Author Topic: Money and parental relationships  (Read 5433 times)

minimos

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Money and parental relationships
« on: December 06, 2013, 11:57:25 AM »
Maybe this is just a vent session, as there are really few people who I could talk to but guess I would also like an outsiders perspective of the situation and what is considered reasonable.  Sorry for the length -- this has been held in for years.

My mother seems to be a mix of ultra-frugal (unplugs everything in house after use, keeps house temperature as low as can handle), mixed with making poor consumerist decisions.  While these might be her decisions to make, they impact me and my husband financially.  I'll provide two major examples that impacted us in the last year or two:
1)  She was good about driving her car until it was past the point of being worth it to fix.  It was starting to get to the point that she would get stuck on the side of the road late at night, and was unsafe.  Since she has absolutely no savings - I talked it over with my husband, and we earmarked a lump some of cash to give to her to put towards a new car.  When I talked to over with her, I told her that we could give her $6000 towards the purchase of a car - What she ended up getting was a brand new top of the line civic - and has been using the downpayment provided for the monthly payment. At the time I was super frustrated, cause when I provided the money, we talked about getting a used car - and the amount should cover a good portion of the expenses.  Since I have access to the account that the payments get withdrawn from, I see that she has about one months payment left out of that initial amount - and don't see where in the world she is going to get the February payment from - and have a feeling its going to come back to us for help with support.

2)  While she had been at her job for the better half of a decade, she had a feeling that she was going to be fired earlier this year.  Even with that information, when she got her tax return, she used it to get granite counter tops put in her kitchen.   Lo and behold, she ended up without a job - and I had to help swing her money until she got a new job or she risked losing her house.  Ended up being about $5-6,000

The complicated emotional aspect for me is that I was raised by a single parent - and do know that she sacrificed a lot for me to get me where I am today.  I am grateful for all she has done, but I'm starting to feel resentful as to the amount of financial support that she needs.  We don't live anywhere close by, so we always cover things like travel accomodations when she visits, and buy food and house supplies when we visit her.

Right now, my hubby and I are aggressively trying to pay off our professional student loans, and have recently expanded our family.  While I don't mind helping out sometimes, I feel like the help being expected is getting larger.  I now have a solid line item in my budget just for her.  Most times, I feel like our situation is reverse, I'm the parent and she is the dependent child that I am enabling.  Worst of all, I see that in my husbands behavior, even though he tells me that he leaves the decision on how to help my mother up to me and supports whatever decision I make, that he is quite rude to my mother when she is around-and I believe he is very frustrated, but understands the situation I'm in.

Anyone else experience similar family dynamics/financial issues?  I know there will be face punches for the enabling her choices, but how do you get past the guilt when its a parent?

 

willn

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2013, 12:15:34 PM »
That guilt is misplaced.  You should feel guilty for enabling her, not for cutting her off.

It's hard to see someone suffer because of financial problems, but helping by simply enabling more bad behaviour is going to lead to more suffering later.  More helpful would be to let her experience the hardship of losing the car, or whatever the latest crisis is.

Some people have to learn the hard way.  Some never learn.  It's not your fault.

One way to help may be to make your money available contingent up her meeting certain requirements.  Dave Ramsey's classes are helpful for people who have been completely irresponsible and need technical and moral and community support to change their habits.  They have a way of giving hope to the hopeless, and if on some level she feels out of control but wants to change, that's leverage.  So maybe you say, "I'll pay the payment for two months, IF you go to the classes, IF you apply to 10 jobs a week" etc etc

And realize, she may still fail.  Again, not your fault.

Exflyboy

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2013, 12:58:36 PM »
Yes for me the fact she used MY money to go and do something stupid (not irresponsible.. downright stupid!) and contrary to what you told her you would give her the money for..

Well that just busted the "grace bubble" for me.

You now need to cut her off. You have two examples of her stupidity to point to as a reason why you won't be helping her anymore.

She can sell the car and use what ever she can slavage form the value to do whatever she wants.. But it won't involve you going to pick her up from the side of the road.

I know this sounds harsh but enabling just makes things worse and worse.

Cut her off and hopefully she will start making sensible decisions.

Frank

goodlife

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2013, 02:44:46 PM »
I have been in a similar situation to you where I was supporting a parent financially for quite a few years. A lot of people can't relate to your situation because it is not that common and may be a bit harsh in their comments in my opinion. A lot of people talk about supporting their adult children, but I have almost never met someone like me who ended up totally supporting a parent while they are themselves in their mid-20s. I love my parents and just cutting them off or letting them fend for themselves was not the answer for me. I wanted to make sure that they are always financially fine. I earn a lot and have a great life, I couldn't live with myself if I knew that they are having a really tough time while I am living it up.

At first, I thought my parents would be very responsible and it was fine that I paid for a car and gave a lump sum every month and since I love my parents and know that they have never been financially irresponsible, the idea of being taken advantage of never crossed my mind. A few years passed and what I noticed is that the monthly amounts were increasing and then other random lump sums were asked for....they always seemed to have a good reason and sounded like necessary expenses, but at some point it did dawn on me that I had created a massive moral hazard situation here. Knowing that they have me as their safety net definitely affected their behavior even if they didn't do it on purpose. What I ended up doing is having a real heart-to-heart, listing out all the money that I had given them over the years (they were shocked) and told them that I really loved to help them, but the idea was never that they could be "on the dole" forever. I was happy to support them while they were going through financial hardship (which wasn't really their own fault to begin with), but eventually they needed to stand on their own two feet again.....and this time had now come. I agreed to pay for some additional car maintenance and a few other necessities and that was going to be the end of it. I then waited wondering what would happen a month later. Would they call me for money? Would their life fall apart or get drastically worse without my monthly support? Nope! They never called me to ask for money and their life is still the same. They figured it out. Someone broke a window of the car....I only heard about it months later. Normally I would have been their first call to wire them some money to get it fixed. But I had made it very clear that I wasn't going to do that anymore and they got it taken care of themselves.

As for your situation, I think it is very important to set boundaries. Buying your mum a new care...yes, good idea, I have done it too. But 6k for a car is already a lot! And she went over that! She is clearly not financially literate enough to make such decisions. This was your money and you should have gone to the dealership with her and picked out a car for no more than 6k. I only spent 3k on the car I bought for my parents and I went with them and made it very clear that the budget is 3k (I live very far away from them too, I just decided it's imporant enough to make a trio out of it). Assuming you really want to help your mum, you need to get deeply involved in her finances and take ownership. Just handing over money to her and hoping she will put it to good use will not work. Not because she is malicious, she probably really doesn't know any better. You can't allow her to take out loans. I know it seems weird at first that you are holding your mum's hand as if you are the adult and she is the child. Trust me, I felt super awkward at first when I went through all their bills, statements and what not and then telling them step by step what to do. But this is exactly what you need to do. This is your money and if you choose to support her and she wants your support, then she needs to accept that you call the shots. This change of mindset is a bit tough (on both parties), I wrestled with it myself for quite a while, but it's really important both you and your mum are clear on this.

So assuming you want to support your mum, I think you first need to accept that yes, in fact she is your dependant now. The way I think about my parents now is as my dependants. I even took out life insurance and made them the beneficiaries. Also, talk about this with your husband as well since this is impacting both of you. Then you need to get a real clear idea of your mum's finances. Debt, Assets, Income, Expenses. Sit down with her and go through everything. As for that new car she bought, you should work with her to sell it so that she gets out of that loan asap. Then buy a much cheaper used car that costs no more than maybe 5k. Make sure every month you sit down with her again and talk to her about expenses for the month and any other issues she can foresee that require money. I have learned with my own parents that they often don't plan ahead. It's second nature to me to anticipate the fact that my insurance payment occurs once a year, but somehow they never thought this way. So make sure she actually saves up for such lump sum payments in advance. While you are helping her, it is also very important in my opinion that you don't just "put her on the dole" but actually teach her to live an independent life. Make it very clear that you won't bail her out. If she really doesn't stick to your requirements and becomes  financially irresponsible, then be prepared to actually give her some tough love at some point. My parents have turned out to be very financially responsible since I have "cut them off", but if that were to change, I would be prepared to just put the phone down on them and let them figure it out or at least let them sweat for quite a while. The important thing is to have very clear bounderies. The way I see it, there is no in between option. Either you accept that you want to support your mum and accept the fact that she is your de-facto dependant and you take complete ownership of the situation. Or you decide that you are not going to support her at all. From my experience, there is no in-between here, that just leads to a lot of wasted money and fights.

Anyways, just my experience and my advice, I hope it is helpful!

oldtoyota

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2013, 06:16:14 PM »
Yep. You have to set boundaries just like with any other human. Some people do not need to have boundaries explicitly stated. Some do.


Paul der Krake

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2013, 06:57:18 PM »
Goodlife, sounds like you handled this really well.

I have been in a similar situation to you where I was supporting a parent financially for quite a few years. A lot of people can't relate to your situation because it is not that common and may be a bit harsh in their comments in my opinion. A lot of people talk about supporting their adult children, but I have almost never met someone like me who ended up totally supporting a parent while they are themselves in their mid-20s.
A friend of mine just started doing this, he got his first paycheck ever- a PhD stipend actually, comfortable but not really cushy-  just a week ago, and sent his mum a lump sum. She's been struggling both physically and mentally for years, completely unable to work and living off government assistance. She's one of these completely selfless persons, sacrificing the little she has for other family members who quite frankly don't deserve a dime. None of this is her fault, some people just get dealt a shitty hand in life.

So anyway, at the ripe age of 23, he now controls her bank account remotely and takes care of paying her bills for her so she doesn't have to think about it, which has always been a huge burden on her, apparently. He has a bright future ahead of him and intends on providing for her forever; at one point buying her an apartment away from the toxic relatives.

This story doesn't really have a conclusion, I just wanted to share how much of a badass this guy is.

cosmie

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2013, 07:36:50 PM »
That guilt is misplaced.  You should feel guilty for enabling her, not for cutting her off.
While I agree it's misplaced guild, goodlife hit it on the head: it's really hard to relate to this situation if you haven't experienced it firsthand. Cutting off the person(s) that raised you for 18+ years and watching them struggle is a lot more emotionally distressing than cutting off mooching siblings or lazy adult children. Siblings had the same chances as you, and aren't entitled to the fruits of your labor. Likewise, your job as a parent is to teach your children to grow up, and in some cases it escalates to the point where cutting them off and watching them fall on their ass is the only way to do that. It may be hard, but you know it's your duty as a parent and that they'll be better off in the future because of it. Parenting a parent takes a strong will, as children do traditionally support their parents.

Picture this scenario: Your 80 year old mother lives down the street. She's on a fixed income, and because of rising medical costs is struggling to pay her bills. You're well off, and the amount she needs doesn't put a strain on your own finances. Do you help her pay her bills so she doesn't lose the house, get her utilities cut off, or go without food/medicine? Or do you tell her it's her fault for not having planned her retirement well enough, cut her off, and watch her fall on her ass? Most people would feel a sense of duty to help out, and be really guilty if they had the means to help and chose not to.

Minimos is feeling the same sense of duty and guilt, probably compounded because she was raised by a single parent.


Anyone else experience similar family dynamics/financial issues?  I know there will be face punches for the enabling her choices, but how do you get past the guilt when its a parent?
Minimos, I've dealt with exactly what you are right now, and it sucks. Here's what I see, from my own experiences and what I gathered from your post: Her problem isn't being wasteful, it's that she's stuck in the mindset of making decisions purely from an immediate cash flow perspective. And as such, she won't see any problem with her decision:
1. You gave her $6,000 for a car. She spent the $6,000 on a car. But from the perspective of cash flow, a ~$300 car note is easily doable, since she has a $6,000 lump sum to draw from. Where the payment will come from once that's gone didn't even occur to her, because it didn't affect her immediate cash flow.
2. She wanted new countertops. When she got her refund, she had the ability to cash flow the cost of those new countertops.

Both of these decisions may have been splurges, but did not hurt her short term cash flow. Therefore she saw no reason not to make them. They only become bad decisions if you take into account how the future impact of them. It sounds like she's never had the choice/luxury of factoring in future repercussions, so at this point in her life it doesn't even occur to her to do so.

Teaching her how to do that is going to be painful for the both of you, but necessary. Until you do so, you cannot trust her to make decisions with any monetary support you provide, and must make the decisions on her behalf (e.g. take her to get the car, not give her the money for it). She will resent this, but it's the only way you're going to expose her to the benefits of planning long term. She isn't even aware of what's wrong with her behavior, so cutting her off cold turkey will only alienate her and potentially cause a rift. You'll need to force exposure to incorporating long term impact into decision making, then you can cut her off and take the tough love approach.

Good luck to you, and if you'd like any details about some strategies I used to deal with my mother feel free to PM me.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2013, 07:38:34 PM by cosmie »

Argyle

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2013, 07:41:18 PM »
One thing I know from seeing friends dealing with irresponsible adult kids is this.  When you're dealing with someone who's irresponsible with money, often it's enabling and unwise to bail them out.  But sometimes you decide to do it.  When you decide to do it, always give the money directly to the end destination.  For instance, if you're contributing money toward a car purchase, pay the money directly to the place or person selling the car.  If you're contributing money toward rent, pay it directly to the landlord.  If you're contributing money toward a mortgage payment, pay it directly to the bank.  Even if it's inconvenient, even if the person says they swear they'll take care of it for you.  Because if a person is irresponsible with money, most times this means they're a bit compulsive or impulsive.  They may have the best intentions in the world, but they get money in their hands and they succumb to temptation.  And then you find out the money went toward granite countertops or a new car or a night in the casino or eight pairs of fancy shoes, and you get mad (understandably), which is unpleasant for all parties.  If you really decide to give the money, give it so it goes where you mean it to.

But also remember that often people don't change when they know they'll get another chance.  The only thing that makes people change is the knowledge of the consequences of making the same old mistake again.

It sounds to me that now it would be good to have a plan on what to do when she asks for money toward a car payment because she's about to lose the car.  Sadly, it looks as if that situaton may be in your future.

Self-employed-swami

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2013, 09:28:04 PM »
I have a family member like this; Gets a $100,000 inheritance and needs car repairs that will cost $2,000, so they go and lease a brand new car instead.  The year previous, we had to pay for the furnace repair in their house, despite being warned 4 years ago that it was going to die.

We try not to bail them out, but ultimately, when they get to an age where working isn't going to be an option (because of a disability that is already partially affecting their quality of life) we are planning on either having them move in with us, or buying a 2 suite rental, and having them occupy one suite, while we rent out the other to cover some of the costs.  Either way, we will likely be supporting them in some way. 

I oscillate back and forth between being angry/mad/frustrated by their irresponsibility, and being glad that we will be able to make sure that their final years won't be spent living hand to mouth.  They are in our medium-term plans, for better or for worse.  This person is very important to me, and to my husband, so they are worth the money to us.  However, we will be the ones to set the terms on how exactly we support them.  For example, I won't be paying rent to someone else for them, we will buy a rental for them, or make sure we have room in our house for them.  I won't make car payments, but I will make sure that they have access to a vehicle for appointments, and someone to drive them, should that be required.

I guess this is easy to say, in theory, because we aren't there yet.  But it's in the plans.  I feel like we will have a little more control over it, because we are planning and expecting it.


minnie1928

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2013, 09:40:44 PM »
I've been in your shoes with my mom.  It took several months of therapy for me but I now see that these are HER decisions and that it is HER life.  If she chooses to run up her credit cards buying crap, then that's her choice.

Therapy was the best decision I made. It helped break my enabling cycle and set me free.

Break the cycle now, she's an adult...treat her like one.

Capsu78

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2013, 10:30:40 AM »
Very difficult to read this thread as I have a sister who central casting could send down to play the lead role in the movie version.  Single mom raises child with help of my parents.  Parents grow old and my older brother handles parents finances, sucessfully making sure their money outlives them while still giving a "hand up" to my sister and daughter.  Daughter is successful for her age group, graduates college, gets married.  My parents pass away, giving special help to my sister by giving her the house with a manageable mortgage.  (and no issues with the siblings- we are all mostly self reliant, and if the last $10 left in my parents estate went to tip the undertaker, we considered it a complete family success).
Well, having never had to make decisions for herself, my sister remarries a guy who has been foreclosed on, been through bancruptcy and seems very well versed on how refinance your way using other peoples money to obtain a better lifestyle for himself.  She acts as the banker to finance his new truck, and you can save even more if she replaces her 35 mile per gallon toyota with a Mustang.
Somewhere during all this her daughter, who is just trying for sanity in her life, disowns her... cuts her out of her life, comes this close to filing a restraining order.
Sad to say they have not spoken in years and my sister is unaware that she has 2 grandchildren...
The only advice I can offer to the OP and others is to play out, (with help of a theripist) whatever decisions you make beyond just the financial implications and carry them through to the worst possible scenarios to at least a level of emotional preparedness should the result end up badly.  My niece did that calculation and can sleep with it.  My brother and I "strategically" help, but loaning your sister the legal fees to declare backrupcy to make the creditors stop calling does not make for a Norman Rockwell painting.

C. K.

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2013, 11:42:21 AM »
There is a lot of helpful advice here. The boundaries thing... Imagine the worst case so you'll be emotionally prepared.... Good stuff.

I can only add this: When you give something permanently (i.e. it's not a loan) it becomes that person's property. Release it in your head; it's not yours any more; they get to do what they want with it.

If your mind can't release it, or if it turns out to be an unwise gift, then you probably shouldn't have given it in the first place (or at least, not that much). You'll know next time not to do it again.

AccidentalMiser

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2013, 08:50:35 PM »
The key to happiness is managing expectations.  If you provide support and expect for it to be applied in a certain way as a condition of providing that support, you have to communicate that up front.

It is for these reasons I never provide money for anyone in my family except as a no-strings-attached gift.  If I don't approve of the family member's handling of money, I don't give them any.  However, I know that others have different situations that me which are quite a bit more complicated.

As far as guilt is concerned, if you didn't cause someone's difficulty, you don't have anything to feel guilty about.  It's not your responsibility to solve other people's problems unless they are your minor children.  Anything beyond that is charitable giving on your part.  I disagree that I am responsible for my adult parents foolishness.

happy

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #13 on: December 08, 2013, 05:09:05 AM »
Quote
When you give something permanently (i.e. it's not a loan) it becomes that person's property. Release it in your head; it's not yours any more; they get to do what they want with it.

This. You vey generously gave the  money, she can spend it how she chooses, but ust because you gave some money towards the car, doesn't mean you are responsible for the purchase/payments etc. If she can't afford the car in the future, that is not your problem unless you let it become so.

Let me just say as a single parent I have two expectations of my kids: firstly that they needed to accept that a single parent family could not run the same way as a two parent family, and secondly that on finishing school they need to start to support themselves.  I do not expect my children to look after me, I just expect them to look after themselves.

Of course if our loved ones were about to become homeless, then we would all want to help. But in this situation better to focus on educating her about making better decisions, not giving handouts.

chasesfish

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #14 on: December 08, 2013, 05:36:37 AM »
I haven't read through all the comments, but have a simple thought on this:

Decide how much money you want/can give her monthly or annually, and be willing to give her that amount regardless of her decisions.  Tell her that's all you can do.  I've seen this too many times, money with strings ruins family relationships.  You can't have an "if you change this, I'll do this" with parents. 

Melody

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Re: Money and parental relationships
« Reply #15 on: December 08, 2013, 04:06:07 PM »
I don't know what country you are in but here in Australia we have a program that teaches people on low incomes financial literacy skills (http://www.bsl.org.au/Saver-Plus). Could she take a similar course? This information might be better "heard" if it comes from an official person/teacher as it can't be interpreted as you nagging or telling her how to live her life.  As a previous poster explains, it seems like a lack of understanding is making things worse. Addressing this might help with the rest of the situation.