved".

It's difficult to watch, but they have been so irresponsible....and they did not help me at ALL the 9+ years I went to college, or when DH & I had no money for mortgage or food.

With that said, I will do all I can to help them withough putting my immediate family in danger. I owe $150K in student loans, and have my own 3 children to help with college. I also want to be financially responsible so I can survive at retirement!!
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Old 10-19-2008, 01:14 PM
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My parents live with me, or rather, in the cottage on my property. They do pay rent, and I don't financially support them per se, but their financial situation is not that great, due to a series of circumstances, including poor financial planning on their part. My parents have always been there for me, and while there are days, mostly I am glad to be able to repay that debt by offering them a cute, inexpensive place to live. You do what you have to do. Plus my mom sends food over.

We had this conversation here a few years back, and I said then that my goal in dealing with my parents as they age is to look back and not be ashamed of my own behavior. Keeping that in mind makes me more patient and compassionate.

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Last edited by sparrow13; 10-19-2008 at 01:29 PM.. Reason: my horrendous grammar
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Old 10-19-2008, 03:22 PM
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Thanks for everyone's responses! I do hope more will contribute, as I still roller-coaster with this issue. I must admit that, usually, my mental mode is that my mother has created her own reality and she must live with it. My sister in earlier years used to pressure me a lot more to "help Mom out", seldom acknowledging how damned often Mom needed "helping out". Sis has pulled back from that somewhat. (One of the dysfunctional dynamics of my own family of origin is its financial cripples' habit of relying on my older sister to pass the hat on their behalf, rather than they themselves sucking it up and asking me themselves. And my sister not only participates in this, I think she fosters it.)

I think this is such an uber-hot-button topic with me because usually the popular journalism points to the selfish younger set that is creating the "full-nest syndrome" for beleagured mature parents; the selfish younger set moving back home after college (that Mom/Dad paid for) because they aren't willing to go without the creature comforts a mature home provides. Articles like the one I read that sparked me original post are much rarer, and they shouldn't be. Financial loserdom is a pan-generational phenomenon, but parents in general and mothers in particular seem to get a free pass in terms of THEIR moral and fiscal obligation.

Again, I do hope to read more contributions. One thing I'm trying to stay away from is only focusing on those responses that echo my own mindset. This is a reality that ain't goin' away anytime soon, and I value the input of my fellow Cathe-ites.

A-Jock
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