Helping out a parent financially

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Helping out a parent financially

Post by runnergirl »

One of my parents made a good living while I was growing up and saved a good deal as well. My parents paid for most of my college education too. However, as a result of some poor financial and personal decisions starting about 15-20 years ago, this parent is living on social security and a small pension. He is currently living in a low cost of living country but is constantly complaining that he does not have enough money. I have helped him out substantially in the past, helping him to purchase a home in a foreign country, but he still needs more. He would eventually like to come back to the US and then would need even more help. While I have planned meticulously for my own retirement, children's college, and have no debt except for a low interest mortgage, I never anticipated having the extra expense of helping out this parent on a continual basis. I feel torn because my family makes a good living. In addition to sound financial planning and security, we are able to take nice vacations, afford a fair amount of luxuries, and give to charity.

I guess I feel a little resentful because he is demanding that I help him out, whining about how his nephews and nieces help out their parents, and is asking for things beyond the necessities (like cruises or a $300,000-$400,000 house in a city). He comes off as an entitled, bitter person. I don't respond well to guilt trips. It would not be a financial struggle for me to help him out but it would entail me giving up a few luxuries that I'm accustomed to (even something as simple as not worrying where every dollar goes when I go out to eat or sign the kids up for a camp or go on a road trip somewhere). Am I obligated out of duty to my parents who raised me, especially since I'm in a position to help?
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by expat »

I would help out my father no matter what.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by momar »

I dont think you are obligated to help out by funding vacations and a fancier house.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by bottlecap »

You're not obligated, but, as with an caring person, it does put you in a spot. Obviously you want to help out a family member, especially a parent, but rewarding someone who manipulates you isn't healthy, either. If you have no problem being treated like a doormat, it might work. But you're already resentful, and that feeling will eventually drive a wedge between you and your parent anyway.

My thought would be you have to set limits somehow. How much "help" is healthy for your relationship with your parent? How many "luxuries" can you go without without making you feel resentful? There is probably a fine line to be found in there somewhere. Is it a dollar figure per year? Is it funding a vacation with the parent once a year (that might be difficult if they are in a foreign country)? Perhaps set a limit, may be even explain the limit to the parent, and stick to it. In the past, some here have suggested purchasing an annuity for the individual. Of course, whatever you do, your spouse needs to be in agreement.

Becoming a father or a mother doesn't really entitle a person to anything, other than (hopefully) respect. One would think a great parent who had truly devoted themselves to their children might see the favor returned by their children should the parent fall on hard times, but that doesn't give someone a license to manipulate the child into giving ever more.

It's a tough spot for you. If it becomes too big of an issue, it might warrant some counseling, even, to get an unbiased opinion and emotional support. I don't know what the "poor" decisions were, but the fact that you helped the parent purchase a home, have been helping on a continual basis and have had to nonetheless endure constant guilt trips tells me that there is likely a lot of merit to the way you feel.

Good luck,

Last edited by bottlecap on Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by archbish99 »

Indeed. If he's having trouble making ends meet through no fault of his own, by all means, help. If his basic needs are met and his wants aren't, then he should take on his role as the parent and acknowledge that not all wants can be met. It's not your responsibility to fund his vacations, and especially not to fund a decision to move somewhere with a higher cost of living. You've helped him buy a house while you still have a mortgage on yours -- if he wants, he can take out a reverse mortgage at these historically low rates (or sell the house and rent) and tap the money you've already given him.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by Khanmots »

From what you describe it sounds as though this one parent is not taking responsibility for their past actions and are wanting to continue living in a lifestyle above what they can afford (hence them wanting you to provide)

It doesn't sound like a good position to be in, but I think (and maybe I'm reading too much into what you said) that if you give them what they want now, then just as 15-20 years ago poor decisions resulted in them living a lifestyle that they couldn't sustain (as you're now seeing!) they'll continue to expand their lifestyle with you now picking up the tab and placing your retirement or your lifestyle at risk. This seems... wrong. I think you're going to need to set the boundaries now or you'll never have them set and you'll spend years having these stressful requests and guilt trips with no end in sight.

Also, what's your partner's take? The two of you need to be of one mind on whatever decision gets made.

Personally I'd suggest having the oh-so-fun and guilt-trip laden conversation now, where you set the boundaries that your help will be provided in. Let them know that you'll ensure that your parent has a roof over their head and food on the table, and whatever other amenities you and your spouse decide on. The advantage of setting boundaries now and having the discussion end with a set decision now, is that every time the parent brings the issue up again in the future you can shut it down by reiterating your stance rather than having the whole discussion again every year. Perhaps let them know that if they want luxuries such as cruises and the like... well... Walmart can always use a greeter or cashier. And perhaps if the parent is the one putting in the hours and weeks at work to pay for the cruise they'll decide they don't really need it that badly...
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by leonard »

I would only help out the person, if:

1. They had a financial plan that kept them cash flow positive to the end of their life.
2. They came up with the financial plan themselves (financial plans forced on someone as a condition to receiving money don't work. The person needs to do the work.)
3. You are convinced he will actually stick to the plan.
4. It's only enough to maintain a basic life. No cruises. No international moves. No financing expensive houses. Very basic life maintenance.
5. The recipient will commit to never, NEVER complaining or guilt tripping again. EVER. It's 2 strikes. If they do it twice - indicate clearly that they loose all support if they complain or guilt trip. Period. (I personally would never put up with that every time you talk to someone.)

Oh, and, get this in writing, signed. People conveniently forget the details of stressful agreements when they no longer suit what they want.

Any money given to someone without these agreements in place, is simply enabling. You indicated in your post that your financial help previously did not actually fix the situation. So, make sure not to throw good money after bad and have an agreement in place that actually fixes the situation with your money contribution.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by TxAg »

I don't respond well when I feel as though someone is trying to take advantage of me. Sounds kinda like that in this case. As long as he has the basics, I don't see a need for you to provide any luxury items. My wife and I discuss this type of thing regarding our parents. Luckily, I don't think we'll have to help much, if at all...but you never know.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by Calm Man »

I cannot conceive of asking a child for help. However, OP, did your father contribute a lot to you and your education and possibly early adult life? Second, do you earn from work a decent amount of you and your spouse's income as it is easier if you do but not necessarily absolute. Last, I am along with most of the others that it is reasonable to help but certainly not for luxuries. However, I sense that if your father is asking for these types of things which include a house in the hundreds of thousands, then he senses or know that you have more than a small amount, possibly even more than 10 MM or so. If not, these demands are absurd and if I helped him I would explain that I am happy to help and I only have so much as we aren't rich people. And therefore I have to limit myself to necessities like shelter and food and not luxuries like cruises and houses. Just my take.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by ddunca1944 »

There is help and there is HELP...

I would absolutely offer basic help. I would not allow my parent to go without the basics unless I was in desperate straits myself. I would not, however, fund luxuries (like a cruise or very expensive home) unless I were very well off and it was a gift from my heart.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by Perpetual »

expat wrote:I would help out my father no matter what.
Yeah, this. Same with my mother.

I'm an immigrant working in the US. My parents worked hard all their lives to provide for me and my sister, and they went above and beyond our basic needs and also paid for our wants. I could have done just fine in my home country, but I wanted to come to the US and they said OK without hesitation. They also paid for my college, my car, and many other expenses. And this just scratches the surface of what they have done for me in the 28 years in which I have been alive.

Honestly, being able to provide for my parents when they get old would make me very happy, not only because of a sense of duty and obligation, but also because I love my parents and want them to be as happy as I am.

But I understand this is a cultural thing. The USA in particular emphasizes the happiness of the individual, and family matters a lot less compared to where I'm from. In addition, self-reliance (especially financial) is idolized and asking others for money, even if they are family, is frowned upon. So to each his own I guess. :)
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by Gnirk »

i would certainly help with the basics....but, if you were to buy him an expensive house, he will need more money, from you,to maintain it, pay taxes, utilities, upkeep, etc.
IMHO, nope, no "wants", just "needs", otherwise you are enabling and will be throwing good money after bad.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by beachplum »

someone who satisfies every whim of their child values family over the individual? I would call that excessive self indulgence which has nothing what so ever to do with valuing family, and says something about lack of values actually. will have to respectfully disagree with the above statement that American's don't value their family as much as other cultures. I've given my children all they've needed which included quite a few wants. but I've also taught them that they are not entitled to take advantage of me. Mine and my husband's parents were taught to live within their means so they could provide for themselves when they retired. If they really needed financial help we all would have chipped in. I can't imagine taking advantage of my children so I could live in an expensive house and take expensive trips. Please explain how doing this means one values family more then the individual.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by Artsdoctor »


Now's the time to take a good look at who your parent is--as a person. It may not be easy since many of us will forever view our parents as parents--and not as flawed people.

Is there any possibility that your dad is a true narcissist? Try googling "narcissistic personality disorder" and see if he fits the description. If so, you will never satisfy his needs (emotionally or financially). From the very brief description you gave, it sounds as if you might indeed be dealing with someone who cannot take responsibility for his actions and has an insatiable need for "things," and believes that he actually deserves all of the things that he can't afford. By telling you that you're not living up to his expectations, he's pushing all of those buttons that a parent can push (without having your best interests at heart). I would venture a guess that this is not coming from out of nowhere and that his behavior now is no different than behavior in the past.

You will never win this one. By setting limits, he may view it as a rejection and may view you as an ungrateful daughter. But it may also allow you to see him in a more realistic light, and potentially see your past differently as well.

If your description is accurate, he is manipulating you to suit his needs, and clearly is not taking your best interests into consideration (perhaps because he is simply incapable of doing so).


PS: No, I am not a psychiatrist. But I have definitely seen this behavior before.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by Fallible »

It's a complex situation full of emotion with possibly no good solution and certainly not a perfect one. But if you can identify that the main problem is that he's asking for too much money, well more than he needs, perhaps you can concentrate on that alone, thereby at least simplifying the matter. Talk with him, but rather than dwell on all the negative aspects of the current arrangement, be proactive by proposing, in writing and maybe with family/friends input, limits on how much you will/can help. Leave some wiggle room, propose a range of limits, possibly letting him decide which one, but stay firm in your proposal to set a limit. And then, perhaps after one or more or several talks, possibly including family members or friends, if he has not agreed to limits of any kind, you could let him know a new limit will apply and then stay with it.

It's but one suggestion. I know these situations are extremely hard and I wish you good luck.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by Atilla »

I'm assuming there's an Asian (or other immigrant) parent thing going on. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I can't comment on that dynamic with any knowledge other than the sense of obligation on the part of one or both parties may be greater than the average Anglo/Saxon American family.

I'm an only son (mid-American German stock) whose parents split up in 1978. Dad does OK with his conservative ways and what he's put aside. Mom - God bless her - she's never made big money but got herself in a decent position until my grandfather died. She moved here to take care of him and after his death proceeded to blow through $250K inheritance in the course of a few years. Two houses, three mortgages and no job. Feh.

I made the decision to throw her a monthly amount of cash to keep her head above water. The money is not a struggle, but the thought that I'm enabling her to avoid making necessary decisions does bug me at times.

But she's my mom and I've all she's got kid-wise.

She is slowly...very slowly..doing what it takes to fix her situation. Have not yet had to have the talk with her that the money train will come to an end at some point when her son decides he doesn't want to be another old guy trying to make a sale for a living. She don't know it but the clock is ticking at about 9 more years.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by zebrafish »

You are absolutely NOT obligated to help out the parent in this situation for the following reasons:

1. Your parent has a bad track record of making financial decisions-- you are probably throwing good money after bad
2. You are being manipulated and guilted into helping
3. Your parents may have helped you pay for college, but I doubt you had an agreement at the time that this college money meant you had to support your parents later in life and prop up their poor financial decision-making

For me, I think the Dave Ramsey approach is a great one here. You wouldn't give a drunk a drink, so why give him more money? Any money you provide must be tied to defined changes in behavior.

For me, the fact that I'd done a lot already without anything to show for it AND the guilting are really major reasons why I would be extremely reluctant to help unless there were a major shift in behavior. It is almost like this parent feels as if he deserves your money-- it is not as if he is coming to you "with his hat in hand" so to speak OR demonstrating a willingness to change.

I would not help as the situation stands now.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by runnergirl »

Thank you for your thoughtful responses. Yes, I am the child of immigrant parents and a lot of the guilt comes from the cultural expectations. I would actually like to help out but am really put off by his sense of entitlement, greed, and evasiveness. When I helped him with the home purchase, he was very evasive about the whole thing, even as to what the address was. He no longer even has that place and I suspect that he was taken advantage of by a woman (he left my mother for her). This woman even had a joint credit card with him which makes me all the more reluctant to support him because I don't want the money to go to her. I will give him gifts, take him out to dinner, but absolutely not fund anything having to do with another woman. The fact that he lives very far away and I cannot monitor where the money goes to, and his past lies and evasiveness, make me very reluctant to give him money.

I think what I shall do going forward is to wait until he comes back to live closer to me and then evaluate exactly how much he needs to have a comfortable life. My back of the envelop calculation is that he currently has more than enough to fund an above average lifestyle in the country where he resides (complete with live-in housekeeper). He would have to be far more forthcoming about his financial situation than he has been. Yes, he is also a narcissist and is capable of lying straight to my face. He has never owned up to how he ended up in his situation and blames everything and everyone else for his mess. Nevertheless, I feel a filial duty and unconditional love.
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Re: Helping out a parent financially

Post by Artsdoctor »


You are an extremely thoughtful and fair daughter straddling two cultures. At this point, perhaps damage control coupled with family obligation might be in order.

Sit him down and tell him that you appreciate everything he's done for you, and that you will do everything in your power to make sure that he will always have a meal and a roof for the rest of his life. You have fulfilled your obligations there. If you need to get more specific, figure out how much he needs on a monthly basis and give him that amount; "I'm not in a position to do more than that." He will try to push your buttons, but you can definitely say, "I'm sorry you feel that way but this is what I'm prepared to do."

He really has no choice here; you control the purse strings. The only thing you need to realize is that you will never be able to fulfill all of his demands because of who he is. The best you can do is convince yourself that you've done the right thing and just accept him for the man he is.

If he is able to have a US account, you can always transfer over appreciated equities to him instead of writing out a check. Let him pay the capital gains!

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