Author Topic: How to help my aging parents with debt???  (Read 3021 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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How to help my aging parents with debt???
« on: March 19, 2014, 07:01:46 PM »
I just found out something from my mom last night that has left me completely disappointed, frustrated and super stressed.  She told me that my dad, to whom she is married, has surprised her with a $50k worth of CC debt!  To give you a little history on my parents... they have never been super savers, but never really made that much money either.  I have always vowed to be more financially responsible than they are so that I would never have issue of financial stress.  I would say my mom can be a saver and my dad likes to think he is a saver, but NOT! 

I thought that now that they have gotten older and have paid off their house, they can start winding down and relaxing.  They live in So Cal, so they can sell their house for a decent amount and retire to cheaper place (where we are) and be set.  Well, they always plenty of excuses about how they won't have anything to do, they can't sell their house, it's too hot where we are, etc.  My mom has started to come around and I thought that I can finally convince them and now THIS!  I don't even know where to start with them.  Money has always been something not discussed in our family.  When trying to talk to them about finances since they are getting older, I have always been met with, "don't worry, we are fine" or "the government will take care of us".  My dad is also the KING of denial.  If it's not something he wants to hear, it will be in one ear and out the other. 

ETA: for some reason, I feel so ashamed about this that it is even hard for me to discuss it with my DH (although I did tell him about it).  His parents are totally together financially, so he does not understand and I don't want him to view my parents in a bad way.

I guess what I want to know is how can I bring this up with them and get them to understand (especially my dad).  I can think of a few places they can cut from their budget (cable, meals out with family/extended family, selling one or two of their cars).  Also, they are supporting my older brother who has mental health issues and likes to spend money.  They pay for his cell phone, has kept his car, takes him out to eat, and buys ridiculous electronics for him.  When I bring these things up, I am sure it will be tons of excuses of why they can not cut such and such (or in case of my brother, they would have to indulge him because he is "sick").  Also, what services are available out there to help deal with debt?  Working harder and longer to pay for it is not an option because my dad is probably near the brink of having a heart attack soon.  They do have a couple of properties in another country they can sell.  My dad probably has enough in 401k to just cover the debt and nothing else for retirement.  My husband and I do well, but we will not help them pay for this debt (nor do they expect us to) since they have gotten into this mess and will need to get out of it themselves.  However, they are my mom and dad and I can't not help them out in some way, even if just with advice or guidance.  If anyone has dealt with something similar, your advice is appreciated.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 07:03:39 PM by HopetoFIRE »


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: How to help my aging parents with debt???
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2014, 07:11:44 PM »
I'm sorry this has come up and is a source of stress for you.  The reality is that you can't help them if they're not willing to let you.  It sounds like you're expecting them to continue shooting down any advice you give.  The parent/child dynamic makes things more complicated and in most families makes them even less disposed to listen, especially if you let any frustration with them color your conversations.  In your situation, I would simply state that if they'd like to figure out a plan to reduce their debt and prepare for retirement, you can help them with that.  Beyond that, I would try to disengage from their financial life as much as you can unless/until they are ready to receive help from you.  Best of luck. 


  • Stubble
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Re: How to help my aging parents with debt???
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2014, 06:30:58 PM »

I guess what I want to know is how can I bring this up with them and get them to understand (especially my dad).

I agree with Mayan that it doesn't sound very hopeful given the tone of your original post.

But, I will offer one bit of advice on helping people to change.  I find that if the "right moment" appears where the other person brings it up, and I can completely LISTEN, and not actually jump in with my solutions, they usually get to the solutions themselves. It requires a whole lot of silence except for occasional questions to clarify what they mean.  If they pause for many seconds, WAIT. They are thinking through it and getting closer to the truth, and trusting you more, and will speak again.  After a while of this, when they start genuinely asking for your opinion, don't give it directly; respectively ask them what they think about this, about that, and listen/wait again.

Problem is, it requires that right moment, coupled with a long period of uninterrupted time, and the other person has to be in the right mood. But in the end, it is their solution, not yours, in the sense that they found it themselves, with just a little steering from you.