I Want To Help, But I Worry The Problem WIll Continue
Anyone that’s ever tried to teach an old dog a new trick knows that the effort is often in vain. The same goes for seniors. There’s a lot of research that shows that as humans and dogs get older, they have problems learning new things. Many children that want to help their parents worry that the problem will continue even after the help?
Habitual Behavior Is Hard To Change
Carmen and I don’t want to cover learning issues in this section. What we want to talk about is more behavioral, or habitual. The kinds of things we do over and over again and don’t ever really change. Maybe you like eating and have trouble losing weight. Maybe you drive to Church every Sunday and bible study every Wednesday. Maybe you bite your nails and can’t stop. Maybe you spend every summer vacation at a specific beach or lake. Maybe you’ve been having a couple of glasses of wine at dinner for decades. Maybe you’re a member of a country club where you play cards every afternoon and golf have a 8:00 AM tee time Tuesdays and Thursdays. These are habits, good and bad, that aren’t likely to change.
When it comes the adult children helping their parents the numbers are startling. As many as 1/3 of all children provide financial support to their parents.
Some Help Comes With Requirements
Carmen and I frequently get a version of the following rhetorical question, “We want to help Mom and Dad, but how can we be sure the problem will be addressed?” In other words, a child or family member wants to help Mom or Dad but they’re worried the help won’t be used to alleviate the problem.
Requests For Money Often Come With Strings
Carmen and I rarely hear this concern over spending time with parents or helping them run errands or addressing medical issues. We hear it about money. Money requested or needed to support or maintain something the children think is harmful to the parents or will free up money for harmful activities.
Money, in general, is personal. We all associate money with emotional states. These might include anxiety, happiness, depression, excitement, helplessness, or anger. Others of us use money to manipulate people. Some wage-earning spouses put their non-wage-earning spouse on an allowance, like their children. Then they threaten to take away that allowance if they don’t get the behavior they expect. Our perceptions of money make its use and abuse problematic. In other words, giving money is an activity loaded with psychological baggage.
Carmen and I heard this or a variation frequently:
I really want to help out my parent(s) but I’m concerned their behavior won’t change.
Examples Of I Worry The Problem Will Continue
We heard this in the context of kids and siblings considering some of the following.
Reasons For Concern The Problem Will Continue
Seniors Want To Remain Autonomous
Your parents are independent people. They’ve lived seventy or eighty years. Now you want to tell them how to live or how to spend their money? These are issues around control. Issues that strike at their independence and autonomy. CarePlanIt discusses these issues in detail in our Family Communication Section.
Because it is your money, you can and should do what you want. If you want to place strings on the money do it. If you prefer to contribute less but gift it with no strings, do it.
Just keep in mind that if your money is yours to do whatever you want with, it’s unlikely your parents will perceive their money as any different, even if it includes some of your money. In other words, just like you consider your money yours, why would your parents consider their money differently.
If you put requirements on your monetary contributions, your parents aren’t likely to take kindly to that tactic. Even if they agree in principle, it’s unlikely they agree in spirit. Grown men and women don’t like to be told what to do or how to do it. It’s our nature.
How Children Stop The Problem Form Continuing
Carmen and I heard many stories of parents asking for help from their children and their children positively responding. Many of the children wanted to stop the problem from continuing. Money was given and often that money came with requirements. Some of the kids required the following concessions:
Some Children That Help Remain Skeptical
But many family members, especially children, were very suspicious of helping their parents. Especially parents that had been wealthy and remarried. Carmen and I discovered a fairly common example of what may have triggered their “spidey sense” or intuition.
Mistresses & Special Friends
Carmen and I found in about 20% of the cases we investigated that Dad or Mom had a special friend. One that’s very important to how they define themselves. This special friend relationship usually involved some type of financial support. The parent gives their special friend money.
In most cases the support has become an integral part of their relationship. Dad or Mom gets something, the other person gets something and money. Therefore, the money part is unlikely to stop. With or without your money. That special friend may be a girlfriend, boyfriend, mistress, caregiver or near-do-well child or grandchild. Often the financial recipient sees themselves as many of those things.
It’s hard for family members to give money to a parent with a special friend. The money giver generally sees their funds as being used to support the special friend or needed because of the special friend’s needs. In either case, they don’t want their money used to support a special friend.
Multiple Families – Second Marriages
Another area creating complications for children giving money is parents with second families. If your parent has started a second family, you may be very familiar with this situation. Who is supposed to support your parent? His (her) first set of kids or the second. The current wife (husband) or the first? Extended families get very complicated. It’s rare the entire family gets along and works out an equitable plan where everyone participates.
Should I Give Money To My Parents
Carmen and I can’t tell you what you should do in these cases. We can tell you that it’s your money. We can also tell you that your parents have had decades to figure out and address their finances and how it will impact their retirement.
If your parent’s needs are based on bad luck, unpredictable illness, and despite their planning and frugality, you probably should help if you can. If you won’t miss the money, you probably should help.
On the other hand, if you’re having financial challenges, and your parents messed up their own situation through bad choices, you need to consider if helping them financially will be a bad choice for you and your family. When it is, helping them find and secure needed financial resources may be better than using yours.
Finally, if you really want to ensure that your parent’s behavior changes in return for your financial assistance, demand the changes occur first. Get access to their financial accounts and financial power of attorney. Get a list of their doctors and get a medical power of attorney. Go online and track their spending. Call their doctors and ask if they’re making lifestyle changes. When the changes you want occur, send the money.