Most of us have considered the prospect of taking care of our parents. We’ve thought about the options, burdens and stresses if their health begins to fail and they can no longer live alone.
But what if their finances fail? What if your parents fall on hard times in their 60’s – or even their late 50’s? How would you handle that situation? Given today’s still-soft economy and the difficulty older Americans face when seeking work, this is a very real possibility for many of us. Here are some tips for helping cash-strapped parents without ruining your personal finances – or your marriage, courtesy of Wisebread.
Don’t judge. Sharing their money woes with you – their kid – will be extremely hard for your parents. They will probably feel a potent mix of shame, guilt and fear. The most important help you can provide is unconditional emotional support. Even if they’ve been fiscally irresponsible, they deserve to have you on their side. Let them know you are always ready to lend a sympathetic ear or shoulder to cry on.
Get them government help. Guide your parents through the process of seeking and applying for any available government assistance, from unemployment and food stamps to Social Security. Depending on their health and capabilities, you may need to help complete forms and accompany them on office visits.
Share new ways to make money. Talk to your parents about driving for Uber, renting their spare room on AirBNB, or picking up odd jobs via TaskRabbit.com. These are just some of the way mom and dad could pick up a few bucks without a demanding schedule or grueling work.
Help them explore downsizing. If your parents are cash strapped but possession-rich, it might be time to discuss a re-structuring. Should they sell their home and move to a cheaper condo or apartment? Is it time to sell a prized collection or second car? These will be hard, hard conversations, but the right decisions could do much to improve the situation.
Net “Work It”. Let friends and professional contacts know that your mom and dad are looking for part time work. You never know who might be looking for a fill-in receptionist or delivery person.
Pick up a few tabs. If your parents are in dire straits, you might feel the need/desire to pay some of their bills. Be careful. Remember, you must always prioritize your personal finances and money — and your family’s well-being. Paying mom and dad’s bills will also stir up more uncomfortable feelings for them. One way to keep your financial support healthy is to limit your contribution to paying some recurring monthly expenses on auto-pay. This avoids the awkwardness of handing over checks and having conversations that begin, “What do you need this month?”