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Handle Parents lack of planning.

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  • Handle Parents lack of planning.

    Parents in law are clueless, and not concerned about health or financial planing. No will, no POA or living will, no savings. Mortgage is just less than the house (yay refinancing!) both 60 y/o. Maybe a long lost pension? "we'll find it someday". No savings or additional retirement. Both work. Love the new cars in the driveway though. Never eat at home. Their other child is a physician. Diabetes, depression, and bad knees are guaranteed. Zero efforts to change course any of the aforementioned. Family history for all of the above.

    Parents are content that someday SS will kick in (no idea when though) and "hopefully it's enough". They have no idea how much they'll need, or how much SS will be. They might have some pension from some old job? "that'll be new golf club money".


    1. How have folks handled a refusal to be healthy in any way (only positive is no tobacco use)?

    2. How have folks handled a refusal/inability to financially budget, save, or plan for retirement and healthcare?

    3. How have you personally managed the conflict where our world view differs, as it feels as though we have to deal with the health/financial and mental chaos that is coming ?

    Any thoughts, books, or pointers are welcomed. We (and sibling) agree responsibility is important.

  • #2
    People who post here can see the problems that are coming of course.  I think this live in the now and lets not worry about the future type of thinking is very common.  They will most likely continue to live and spend all their money until a serious health problem develops or one or both lose their jobs.  You really can't tell them what to do.  Unless they ask for help you can just watch it.  I am worried about one of my brothers spending due to a remarriage right now but unless he asks me I can't pull out a spreadsheet and tell him what to do.


    • #3
      My inlaws are further down life's paths than yours and in significantly worse condition--financially and physically.

      They have social security income, a small pension, and are receiving LTC benefit for my father-in-law, who is in his mid-late 80's and has dementia, declining health, now requires round-the-clock assistance and is currently in hospice. They have no assets at this point-zero. I imagine that this scenario is more common than we know, but it does not have to end this way.

      One of the siblings has taken charge but for ten years plus did nothing but enable the spendthrift nature of my MIL, allowing whatever modest nest egg they had to be squandered on junk. Now, he is seeking a monthly stipend from all of the siblings for support, and there has been little interest as the MIL continues to have packages arrive daily from Amazon and HSN for stuff she will never need or use.

      It is a complete train wreck, and I had a front row seat to the slow motion crash over the last 20+ years, from when both were in good health, they had a solid $100k income, and lived a reasonable middle class plus life. In a fantasy world, we could have your inlaws spend a week with my inlaws and see what their future could be (sort of like in Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Future) and maybe they would change their course before it is too late.


      • #4
        I appreciate all the well intentioned thoughts involved, but the in laws have habits formed from a life time. Less likely to change just because kids tell them to. And probably they are young enough and competent to make their own decisions. They certainly wouldn't appreciate your intervention.

        Just accept that they are living the life they choose would be my advice. My dad passed and left us a nightmare of legal and financial problems. Very stressful at the time but after few months and lots of bills it worked itself out. Not everyone plans things as carefully as people on this board.

        Also life doesn't always go as smoothly as we hope. If you have a good relationship with them, try to enjoy what time you have. Diabetes depression are not guaranteed. Death is.

        Someday my kids will tell me I'm not doing something the way they want. And I'm going to enjoy telling them to kiss my ******************. My money. I'm going to spend it how I want, even if it's not efficient.

        Good luck.


        • #5
          Difficult situation.  Personally I would ensure your spouse does any intervention..


          • #6
            I am working on a blog post on how to deal with financially ill prepared parents, stay tuned!


            • #7
              I'd love to read your blog post when you're done. It's very difficult deciding what to do when I have parents that are not prepared financially, since my wife and I (both physicians) have planned and are doing very well financially. When does helping become enabling? What is too much help, or too little help? Is it insulting to offer help in the form of money to adults who have only asked for it once, when they were in a severe financial bind, even though I know they could probably use the help?  All difficult questions.....


              • #8

                I’d love to read your blog post when you’re done. It’s very difficult deciding what to do when I have parents that are not prepared financially, since my wife and I (both physicians) have planned and are doing very well financially. When does helping become enabling? What is too much help, or too little help? Is it insulting to offer help in the form of money to adults who have only asked for it once, when they were in a severe financial bind, even though I know they could probably use the help?  All difficult questions…..
                Click to expand...

                As you can guess, there is no right way to handle it. I am offering suggestions and then some other things you need to keep in mind legally or for tax purposes in this regard.


                • #9
                  There's nothing you can really actively do.  You can mentally prepare yourself and your spouse for the inevitable day when the money has run out, or is simply not enough, and pledge to each other that you won't give them money to enable their wasteful spending.  The only way your spouse can make decisions for them is when they give up control of their affairs to your spouse.

                  What might be helpful is that both are still working in their 60s, so if they can keep working and wait until age 70 to take social security, their payment should be much larger.  Hopefully that mystery pension will show itself one day like manna from heaven, but you can't force them to find it.  And absolutely, as childay said above, this is your spouse's place to handle this and not yours.

                  I will share a couple of anecdotes...

                  1) My grandmother-in-law lives in an old house where supposedly the utility bills eat up "most" of her social security income, which I find difficult to believe.  She likes to order things from catalogs and whatnot, but the real problem IMO is that her chronic malingerer son (in his 60s) lives with her and is an additional drain on their resources, as well as a daughter who from time to time gets bailed out and has borrowed money from every other member of the family.  The grandmother-in-law had an income stream from a sold business which finally came to an end about a year ago, and she was receiving reverse mortgage payments which are now also coming to an end in a couple of months, leaving her just social security payments.  None of the other children are too concerned about it except my mother-in-law, who is trying to plan her own retirement, and recently told the brother that he should apply for food stamps for him and their mother.  Nobody really knows what's going to happen, but it's about to unfold and will be interesting to watch.

                  2) My own mother has carried tremendous credit card debt all her life, big mortgage on the house, still has student debt from going to school later in life.  She's had numerous opportunities to pay down the debt but so far nothing has stuck.  The most recent refinance was to pay off most of her credit card debt and make her payments manageable so she could "finally" pay down the remaining cards and snowball into the mortgage.  Inevitably, after all of the struggles, tears, and long conversations about responsible living and how there was a light at the end of the tunnel, the QVC boxes keep rolling in, and the credit card debt is swelling again.  She's in her 50s and wants to retire, but with zero savings that's really not a possibility.  My only plan is that once she retires or can no longer work, we'll file bankruptcy for her, and since most of her income goes to service all of her debt, the social security benefit she receives should be plenty.  Luckily she has a relatively high income and the SSA benefit should be decent, and will get bigger if she can wait until 70.

                  As long as she's spending hundreds on the cable TV bill and untold thousands on home shopping, there's no way I could ever justify helping her out financially, since it'd just be paying for credit card interest, another online purchase, or another needless fancy dinner out.  The only way it becomes feasible to dig her out of the hole she's dug is when she finally has her come-to-jesus moment (unlikely) or when she becomes legally incompetent and I can take over.



                  • #10
                    Wow!.  This topic provokes family-tree awareness.   Parsimonious, Cheap, Frugal,  are their names.

                    (maybe they're talking about me.)/paranoid


                    • #11
                      Sounds bad. My advice is to do nothing with them as it will not be well received.

                      You have to start a good discussion with your SO though about how, how much, and under what circumstances you will give these people money. "Never, None, Noner" is a fine answer as long as you are both truly on the same page.

                      I have some very financially irresponsible people in my orbit as well. At this point in life (one is about 38 one is more like 58) I pretty much don't say anything at all other than some vague bleating about thinking about the future.

                      My plan is that if/when the wheels come off at the first request for money I will give a firm "no" and make it clear that my answer isn't going to change unless there is no food in the pantry.



                      • #12
                        You can't change them.  They have to want it.  We tried with my parents.  If we continued to push, we risked ruining what ever contact we had.  Losing that wasn't worth it.  We know there will be a big mess when they pass, but that is just the way it has to be.

                        Try hard to not become them.  But believe me that is hard, too.  Whether ingrained through environment or genetics, I find myself doing things I swore I never would and the amount of energy required to combat it, is really quite enormous, tbh.

                        Anyway, try to enjoy the time you have with them.  You may need to step in at some point to help minimally (such as some food so they don't starve), but as long as they are competent and unwilling to change, you are stuck.

                        cd :O)
                        Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. -- Isaiah 40:31


                        • #13
                          Some lessons can only be learned the hard way. I wouldn't intervene. You need to get on the same page as your wife though about when to help them and how much. Don't be an enabler.


                          • #14
                            I watch my parents do the same thing. It's horrible. My parents both have diabetes and eat ice cream literally every single night. Worse, they let me live with them while I am in school and make me go pick it up for them. When I try and tell them the reasons they shouldn't eat it they just call me lazy and ask as if I am a bad son and don't want to go to the store for them. It's ridiculous and I've given up. I've already accepted I'll be watching them suffer. My father basically started saving for retirement at 55, he will probably never retire or retire at 70. Unfortunately a lot of their spending habits caught onto me but I am making changes now. Thank God for this site because I am finally beginning to make good financial decisions and learning things I never knew about with personal finance. I absolutely do not want to be in their position, but of course they are great people and I miss them. I honestly feel bad talking badly about them.


                            • #15
                              WCICON24 EarlyBird
                              Couple of thoughts:

                              1.  I agree with what has been said that you can't change them.  First, they aren't even your parents.  Your wife might have influence in their lives, but you're the son-in-law.  If you try to dictate to them how to live it will end in disaster.  Also, people don't like to be told they've been living their lives "wrong" or "making bad decisions."  I think the best people can do is to try to influence behavior and model "good" behavior.  I try to point out the benefits of low-cost index funds to my parents who still use an expensive financial advisor.  When conversation turns in the finance/investing direction, I always remark at how little I pay to own Vanguard's funds and how easy it is to auto-invest, rebalance etc.  If talk turns to individual "safe" (dividend) stocks that their advisor turned them on to, I reminisce about how people probably said the same about Enron.  And then the conversation stops.  I can't tell them what to do with their money, and of course, they can't tell me what to do with mine (they have recommended their advisor to me).  When my brother got a new job with a modest salary raise, I congratulated him and said, "Great, now you'll be able to save more!"  The encouragement wasn't to go out and immediately do a home renovation or take a fancy trip, it was to save.  But ultimately, he gets to decide for himself and I didn't delve further into what he should do with the extra income.

                              So with regards to your in-laws spending habits and lack of healthy habits - could you model good behavior and encourage them to make minor changes?  Maybe organize a family vacation within driving distance to parks/mountains.  It'll be cheaper than flying somewhere and outdoor activities are exercise.  What about cooking some easy and healthy meals on the trip?  Show them that a good meal can be around a campfire instead of a restaurant!  Maybe activities they can do with their grandchildren (even just kicking a soccer ball in the back yard) can help motivate them to be active.

                              2.  Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page for a disaster plan.  When I ask patients about code status when they are getting admitted, I tell them it is better to start thinking about it now then have to ask tough questions in an emergency/hurry.  Same goes for a possible impending financial disaster.  How much you as a family are willing to shoulder should the worst happen will be important to figure out beforehand.