Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

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sallright
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Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by sallright » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:10 pm

My in-laws have zero savings for retirement and I'm concerned about how it will impact our financial future.

I'm here because I'm not sure what steps I can take, or what I should be thinking about. I don't yet have a complete understanding of how this will affect me and my spouse over the next 20+ years.

My in-laws are in their 60's and consistently make comments and drop hints to my wife about how they "have no savings... will never be able to retire... are having financial problems... etc". When asked pointed questions about their financial situation, their investments, or their plans for retirement, they offer no information.

How can we get them to open up about their true financial situation so that we can help them get on a better course?

And if not, how can I make sure that I mitigate our exposure to their financial problems, which I believe will be substantial?

livesoft
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by livesoft » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:23 pm

You can tell them:

Not my monkeys, not my circus.

Or buy them the T-shirt.
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JoeRetire
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by JoeRetire » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:29 pm

sallright wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:10 pm
My in-laws are in their 60's and consistently make comments and drop hints to my wife about how they "have no savings... will never be able to retire... are having financial problems... etc". When asked pointed questions about their financial situation, their investments, or their plans for retirement, they offer no information.
That's unfortunate. It's hard to see how you could be of help at all if they aren't willing to offer any information. Maybe they aren't actually looking for help. Maybe the are resigned to the fact that they must work until they die. Perhaps they are just looking for sympathy.
How can we get them to open up about their true financial situation so that we can help them get on a better course?
I'm not sure "we" is the correct term to use here.

Most likely you cannot get them to open up. Maybe your wife and her siblings can, maybe not.
And if not, how can I make sure that I mitigate our exposure to their financial problems, which I believe will be substantial?
There's not a whole lot you can do at this point.

You might want to have a long discussion with your wife now about what you will and will not be willing to do regarding her parents. Being of the same mind in this matter will go a long way.

If it were me, I'd talk to my wife about it. If she agrees, she and her siblings can try to get her parents to open up.
If they are willing to open up, then you can dive in and understand the full situation and what they plan to do.
If not, then you can only offer sympathy. ("Oh that sounds bad. What a shame!")

If you do find that they will be dependent on you at some point, you start planning for it now - just as you would for any planned future expenses. Maybe you also need to consider adding a small in-law apartment to your home.
Last edited by JoeRetire on Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:37 pm, edited 8 times in total.

mhalley
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by mhalley » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:31 pm

I would say the only way to mitigate your risk is to get a divorce. What are you going to do when your wife’s mother is facing eviction, heat shutoff or eating dog food? If they are unwilling to discuss finances, the only thing you can do is gift them boglehead approved books for Christmas and birthdays. Maybe a Dave Ramsey financial peace course. Perhaps you could go to it with them, something like, your daughter and I have decided to try to improve our financial lives and are going to this course, and we thought you could also benefit so we bought it for you so we can all go! We will pick you up Thursday at 7.
Last edited by mhalley on Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Shallowpockets
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by Shallowpockets » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:34 pm

Next time it even comes up and they make remarks as you say they do, set the tone by saying, "I hope you have something planned because we are not in any position to help."

Saying that will be something you can quote back in the future should they come to you with hands out.
They must be living on something right now.

Nate79
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by Nate79 » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:37 pm

Your financial exposure is only what you and your wife are willing to support. Do thry have other kids? How did they get in this position in thr first place? Did thry live beyond their means? Take on a lot of debt?

invst65
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by invst65 » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:41 pm

Maybe they just want you to think they don't have any money.

jminv
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by jminv » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:42 pm

They'll presumambly have social security so that's a start. In retirement they can downsize, move to a LCOL area, cut their spending, and they'll be okay.

They could be looking for sympathy or they could possibly be looking for assistance further down the line. Given that they don't want to discuss any further info I wouldn't pry because 1.) they seem to not want to offer which is a good sign for you 2.) it could lead to conflict and 3.) it could lead to a transfer of wealth from you to them if you get too involved. They might just be telling you that you should better prepare for your own retirements. You could say you will take their situation to heart and make sure their daughter isn't in the same situation as they are further down the line. In any case, the only solution now is for them to accept their reality and adapt their lifestyle to fit it. It's really unfortunate and it's something they should have better prepared for if what they are saying is true.

I also second the notion that they might want you to think they have no money. My parents-in-law do this which is irritating but I know they are wealthy.
Last edited by jminv on Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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CAsage
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by CAsage » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:43 pm

Based on their education, employment, lifestyle ... what would you guess their income/expenses to be? If they are clearly living well now, you should assume - and state frequently - that they appear to have it all under control and there is no reason they cannot continue to manage. If they are disabled, scraping by etc, then you know it's not going to get better.

I think the only thing you can do is to start setting expectations clearly - that you and your wife are working hard to provide for your children and/or future, and cannot possibly expect to help them out. Emphasize how you are scraping by, struggling to save for TBD, and in the same boat yourself. Otherwise - you will end up bailing them out ... might be unavoidable. How does your wife feel about having them live off or in with you?
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dbr
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by dbr » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:44 pm

I agree the only thing you can do unilaterally at this time is start planning for additional drain on your resources in the future. Good luck estimating what that might be. Either that or get an iron clad commitment from your wife as to how far you are going to go, including nothing. I think a major unanticipated factor in retirement planning for many people is to end up helping out other people that you can't or woudn't even want to turn down.

maroon
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by maroon » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:50 pm

I'd really like to know the answer to this dilemna. Right now I'm providing financial assistance to my my mother-in-law. And my parents are starting to hint that they need help, too.

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Pajamas
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by Pajamas » Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:54 pm

sallright wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:10 pm

My in-laws are in their 60's and consistently make comments and drop hints to my wife about how they "have no savings... will never be able to retire... are having financial problems... etc". When asked pointed questions about their financial situation, their investments, or their plans for retirement, they offer no information.

How can we get them to open up about their true financial situation so that we can help them get on a better course?

And if not, how can I make sure that I mitigate our exposure to their financial problems, which I believe will be substantial?
I would simply say, "You keep hinting that you are having financial difficulties but then refuse to discuss them. What is up with that?"

Might help for your wife to talk to her mother or father one-on-one. One of the two may be more forthcoming in that situation.

You can't really know what to do without knowing more information about their situation.

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Watty
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by Watty » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:01 pm

It is very important that whoever had the higher earnings delay starting social security for as long as possible to get a larger benefit amount since that may be all they have. It would be good to come up to speed on how that works since you will need to encourage them to do that.

You also need to find out all the resources that might be available for low income people in your area and make sure that they apply for them.

When they are 65 and need to start Medicare it is very important that they make good choices on that so it would be good if you learned enough about that now to help them with those choices. I was in a different situation but I found the booK "Medicare for Dummies" to be very good but be sure to look at the latest edition. If it looks like you will need to help them out financially then helping them get a good medicare supplement and drug plan would be worth looking at. The problem is that without these they could be facing a large bill for medical care or prescriptions that you might need to pay for.

If they don't have a lot of other kids it sounds like they will be pretty dependent on you and your spouse so one thing you might consider is if you need more life insurance to provide for them if something happens to you. One problem people have had was that a inlaw moved in with a couple then the child of the couple died leaving a widow living with their late spouses inlaws.

One thing that has been a problem with posters in similar situations is that they may want financial support but they may not want to open up about ALL of their finances. I would make any support contingent on full openness and working with you on a spending plan. Having them pull their credit reports and showing it to you may be necessary. Some posters have tried helping relatives only to find that they were using credit cards that they were not telling them about.

dbr
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by dbr » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:13 pm

Watty wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:01 pm


One thing that has been a problem with posters in similar situations is that they may want financial support but they may not want to open up about ALL of their finances. I would make any support contingent on full openness and working with you on a spending plan. Having them pull their credit reports and showing it to you may be necessary. Some posters have tried helping relatives only to find that they were using credit cards that they were not telling them about.
A certain person in part of my family always got very insulted that anyone would find out the source of his financial problems was the cost of cocaine. Of course I am not remotely insinuating any such thing is involved here. We have another family member who needs assistance, who is certainly not irresponsible, who certainly needs the help, and yet we are constantly perplexed as to just what is needed because we can't get a straight picture about what is going on. The essence of the problem is that we can plan to help but we can't plan for an open ended unlimited commitment we don't understand. I don't know if the problem is pride, denial, or just an inability to manage personal affairs.

The solution to one of the problems was to end up taken care of on public assistance. Part of the other one is heading the same way.

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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by denovo » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:16 pm

sallright wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:10 pm
My in-laws have zero savings for retirement and I'm concerned about how it will impact our financial future.

I'm here because I'm not sure what steps I can take, or what I should be thinking about. I don't yet have a complete understanding of how this will affect me and my spouse over the next 20+ years.

My in-laws are in their 60's and consistently make comments and drop hints to my wife about how they "have no savings... will never be able to retire... are having financial problems... etc". When asked pointed questions about their financial situation, their investments, or their plans for retirement, they offer no information.

How can we get them to open up about their true financial situation so that we can help them get on a better course?

And if not, how can I make sure that I mitigate our exposure to their financial problems, which I believe will be substantial?
What does your spouse think?
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DanMahowny
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by DanMahowny » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:18 pm

livesoft wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:23 pm
You can tell them:

Not my monkeys, not my circus.

Or buy them the T-shirt.
Agree 100%
Funding secured

livesoft
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by livesoft » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:22 pm

One can also say, "Don't worry we won't be coming to you when we have to declare bankruptcy. We'll have to find someone else that can bail us out I guess."
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pragmatist
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by pragmatist » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:22 pm

Your options are
1. Help them now, when it's hard to get them to agree but easier to mitigate and perhaps less costly to you.
2. Help them later when it's easier to get them to agree but they have already become permanently insolvent, this will inevitably cost you money or more precious resources.
3. Do not help them. This may cost you relationship points, which are invaluable, or a bad conscience which is miserable.

Best wishes.

delamer
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by delamer » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:35 pm

Unfortunately, getting them to open up about their finances is not likely to result in them taking your advice. For better or worse, you can’t force independent adults to make good decisions. Especially when they have been making bad ones for 60 years.

My in-laws are making a poor financial decision about their house. We know the details, but nothing we say changes their minds.

Talk to your wife and develop a united front about what you are willing to do in terms of assisting them, if they come to you for help. That can run the gamut from nothing to having them live with you. But having that agreement will reduce the stress on your relationship.

Spirit Rider
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by Spirit Rider » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:45 pm

pragmatist wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:22 pm

3. Do not help them. This may cost you relationship points, which are invaluable, or a bad conscience which is miserable.
If this was beyond their control and they are willing to put the effort to turn it around. I am a generous person within limits.

I would try to get my spouse to engage them and help them with guidance. After that, no problem with my conscience, because it would be clear. I am not responsible for other people who are financially irresponsible.

momvesting
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by momvesting » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:53 pm

First, you need to privately discuss the situation with your wife so that you two are absolutely on the same page and that your stance is unwavering. This needs to happen ASAP. You don't want your wife making little comments like, "Oh, we might be able to help you a little if things get rough."

We have a similar situation with a relative and we have had to be kind but firm. One thing that helps in our case is that my husband offers assistance that sounds a little like this, "We'd be happy to help you go over your budget and see where you might be able to make a few cuts." and "We'd be glad to help you set up a Roth IRA." He also is constantly telling them how new cars are expensive and a waste of money and trying to persuade them to keep their old (8 yr, in good condition) car and just put what would be their car payment in to savings. So later on, if it gets bad, he can say that he has been offering help all along, but no one wanted to take him up on it.

123
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by 123 » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:54 pm

There are a number of senior apartment housing options available for seniors in many cities. Many have a waiting list to get in. I would look into those and get some of the application packets from those in the area. Pass them along to the in-laws, the ball is then in their court. Should they then raise issues of financial hardship follow-up on the status of the housing applications. Most of the those in senior housing are content and pay a limited portion of their income for rent. Many of these senior complexes have activities and connections with senior meal programs.

The question is not what you can do for them, it should be what they can do for themselves.
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.

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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by Mudpuppy » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:56 pm

sallright wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:10 pm
My in-laws are in their 60's and consistently make comments and drop hints to my wife about how they "have no savings... will never be able to retire... are having financial problems... etc". When asked pointed questions about their financial situation, their investments, or their plans for retirement, they offer no information.

How can we get them to open up about their true financial situation so that we can help them get on a better course?

And if not, how can I make sure that I mitigate our exposure to their financial problems, which I believe will be substantial?
They are competent adults, so you can't force them to talk. You and your wife however are also competent adults, so they can't force you to give them money. I have many family members who are terrible with money, including my parents. I will help them, but only following my rules.

My rules are that I will provide support necessary for basic human care: food, water, health care, utilities, and necessary repairs to their home or vehicle. I'll even provide free room and board (I have one relative in a wheelchair staying with me because their home was not wheelchair accessible and this was cheaper than renovating their house). But what I won't provide is free money. No asking me for $200 to make it through the month. The money has to be tied to a specific bill and I'll pay that bill directly to the provider.

And your wife's exposure to their financial problems is limited to the filial support laws in their state of residence. For most states, this means your wife is not responsible for their debts or their poor choices, as all of her parents' debt will be charged to the estate when they pass. At worst, their debts exceed their assets and the estate is insolvent, in which case the creditors are out of luck and your wife (or one of her siblings) just has the hassles of being the executor of an estate with no inheritance left over.

A few states have procedures by which adult children can be court-ordered to provide parental support while their parents are still living. A very small number of states allow medical and nursing care providers to bill the adult children directly for care instead of billing the estate when the parent passes. So you'll need to look up the filial support laws in their state of residence to know your wife's potential legal obligations.

Beyond filial support obligations, it's a matter of what your wife and you opt to provide in terms of support. I would strongly recommend following my course of action and have rules for providing support. Don't just give money.

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FrugalInvestor
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by FrugalInvestor » Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:59 pm

Tell them that they need to start researching what they'll get from Social Security + Medicare and how they'll scale back their lifestyle to live on that. It's done every day. The minute you give them the impression that you'll step-in you'll be counted on - and they won't be looking for other options. I'm sure you'll be there financially when absolutely necessary but they need to (finally) figure out how to handle their own finances.
IGNORE the noise! | Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify. - Henry David Thoreau

testing321
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by testing321 » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:02 pm

Encourage them both to work until age 70 and not to draw SS until then.

dbr
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by dbr » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:11 pm

FrugalInvestor wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:59 pm
Tell them that they need to start researching what they'll get from Social Security + Medicare and how they'll scale back their lifestyle to live on that. It's done every day. The minute you give them the impression that you'll step-in you'll be counted on - and they won't be looking for other options. I'm sure you'll be there financially when absolutely necessary but they need to (finally) figure out how to handle their own finances.
This might be the most direct way to get a specific reaction that addresses the issue.

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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by gunn_show » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:12 pm

Mudpuppy wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:56 pm


They are competent adults, so you can't force them to talk.

You and your wife however are also competent adults, so they can't force you to give them money.

I have many family members who are terrible with money, including my parents. I will help them, but only following my rules.

Beyond filial support obligations, it's a matter of what your wife and you opt to provide in terms of support. I would strongly recommend following my course of action and have rules for providing support. Don't just give money.
Great points and I broke down the 4 that resonate the most. They are adults, you are adults, and you don't have to do anything. Peer pressure only hurts if you let it.

One thing you HAVE to do is be 100% on the same page as your spouse, as soon as possible, and represent a united front going forward in how you BOTH respond to these passive aggressive statements. Beyond that there is really not much else you can do, given the context you have provided, since you truly don't know their financial picture beyond the generic sad surface comments, which may or may not be true. Like others commented, my parents have plenty of money, but my dad always makes misery comments for who knows what reasons, and I always call him out on it.
livesoft wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:22 pm
One can also say, "Don't worry we won't be coming to you when we have to declare bankruptcy. We'll have to find someone else that can bail us out I guess."
Also a great alternative, but one may presume that if the parents are dropping these "hints" as the OP phrased it, then the OP must be doing well and the in-laws want to latch on to that.
"The best life hack of all is to just put the work in and never give up." Bas Rutten

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whodidntante
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by whodidntante » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:12 pm

The United States has a pension system. It's called Social Security and Medicare. It's not going to provide champagne living, but it will pay the rent on your trailer house. Plus you get a raise every year. Well, most of them.

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randomizer
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by randomizer » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:15 pm

Sad situation to be in. I’m a bit worried about it with my in-laws too. Mostly in the sense of being on the hook and having to deal with expensive additional dependents which will basically torpedo our hopes of retiring in any reasonable way.
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by RadAudit » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:20 pm

DanMahowny wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:18 pm
livesoft wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:23 pm
You can tell them:

Not my monkeys, not my circus.

Or buy them the T-shirt.
Agree 100%
May be not. Holiday dinners might become a real hoot.
Last edited by RadAudit on Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by Mlm » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:23 pm

FrugalInvestor wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:59 pm
Tell them that they need to start researching what they'll get from Social Security + Medicare and how they'll scale back their lifestyle to live on that. It's done every day. The minute you give them the impression that you'll step-in you'll be counted on - and they won't be looking for other options. I'm sure you'll be there financially when absolutely necessary but they need to (finally) figure out how to handle their own finances.
+1

It looks like they are testing the waters. Woe is me but I won't tell you why. :annoyed

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Doom&Gloom
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by Doom&Gloom » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:32 pm

They're grown.

2015
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by 2015 » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:37 pm

Don't forget consistency bias. The statement "What can I do?" indicates you have already begun to believe that this is something you should be concerned about. One of the most insidious forms of consistency bias is when we identify with a commitment or entanglement which we never wanted to get into in the first place. In terms of identity, we actually believe "I am the sort of person who does this." In your case, in stating "what can I do?" if appears you have already identified yourself (if only unconsciously) as the type of person who takes on responsibility for the irresponsibility of others. Consistent with consistency bias, your commitment/entanglement will only grow over time. Is this really something you want to do to yourself?

Considering consistency bias helped me to sort through inadvertently taking on unwanted responsibility for the poor health choices of others who I care about but whose choices have been and are now beyond my control.

SrGrumpy
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by SrGrumpy » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:38 pm

If you're that worried, do some snooping. Next time you're at their house, try to look for/sift through financial statements while they think you're in the bathroom.

Beyond that, move as far away as possible.

The other possibility is that they won the lottery and are messing with you as some sort of test.

OnTrack2020
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by OnTrack2020 » Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:41 pm

Other than the advice you've been given about SS, nothing. It's really not your responsibility.

Your parents are adults. They've made their decisions.

My mother-in-law had basically nothing when she died, except for all her small trinkets. She lived the vast majority of her life not making very much money. She owned her small home, and for many years lived off social security and a small pension. Both of those together weren't very much. She managed on them though; I will say, for the vast majority of time, she lived within her means. There were a few times we helped her out financially, such as when she needed a new washer and dryer, and we also re-carpeted a room in her home. She also worked part-time as long as she was physically able. There were a few times that we did give her money for 1-2 months in order to pay her bills while she was off work due to surgery. Other than that, there really wasn't much that she needed that she couldn't buy herself.

If you look around their home, do they have items to sell by chance? It would help them to raise some cash, while at the same time paring down their lifestyle.

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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by FrugalInvestor » Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:06 pm

FrugalInvestor wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:59 pm
Tell them that they need to start researching what they'll get from Social Security + Medicare and how they'll scale back their lifestyle to live on that. It's done every day. The minute you give them the impression that you'll step-in you'll be counted on - and they won't be looking for other options. I'm sure you'll be there financially when absolutely necessary but they need to (finally) figure out how to handle their own finances.
P.S. If their income is low enough they may also be eligible for other assistance. This is one place to look....

https://www.payingforseniorcare.com/lon ... c_aaa.html
IGNORE the noise! | Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify. - Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by Pajamas » Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:14 pm

SrGrumpy wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:38 pm
If you're that worried, do some snooping. Next time you're at their house, try to look for/sift through financial statements while they think you're in the bathroom.
Apparently it needs to be said: This is unethical, rude, disrespectful, etc. Respect their privacy and integrity and don't debase yourself by doing anything like that.

randomguy
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by randomguy » Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:28 pm

mhalley wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:31 pm
I would say the only way to mitigate your risk is to get a divorce. What are you going to do when your wife’s mother is facing eviction, heat shutoff or eating dog food?
Pretty much no one gets to that point. They will have moved in with you before then😁. And have you priced dog food recently? Rice and beans will be cheaper.

They are adults who I assume are still cognitively functional. You can offer to help them plan but you shouldn't expect much. As other people have said the big discussion no is with your spouse about when and how much you will give them

JoeRetire
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by JoeRetire » Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:45 pm

whodidntante wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 2:12 pm
The United States has a pension system. It's called Social Security and Medicare. It's not going to provide champagne living, but it will pay the rent on your trailer house. Plus you get a raise every year. Well, most of them.
There are several assumptions here...

Hillview
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by Hillview » Sat Apr 07, 2018 3:50 pm

As a couple we've supported husband's mother/sister/brother and my parents. Lessons learned
1) Don't just hand cash out, if actual assistance is asked for you should ask for the details of their situation
2) You and spouse need to be 100% on same page whatever page that is
3) Think of the long term (cash hand outs where is cash going? is it a good decision? housing with you? What is long term plan? What will siblings have to do to assist -- higher level planning).
4) Generally for married couples waiting til 70 is the best idea for SS -- worth some calculations as this is a long term play
5) Good luck -- it is 100% not any fun at all and over time can add stress to a relationship and family

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GerryL
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by GerryL » Sat Apr 07, 2018 4:17 pm

I'm a big believer in letters. When I was a kid and hoped to get my parents to agree to something, I would put my points in a letter. Often got them to agree and to allow me to do what I was proposing. (In high school I agreed to take drivers ed if they would let me take part in summer theater. Still, I never did get my drivers license until I was almost 40. :) )

Anyway, after making sure you and you wife are on the same page, the two of you could compose a short letter offering to sit down with them and help them come up with a plan to secure their financial future. Don't suggest any solutions or possible monetary offers, just the offer to help them identify the issues and come up with solutions. For example:

"Dear Mom and Dad,
Comments you have made in the past lead us to believe that you have concerns about your future finances. If this is the case, we would like to meet with you to help you come up with a plan that will allow you to live in retirement with the dignity you both deserve. If you are uncomfortable sharing your financial information with us, perhaps we can help you find a trustworthy financial advisor who can work with you. Please know that we care about you and want to help you find solutions to any issues you face."

By putting it in a letter, you are making sure they get the whole message without interruptions or protestations. And they can go back and reread your actual words instead of remembering their possibly faulty impressions of what you said. And the ball is now in their court.

H-Town
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by H-Town » Sat Apr 07, 2018 4:23 pm

sallright wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:10 pm
My in-laws have zero savings for retirement and I'm concerned about how it will impact our financial future.

I'm here because I'm not sure what steps I can take, or what I should be thinking about. I don't yet have a complete understanding of how this will affect me and my spouse over the next 20+ years.

My in-laws are in their 60's and consistently make comments and drop hints to my wife about how they "have no savings... will never be able to retire... are having financial problems... etc". When asked pointed questions about their financial situation, their investments, or their plans for retirement, they offer no information.

How can we get them to open up about their true financial situation so that we can help them get on a better course?

And if not, how can I make sure that I mitigate our exposure to their financial problems, which I believe will be substantial?
Where I'm from, we take care of our family. I live frugally and make more money so that I can support my family. I could have retired 10-15 years earlier if I just put all the cash to savings. But I never regret taking care of my family.

If you don't like it but your wife believes in this duty to take care of her parents, divorce is a likely possibility in the future.

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FIREchief
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by FIREchief » Sat Apr 07, 2018 4:25 pm

livesoft wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:22 pm
One can also say, "Don't worry we won't be coming to you when we have to declare bankruptcy. We'll have to find someone else that can bail us out I guess."
I'm with livesoft on this one. I've always wanted friends to think we're poor and family to think we're about to lose the house (exception being adult children who we don't want to worry about us).
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.

TravelGeek
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by TravelGeek » Sat Apr 07, 2018 5:01 pm

thangngo wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 4:23 pm
Where I'm from, we take care of our family. I live frugally and make more money so that I can support my family. I could have retired 10-15 years earlier if I just put all the cash to savings. But I never regret taking care of my family.
Is that unconditional and unlimited? Non-hypothetical examples that I might face some time in the future:

Family member #1 doesn’t save for retirement or otherwise. Does odd jobs that for the most part don’t come with 401k/Pension or perhaps even social security. Spends money as it comes in to enjoy life. Also has small kids without educational savings. Eventually will have to face reality.

Family member #2 has conviction that life as we know it will soon end, so no point in planning/saving. Makes bad financial choices (buy high, sell low real estate), burns through inheritances and likely will soon be stuck with small Social Security (filed at 62) and minimal pension.

While I am generally happy to help (my own parents have helped me, too), we have planned our life to save enough for a comfortable and early retirement. If we wanted to provide a similar comfortable life for #1 and/or #2, we probably would have to work significantly longer at jobs we no longer enjoy or reduce our own spend (and plans) significantly.

There are additional family members with limited ambitions and no savings who might also get the idea that the Bank of the TravelGeeks has funds available for loans and grants. I sometimes think just retiring early will probably send the wrong signal (“oh, they must be rich!”).

sambb
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by sambb » Sat Apr 07, 2018 5:08 pm

work harder for them, or get divorced
you will feel pressure from your spouse, or she will just send them money without your support
she can after all ,it is your combined money
so either work harder or you got a problem (if they wont change)

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bengal22
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by bengal22 » Sat Apr 07, 2018 5:11 pm

DanMahowny wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 1:18 pm
livesoft wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:23 pm
You can tell them:

Not my monkeys, not my circus.

Or buy them the T-shirt.
Agree 100%
This is his wife's mother right? I hope these are jokes.
"Earn All You Can; Give All You Can; Save All You Can." .... John Wesley

jpsc
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by jpsc » Sat Apr 07, 2018 5:13 pm

oh tell them - they can always sell their house or do a reverse mortgage.

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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by alpenglow » Sat Apr 07, 2018 5:14 pm

livesoft wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:23 pm
You can tell them:

Not my monkeys, not my circus.

Or buy them the T-shirt.
This is why Bogleheads needs upvotes.

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oldcomputerguy
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by oldcomputerguy » Sat Apr 07, 2018 5:16 pm

JoeRetire wrote:
Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:29 pm
That's unfortunate. It's hard to see how you could be of help at all if they aren't willing to offer any information. Maybe they aren't actually looking for help. Maybe the are resigned to the fact that they must work until they die. Perhaps they are just looking for sympathy.
Or maybe they're just wanting to make sure that you and your wife don't make the same mistake they did? (Just trying to look at the other side of the question...)
It’s taken me a lot of years, but I’ve come around to this: If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.

Independent George
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Re: Parents have zero savings. What can I do?

Post by Independent George » Sat Apr 07, 2018 5:20 pm

I can't believe how many people are saying to let them drown. Forget how this will impact your marriage - how can anyone do that in good conscience?

Helping does not necessarily have to mean forking over tens of thousands of dollars, nor should it. It could be as simple as setting them on a sound financial plan, or protecting them from scam artists who might have gotten their hooks into your in-laws. We don't know, but the first step is to find out, fast, before it gets worse.

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