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Providing Financial Assistance to Your Parents

My last two posts focused on the financial assistance parents are often asked to provide for their adult children. This weekend Michelle Singletary looked at the flip side of this issue suggesting that adult children should provide financial assistance to their parents.

Singletary, a writer for the Washington Post, notes that she often receives emails “from retired seniors who are having to tap into their savings to help grown children who are in trouble. Grandparents are helping pay the expenses of grandchildren. And these are not children who parents have abandoned them… These are children being raised in a middle-class, two-parent, two-income households.”

She asks, “In their senior years, shouldn’t it be their adult children sending them money?” She suggests that the younger generation is so selfishly focused on their own needs and desires that they allow their parents to fund their skyrocketing desires without realizing that those handouts may be diminishing the wealth of their own parents.

Singletary was raised by her grandmother, and in college she sent home money to help pay her grandmother’s property taxes and groceries. As she ages, (if the need arises), she expects her children to do the same for her. In fact, she jokes that her three children are Plan B for retirement. Plan A is to fund her retirement account, save religiously, and pay off her mortgage before she retires. Plan B is to have her children take care of her needs. Of course, in order to do this, adult children must learn how to handle their finances. Singletary urges parents to teach their children how to handle money and to teach them early.

Providing financial assistance to parents is an interesting financial planning topic. Time and time again we hear financial advisors say you can obtain a loan for a car, a house, or college, but you cannot obtain a loan for retirement. Yet we constantly read stories like those Singletary mentions above. Stories in which retired parents are footing the bills of their adult children. If parents are continually shelling out financial assistance for their children, it’s not so difficult to envision a time when they will not be able to support their own basic needs.

With the savings rate in negative territory it’s clear that many individuals are not thinking about saving money for the future. Clearly, adult children who are asking for money, will not have the financial standing to support their aging parents. This is another example of the importance of teaching children about money. Rather than looking for handouts from their parents, perhaps children should be looking at ways to support the parents who so dutifully raised and cared for them.

If you want to check out this week’s Color of Money article, Pay Your Dues When Your Parents Age, click here.

One Frugal Girl

Wednesday 16th of April 2008

@anonymous -- I definitely do not encourage adult children to support parents who have squandered their money and/or refused to seek employment. Singletary's article focuses on those parents who have worked hard, saved, and supported their children to the best of their abilities.

Anonymous

Tuesday 15th of April 2008

THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! I have begged, pleaded, explained, and been patiently silent to try to express to my parents that there will be NO assistance to them when they are older from us four kids. They live in a beautiful home STUFFED FULL of beautiful and expensive things, and there is absolutely no recognition that this will all come to a crashing halt within the next ten years.

My parents gave me a loving home, but I was on my own from 7th grade on for everything from toothpaste to clothes. No help was given for college, I paid for my own car, insurance, downpayment for my home etc. To say that they were broke giving us assistance is completely bogus.

My parents have made more than the median wage for decades, and my Mom refuses to go and get a job although she is capable. It is their responsibility to buy their own groceries when they are 80. That may sound hard hearted, but I don't really see the ostrich method as a viable card to play down the line.

Oh, and they have "religious and personal reasons" why they can't have a savings account or put away for retirement.

I'm just saying that there are plenty of baby boomers who are expecting their children to bail them out later. And we're not living the high life at their expense. I'm 32 and still paying my own way through college, and I proudly drive a 12 year old car.

Not all of us have our hands out begging.