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Will You Financially Support Your Parents?

This article was written by in Family and Life. 27 comments.


My recent article on Business Insider points out that more families are living in multi-generational households with the recent shaky economy. While we are technically in a recovery period, the effects of the recession are still present in families. Taking care of elderly individuals is an expensive business, and those who did not save expecting a long life or those who did save and saw their retirement funds depleted in the stock market in recent years are struggling.

Adult children are more often taking care of their elderly parents, and for many, that requires taking them into the house rather than spending money for separate housing or care facilities.

As I pointed out in the article, this is the expected relationship in many cultures, and was at one time more common among middle-class American families. An unspoken contract described the relationship between parents and children: Parents were to give all they could, financially and otherwise, to support the development of their children, and in return, when the children became adults, they were to support their elderly parents, financially and otherwise, during the time they could no longer support themselves.

Many families in today’s society are not necessarily thinking about or planning for care for their parents. They are more concerned with securing a retirement and supporting their own children. There’s often not a good amount of money left over after these priorities are accounted for. We’re expecting our parents to be able to take care of themselves.

Are you prepared to financially support your parents as they age? If you are already doing so, or if you have done so in the past, what are your suggestions?

Published or updated April 6, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Cindy

I expect to be supporting my parents someday, though they’re in good health, so it doesn’t seem likely to happen very soon. Not only do I not mind, I consider it my privilege to give back to them a fraction of the care they gave me all my life. I was just talking to my husband about this the other day. We think it is very strange that our generation seems to assume that their lives will always be untouched by the needs of others outside their household, and feel put out with their own parents for needing them in their old age. The newish term “sandwich generation” is a good example of this thinking, as if every generation in history hasn’t needed to take care of both their elders and their children!

Financially, my husband and I aren’t in the best shape for taking on the needs of elderly people, but we will certainly do it anyway. We don’t believe in long-term facilities except for people who need skilled care. I’ve worked in enough of them to know that no one should leave their parents in those places. Many are downright abusive. Even the best ones are still lonely and devoid of warmth. They kill people early just because they’re so depressing.

We’re saving against the day that our parents need us, but I don’t expect to have every penny we need before that day comes. Life is hard, sometimes. I don’t see any point in complaining about it.

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avatar Bret @ Hope to Prosper

This is a very positive and compassionate way to think Cindy. My Dad passed away pretty young and we helped out our step-mom. He raised 11 kids, so he didn’t have much money to leave her. I’m sure my Dad would have been proud of us and I definitely felt good about doing it.

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avatar Modest Money

I’ve been thinking about this a bit more lately. With my ex I knew that we were most likely going to have to help support her parents at some point. They just hadn’t saved up much for retirement. Then there’s my parents…my mom is quite well off and will have no problem with retirement. My dad on the other side, I doubt he has anything saved up at all. Luckily he lives a pretty modest lifestyle. I think I may have to eventually help support him, but the catch is that he didn’t support me and my mom much while I was growing up. So it’s a bit tricky there. First thing’s first though…I need to get my finances improved so that those things are at least an option when they roll around.

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avatar tbork84 ♦1,867 (Half-Dollar)

Caring for parents is definitely something that most people do not plan for. I know that my parents are fairly well secured for retirement, but that could change in the future. Its really just another reason that we all need to get our finances in good shape so that we have the ability to care for our family if necessary.

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avatar Ceecee ♦53 (Newbie)

I’ve been a parental caregiver for almost five years. Neither of my parents wanted the nursing home route. They didn’t need my financial support, they needed me to stay with them to be able to live at home. It is a full-time job. I try to earn a few bucks on the side but that is limited. So you see, even if they don’t need your money, they may need your time.

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avatar krantcents

Although I did not financially support my Mother, I took care of your personal financial life. I paid her bills, took care of her investments and made financial decisions for her. She lived a very long (almost 99 years) life and had dementia for the last 3 years before she died. It was emotionally and financially draining. It had an huge impact on my planning and thinking for the future.

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avatar jim

Thankfully my Dad and in-laws are doing OK financially and I don’t expect we’ll need to support any of them with money. If they need medical care or assistance in that way then we might end up having one of them live with us eventually, but they are all relatively healthy so far.

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avatar Aaron

This is an interesting topic. I for sure will be there for my mother if need be. I don’t really see it happening though -as she has managed her money well and has plenty in reserves. But, if it should happen – I would definitely be there.

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avatar Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

My parents are great with their money, so I’m not too worried about having to help them out. That being said if they ever needed help I would love to be able to help them out.

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avatar Mike

I need to get a job first and start earning something for myself before I even start thinking about this. Hopefully the upcoming elections bring can bring some “hope and change” to the millions of unemployed.

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avatar Debt Kicker

Although my parents are still young, I’ve been thinking about this more and more. I’m about to remarry and gain two wonderful stepkids in addition to having my own daughter so my family will expand and by extension get more expensive. I don’t specifically budget or plan for taking care of my parents as they age, but I am looking into things like long-term care insurance for them and when I buy a house in the next few years, I want to make sure I’d have room for either one of them. I’ve already been in a situation where I’ve had to give my mother money to pay her mortgage and other bills during a serious illness; I’ve been fortunate to make a good income in recent years.

Thanks for this post. Gave me some serious food for thought!

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avatar Frankie

This is a very thought provoking subject. It definitely highlights the need to make smart financial decisions throughout your life. For one, I don’t want to put an unnecessary burden on my child/children as I age, and I want to be able to help my wife’s or my own parents should they need it later in life. Both knowledge and discipline are needed to attain these goals. Thankfully, blogs such as this offer great advice regarding financial fitness. This post emphasizes the fact that my actions today can greatly affect the well being of both my parents and my children.

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avatar Robert @ The College Investor

I’m helping my parents make sure that they are able to take care of themselves. I want them to be financially able, but I will step in if needed.

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avatar Scott

No, luckily my parents are able to support themselves in retirement. My mother by careful planning and my father by luck and circumstance. I would step in and manage their finances if necessary, but I don’t think I’ll need to contribute to it. We have an implicit agreement that each will take care of their own retirement.

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avatar Mike Collins

We’ve had to deal with these issues a lot in recent years. My wife’s parents both died within the last few years, her mom was in and out of the hospital and rehab facilities for a while because she needed pretty intensive care. We were prepared to have her dad move in but he was diagnosed with lung cancer and spent most of the time in and out of the hospital himself…I think he only spent a week total living with us. My dad died before that and now my mom and sister live together in the house I grew up in. Money is very tight for them though and I can see my mom needing help in the future if things don’t turn around.

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avatar Simon

Fortunately my parents are pretty well off, having sold their business interests and investing their money wisely. They will however need emotional and physical support as they get older. So lets not forget the importance of that as well.

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avatar Usiere @Financial Freedom Inspiration

I believe one should take care of one’s aged parents, financially if necessary. I am not banking on my children taking care of my though, because I will not need financial assistance from them, and will will my estate to them, which will include tons of cash. For aged parents that need financial assistance, I think it is natural that their children step in. One good turn deserves another

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avatar SteveDH

My Mom lives with us here in Missouri 6 months of the year. She spends her winters with my brother and his wife in Florida (go figure). Although fairly healthy at 93 she is legally blind and needs help in the form of transportation, housecleaning duties, cooking clothes-washing etc. She contributes $400 dollars a month to our respective household budgets but does require “time” from both me and my wife. We don’t support her financially other than I do all her bookkeeping and bill paying. We feel blessed rather than obligated as she is the only parent either of us have left. Although there are restrictions to our retirement activities, we can always find a way to fullfill our own retirement plans. While making the trek to Florida last year, my wife and I also went on a cruise to the Carribean with a trip to the Panama Canal.

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avatar ShortRoadTo

With the aging population, this is just the beginning of a long trend. The early 1900s was characterized by families living together in three tenement buildings. I think we are going to see that again in the next 20-30 years. The economy has changed forever.

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avatar DonnaFreedman ♦80 (Newbie)

My mother died in 2003. Thanks to her extreme caution with money she and my stepfather were OK even though he had to retire early due to the factory closing. My sisters and I cared for her in their home for the last few of weeks of her life, with help from Hospice.
My father is doing well health- and finance-wise. I doubt I’ll be called upon to help support him. If I were, i would do what I could.
My daughter and son-in-law, on the other hand, have had to take in his parents because they are facing bankruptcy. It hasn’t been easy for anyone involved. I am saving and planning so that I am not a burden on her when I get older — both she and my son-in-law have chronic illnesses. I also have designated her as the sole beneficiary of both my estate, such as it is, and my life insurance policy.

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avatar Melissa@LittleHouseInTheValley

I do expect to have to help my mom in retirement. She has a very small pension that will be coming in, and she is not in the best shape though she is only in her early sixties. I worry about how I will take care of her and my three kids at the same time.

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avatar Cejay ♦1,521 (Half-Dollar)

My father died 15 years ago and left no resources for my Mom. We , 5 kids, have helped her the past 15 years but she is now not able to stay by herself. After discussion with my siblings it was decided that she will move in with my younger sister but we have still helped my sister and her family and still help to make sure that my Mother received some luxuries. Mom died a few years ago and I would give anything to be able to help her still.

But having no children ourselves we are trying to make sure that we have the resources to take care of ourselves in our old age.

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avatar wylerassociate ♦162 (Cent)

I will financially support my parents as they get older but thankfully they saved up money, paid off their house, paid off debts so for them it shouldn’t be an issue.

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

I don’t expect to financially support my mom as she ages (my dad passed a few years ago) because she and my dad worked very hard and invested wisely through the years. I do, however, expect (and hope) to take care of her when the day comes that she can not physically take care of herself. Right now she’s still active and running her business, and wants to stay that way.

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

My great-grandmother lived to 90 and was able to take care of herself until around 85. I think i’m in good shape for not having to take care of my parents.

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avatar Inlaw

No one can really say what they will do. Circumstances are all different. What if you had to take care of your in-laws because they were financially irrespsonsible? What if they retired early and chose not to work and support themselves and simply rely on you? Would you still be so willing to take them in and pay for them while they take their minimal amount of retirement and blow it on other things? This are difficult situations to deal with. You always think of when your parents are old and cannot care for themselves, sure, you will help them. That is something that they cannot help. But if they had a choice but chooses to lean on you instead, what do you do then?

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avatar Deb

My in-laws had their life set up simply and were self-sufficient with their retirement income made up of Social Security and two small pensions. However, we found ourselves being asked to help more and more. There was always some story about a home improvement or taxes or some one-time charge that we could help with. The payments became regular and we were glad to be able to help. Of course we sent the money and over the last few years they were alive, we awakened to the fact that our money was not being spent on the parents-in-law.
They were giving money to their other children and supporting their very financially irresponsible lifestyles. Their youngest daughter never went to work at all and when her husband fell ill, she felt entitled to be supported by the bank of Mom and Dad financed by my husband and I. When we found out where the money was going, we stopped. She continued to drain their meager savings until my father-in-law finally realized that if he didn’t stop, neither his daughter or her husband would never look for work.
The bottom line is that if you are going to help support your parents you have to take part in their financial planning or at least KNOW where your money is going.

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