Author Topic: broke parents, deadbeat father  (Read 6502 times)

jrhampt

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broke parents, deadbeat father
« on: October 01, 2012, 07:29:24 PM »
I know this is a common problem around here, but most of the threads I've seen on the forum talk about really spendy parents, and my situation is slightly different.  Mine are used to living on lower amounts of money but what they make just isn't enough, and due to a combination of bad financial decisions and bad timing over the years, I am very concerned about them (mostly my mother).  Here's the situation: they have 5 kids, and I'm the oldest.  They've never really been very financially stable, with a series of cars always on their last legs, always on the verge of needing expensive repairs that they have no emergency funds to cover.  They both have college degrees (in fact, my father has 2 master's degrees, one in engineering), but have never earned salaries commensurate with their educations.  Their parents were financially stable, so I'm not really sure what went wrong with them.  My father worked in a low income job for many years, never making over $50k, and my mother was a stay at home mom who brought in some extra money doing childcare at daycare facilities or eldercare for friends with aging parents.

They were actually not doing so badly until 2008 - they had saved up about $100k in my Dad's retirement plan (not nearly enough for people in their 50s, but they had no credit card debt or car loans, and they were very slowly paying down the mortgage although they still had about 20 years left - their parents had helped them with a down payment and they bought after I had already left the house).  Once I left home, I knew they wouldn't be able to afford to pay for my education or anything else, so I was on my own.  I figured they'd never be rich, but they'd be okay.  Then in 2008, my Dad decided to move near his father to help take some of the burden off of his sister.   

Obviously, this was very bad timing.  He didn't look for a job before moving, just quit his job and moved and put their house on the market.  He didn't get a job and their house took a long time to sell, and in the meantime, they were living in a house his sister owns.  To make matters worse, they took money from the 401k at the bottom of the market to renovate the house in the hopes it would sell.  I told my mom that she couldn't depend on my dad, and she needed to take matters into her own hands, so she got her certificate and became a CNA.  While this was an in-demand job, the pay is not much above minimum wage.  She does have health insurance and is contributing to her HSA.  Dad had a job as an adjunct for a year making a few thousand, and then nothing since.  They finally sold the house but did not make much money from the sale, and it is gone now. They got a small inheritance from my grandparents a year or two ago, but I just learned that they have spent it already and are starting to take on credit card debt, which my mom says is due to rising gas prices.  Dad turns 60 in a few months and shows no sign of getting a job, so I have told my mom she needs to accept that he is retired.  I can only hope that they have enough in their 401k to last them for 2 more years supplementing my mom's pay until he can claim SS. 

I told my mom when she first got her CNA job that it was a good start, but she needed to train herself up to a higher salary level since her job offers tuition reimbursement.  I told them that their current situation was unsustainable, and they needed a plan.  At the very least, I said, my dad should get his CNA certificate and the job would double their income.  They did not do this.  Then I said if dad wasn't going to get a job, they needed to apply for food stamps, stop tithing, and ditch the second car (both are over 15 years old, and one will need a $1k repair soon), and that would help make some room by reducing expenses.  My brother already pays their cell phone bill, and my aunt is subsidizing their housing.  I had hoped that if they were suffering financially for a while, it would give them motivation to improve their situation, but it doesn't look like that is going to happen, and my dad is basically unemployable now, especially if he continues to be picky about the kind of jobs he wants.  Also, he's very bad with money and likes to buy expensive vitamin supplements, books, or luxuries like a Mac laptop (instead of a $300 Dell or something else that would make sense) when he perceives that they have a surplus.

I am really angry with my father for allowing this to happen and for basically forcing my mom to support him now, when her health is not great (thanks to the years she did not have health insurance and neglected her health to the point where she is now on medication for the rest of her life).  I would not mind helping her out, since she is at least working, but I can't help her without also helping him.  I have only recently in my early thirties gotten my own student loans paid off and am finally starting to build net worth and pay down the house after years of dead end jobs in my twenties.  I know I am lucky to have a good job, although it is stressful and I am trying to work toward early retirement, but I resent knowing that I will have to support my parents when they already received support from their parents and wasted their chances at life.  Anyone else in a similar situation?

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Re: broke parents, deadbeat father
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2012, 08:24:25 PM »
Hi jrhampt,

I feel like I know what you're going through. My father has basically slid into his early 60's by making himself unemployable, with about 50K in retirement savings, and has not been able to keep a steady job for about 8 years, since he was fired for insubordination from a gov't job less than 1 year before his pension vested. Worse, he convinced his (2nd) wife to leave her postal service job before her pension reached full maturity, significantly cutting into her projected retirement income. He has consistently sold (stocks & real estate) at the bottom of the market, usually due to cash flow problems, and bought after the market went back up.

He just recently asked his 2nd wife for a divorce. I'm really not sure what he thinks he's going to live on, since she's been earning all of their income, and is the only one with at least some pension.

It's just my brother and I, and my brother is low earning, and very spendy - he's considering bankruptcy to get out from under his debt (33 years old). I feel my father made his own financial decisions, but doubt I could let him become completely destitute. I'm sure the entire burden of any supplemental support will come from me, as there's no one else to help.

DocCyane

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Re: broke parents, deadbeat father
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2012, 08:26:19 PM »
A constant theme I read here is that you can't help friends or family members who don't wish to be helped. You've given them good advice - they'll either take it or they won't. But it's not your burden to carry.

Some people believe in tolerating poor behavior from family no matter what, and saving them despite themselves. I'm not one of those people.

Look in the mirror and think about what you want out of this life. Pursue those goals and stop putting the stress of the family on your shoulders. They will figure it out for themselves as they've done up to now. And you must live your own life.

I wish we could hug through the computer, because I would hug you and say you are absolved from dealing with this any longer.

tooqk4u22

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Re: broke parents, deadbeat father
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2012, 07:14:41 AM »
There is a number of these types of posts floating around here and most of them are baby boomer oriented.  Unortunately this is a generation that saw nothing but good times for the most part, lived for today with consequence for tomorrow, and believe that everything will be fine and they can continue to live in the big house with all the shopping and niceties. 

My parents are in this boat and they don't see the iceberg.

For this generation, there is either a day of reckoning coming where they will have no choice but to give up this lifestyle and live in communal type house (think senior living places but instead of getting a full apartment they will get a room and a bathroom like a hotel) or the following generations will pay dramatically higher taxes and risk losing assets as the government tries to appease this large voting block. 


bo_knows

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Re: broke parents, deadbeat father
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2012, 07:39:01 AM »
There is a number of these types of posts floating around here and most of them are baby boomer oriented.  Unortunately this is a generation that saw nothing but good times for the most part, lived for today with consequence for tomorrow, and believe that everything will be fine and they can continue to live in the big house with all the shopping and niceties. 

Ain't that the truth.

My father's situation echos the stories told in this thread.  He just turned 60 this year, got laid off of Kodak after 23 years (Kodak is a sinking ship), was "bought out" of his pension in 2001 and lost almost all of the money in the market, not sure if he has any other retirement savings, is currently on SS disability for a lower back issue, is underwater on the house that I grew up in (he's lived there for 25 years... how you get underwater is beyond me), and is planning to limp to 62 where he will essentially have SS to cover expenses.

I have a younger brother who just finished his Master's in January, and is looking to go to med school, but has insane student debt and is about as anti-mustachian as you get. 


tooqk4u22

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Re: broke parents, deadbeat father
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2012, 08:06:28 AM »
Yep.  If not properly addressed the generation that is responsible for driving immense economic activity (even if much of it was through debt) may be the generation that drives a major economic and social crisis.  As this generation ages it will continue to put pressure on social services, health care, housing, etc.  The good news is that as the people get out of the workforce it will open up the log jam for the younger generations to step up - problem is most will have to work til they die.

I don't know how this plays out but the head in sand approach is not the answer.


galaxie

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Re: broke parents, deadbeat father
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2012, 08:15:12 AM »
Phew.  This discussion makes me a lot less worried about my parents. 

Yeah, they have a house in the Detroit suburbs that's probably still underwater.  But they have jobs, they contribute to their retirement savings, and they are clearly thinking ahead to retirement.  They'll probably be ok.  My mom sure talks a lot about remodeling, though -- I'm not sure if it's worth it.

Jamesqf

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Re: broke parents, deadbeat father
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2012, 12:09:59 PM »
There is a number of these types of posts floating around here and most of them are baby boomer oriented.

I don't know about that.  I think for every spendthrift baby boomer parent story, you could find a set of boomer parents supporting (or not) their spendthrift kids.  E.g. my neighbors, who are still recovering from bailing out #2 son and spouse. 
Then of course there are frugal boomers like me, who live moderately, have a nice stash, and don't make news.

bo_knows

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Re: broke parents, deadbeat father
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2012, 01:07:10 PM »
There is a number of these types of posts floating around here and most of them are baby boomer oriented.

I don't know about that.  I think for every spendthrift baby boomer parent story, you could find a set of boomer parents supporting (or not) their spendthrift kids.  E.g. my neighbors, who are still recovering from bailing out #2 son and spouse. 
Then of course there are frugal boomers like me, who live moderately, have a nice stash, and don't make news.

Agreed.  I told the story of my father earlier in the thread, but didn't mention my father-in-law.  Him and his wife retired at 51, moved to a cheaper college-town in WV, bought a house for cash, and live a pretty frugal lifestyle while providing help and advice to their kids.

tooqk4u22

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Re: broke parents, deadbeat father
« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2012, 01:37:15 PM »
There is a number of these types of posts floating around here and most of them are baby boomer oriented.

I don't know about that.  I think for every spendthrift baby boomer parent story, you could find a set of boomer parents supporting (or not) their spendthrift kids.  E.g. my neighbors, who are still recovering from bailing out #2 son and spouse. 
Then of course there are frugal boomers like me, who live moderately, have a nice stash, and don't make news.

Your right, that is also a form of spending and lack of foresight that boomers have demonstrated more than prior generations - a willingness to undconditionally support their adult children whether it be during or after college and again usually to their own detriment.

I realize there are boomers that are fine and will be and have a nice stash, hey there are even some billionaires in the mix - but that is the minority and as a generation boomers are not fine and the numbers and stats show it. 

jrhampt

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Re: broke parents, deadbeat father
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2012, 12:53:59 PM »
Thanks for all the responses.  After MM's post on optimism today, I was reminded not to worry about things I can't control (echoing DocCyane's post as well).  It would drive me nuts to be living on the edge like they are, but I guess I have to let it go and hope for the best (but use this as motivation to keep my own savings rate high). 

kisserofsinners

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Re: broke parents, deadbeat father
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2012, 02:57:57 PM »
Wow, holy unexpectedly thought provoking post. Thanks everyone.