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Old 07-03-2007, 04:22 PM   #61
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Interesting discussion since I'm also in this situation. My mother has made some serious financial blunders. She's never consulted me at all, but has let my brother and sister (both alcoholic) "help" her with money matters. Now they're all asking for help. These responses are providing plenty of food for thought.
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Old 07-03-2007, 05:02 PM   #62
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The only help for the brother and sister should be to get them an AA sponsor. They doubtless need to hit bottom hard and want to change. Until that time all you should do is hold their hands.

The other problem is your Mother. She may be trying to rescue your brother and sister. Get involved in Al-anon with her.

There is a difference between making blunders and being a spend-thrift. First determine if basic needs are being met. Then figure out the extent to which she can help herself. Were I in your shoes I would work with her to help her muster her own resources (personal and financial). If she is doing what she can to care for herself then you should do what you can to provide a dignified life.
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Old 07-03-2007, 05:34 PM   #63
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The only help for the brother and sister should be to get them an AA sponsor. They doubtless need to hit bottom hard and want to change. Until that time all you should do is hold their hands.

The other problem is your Mother. She may be trying to rescue your brother and sister. Get involved in Al-anon with her.

There is a difference between making blunders and being a spend-thrift. First determine if basic needs are being met. Then figure out the extent to which she can help herself. Were I in your shoes I would work with her to help her muster her own resources (personal and financial). If she is doing what she can to care for herself then you should do what you can to provide a dignified life.
Actually they've both been in and out of AA for years. As far as hitting bottom.....my brother has done jail time for DUI, drugs, and weapons charges. He lives with my mom btw. My sister was taken to a mental health facility for threatening suicide last week. She was released after two days and after attending her first "required" AA meeting went straight to the liquor store. My mom has, by now, pretty much seen it all and given up.
When I speak of financial blunders......my sister talked her into doing a reverse morgage about two years ago. She recieved a lump sum and put it all into a checking account with my sisters name also on the account. It was ALL gone in less than a year with my sister writing checks to cash for most of it. This was done without anyone saying a word to me about it.....that is....until the money was gone.
I keep getting these hints from both of them.....ummm, mom might need a little help if you could spare some.
Like I said......plenty of food for thought here.
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Old 07-03-2007, 06:50 PM   #64
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Hello Everyone,
I have been lurking here on the Forum for a while now trying to learn all that I can. My dream is to one day retire early like most of you (I am 34 now). When I read this thread today I had to jump in and add my own personal views of this sort of thing. It does hit a bit close to home, as I could one day find myself in the same sort of situation. Sorry if this posting is a bit long, but sometimes putting your thoughts down can be helpfull.
My folks are of that generation that believes that you NEVER discuss your finances with anyone, let alone your children. As a result growing up, and to this day I do not know exactly how much money my folks have, or if they were doing a decent job of funding their retirement. I always just sort of assumed they were. In recent years I am comming to understand that they are in SERIOUS trouble. When my father mentions to me that most of his money is tied up in I-bonds (and has been for years), and has not put anything into his 401k for years, that give me an idea of how bad it is going to be. When I mentioned that to retire comfortably he should be in the 3/4 to 1 million dollar range, there was a very long silence on the phone.
This is where my view of this may diverge or converge with the rest of you. The reality is we are ALL going to get old! We know this fact growing up....it is a certainty that we know is comming. At this time I have no family of my own, but if I did... I would NEVER want to be a burden to them financially or otherwise. That means that I would put money aside, have a plan, and would let them know what that plan was. Doing anything less than that, sends a very clear message to your children, that you really do not care much for their future. How could any loving parent be so selfish, that they would be willing to sacrifice their childrens future for themselves? I just cannot fathom that. Please... do not get me wrong. Bad things happen to good people every day through no fault of their own. A car accident, cancer, rare disease, but this is not what I am talking about (I am more than willing to help in such cases). I am talking about those who KNOW better, but somehow choose to go down that road anyway. There are lots of people out there that are of the "it will all turn out ok in the end" variety. This is code for "I will leave my future to chance".
I have tried to talk to my folks about it a few times now, but as most of you have accurately reported, it is a fools errand. I bought my father a few retirement books (he thinks he is about 7 years from retirement), and that is about the best I can do for him. I even offered to pay for him to go see a retirement consultant for a few hours, and I would pay for all of it. That offer was declined. If someone chooses to purposely deny reality, then there is very little you can do about it. Some may think it is cold, but in the years ahead, I do not intend to sacrifce my life to people that certainly DID know better, and did nothing about it.
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Old 07-03-2007, 06:52 PM   #65
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Poundkey: That is so sad. Maybe, you should consider moving out of the country (without a forwarding address). Seriously, I do not know how one would handle your situation which seems, if not impossible now, only going to deteriorate from this point into the future.
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Old 07-03-2007, 07:31 PM   #66
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Actually they've both been in and out of AA for years. As far as hitting bottom.....

If it were me... Mom might get some help, but Sis an Bro would be on the street pronto.

If you need to support your mother... consider buying a small property and keep it in your name. You can sell it to recover your money when she passes on. Let your mother live there on the condition that Bro and Sis are only welcome to visit when you are there to monitor. And on the condition that she gives no money to them whatsoever.

I think many families have members that are thoughtful and respectful and often one that is selfish.

I have a couple of siblings that are very responsible, one that is semi-responsible (and getting better), and a one sister that is a user of the worst kind... luckily, she did not get her hooks into my parents when they were old, feeble, and vulnerable. Trust me... she tried. She got very ticked off when mom called me about problems and I stepped in.

Nevertheless. I would be very unforgiving if a sibling ruined my parents financially.
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Old 07-03-2007, 09:35 PM   #67
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Thanks R Wood and chinaco with the supportive replies, but I feel like I've caused the topic to stray from the original subject. I apologize to Ceberon for that.

I will only add that since I entered my post I've had a strange since of relief or calmness....hard to describe. Other than my wife I've never discussed this with anyone.
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Old 07-04-2007, 04:35 AM   #68
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Poundkey.. great that you could get this "off your chest". My heart really goes out to you and modhatter and others with wayward family members.

To Ceberon and FIREdreamer, if you must put something down on paper, let it be your monthly budget; say "we live on $x/month" compared to their $2x. When they come hat in had, whip out the budget; maybe no other explanation will be necessary.. CFB mentioned the white lie of saying your $$ is tied up in annuities or illiquid investments and that you have little control; I think that is worth repeating. Only you can decide if you want to contribute a small monthly sum, a yearly infusion, or nothing at all. Or.. set up an annuity for them (or like sweetana3/chinaco, buy them a little house or condo in your name) and leave it at that. I think it's probably important politically to contribute SOMEthing, but at the same time they need to know it's not bottomless. It depends on your family and your sense of 'karma'.

It's true parents usually do a lot to raise their kids, but that doesn't include buying the kids whatever they want and driving the whole family to the poor house because of it, which is the parallel of what some people here seem to be facing. Someone has to be "the adult". One option is to tell them you'll be willing to help out in the future only if they turn over all their finances to you, TODAY. Otherwise there'll be nothing left to work with.

The people who open their homes and wallets to parents and in-laws probably have had decent experiences and relations with them in which some level of responsibility was displayed. Sadly that's not the case in some families.

I don't think people should be required to finance ne'er-do-wells who make no effort to change, just because they are somehow related; there are a lot of deserving charities that could use the $ instead. If the ne'er-do-wells have already decided that "fun stuff now" is worth more to them than YOUR financial health, it's unclear what they'd expect the upshot of that (passive-aggressive) decision to be.
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Old 07-04-2007, 04:59 AM   #69
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From my experience, you do what you do. I spent years barely interacting with my family for my own reasons. When they got older and started having problems beyond their own control and not their fault, I helped as much as I could. I was in the process of moving my very ill and crippled dad into my home when he died. My mom had died in the year before and, despite his own problems, he had cared for her night and day after she started having strokes. He needed dependable care that I couldn't be sure he would get when no immediate family were near where he lived. As, I said, you end up doing what you do and the question of money might become secondary to the decision.
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Old 07-04-2007, 03:20 PM   #70
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I've been seeing this problem approaching me like a slow motion train wreck for years. My mother has been spending down her nest egg and living above her means. Some conversations we've had that have helped but not fixed the problem: comparing what she spends per month with what I do (she spends more), comparing how much living space she has vs DH and I (she has more per person), etc. She's slowed down on taking people out to restaurants and gambling and giving away money, but her rent and other expenses have gone up and of course SS does not really keep up with inflation. This last visit, I helped her sign up for food stamps. That really got her attention. But in a couple of years she'll be out of extra money and have to really cut back. I plan to help her get all the assistance from her State and local government to which she is entitled, but through many conversations I've made it clear I won't support her at the level she's been living, which is higher on the hog than me and has been her entire adult life.
I guess my point is to bring up the subject as early as possible and keep the conversations short, because if a person is not rational about spending they're not intelligent enough to understand or retain a long explanation.
I too think sending a letter would be a mistake. You could keep a journal for yourself and document what you've said and done. Then if you get hit up for money, you could say, "But in July of 2007 I told you...". But imagine how that would go down. It may help you, may not.
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Old 07-04-2007, 08:42 PM   #71
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I'm pretty much in the camp that if it's a necessity, I'll help bail out my Mom, Dad, Grandmom, Granddad, Stepdad, and uncle. But I'm not going to help them live high on the hog.

Thankfully, my remaining grandparents (Grandmom on my Mom's side, Granddad on my Dad's side) are in good shape financially, and live well below their means. I really don't know my Dad's financial situation. We're not really that close, and I don't find it easy to talk with him about stuff like that. But he lives pretty cheaply. Dad also doesn't know squat about investing. I just found out on Father's Day that his savings plan at work (whatever they call the federal gov't's version of the 401k) is mostly in ultra-low risk stuff that doesn't pay crap. He keeps saying that he needs a computer to get online and change his elections, and he doesn't want to get involved because he wouldn't know what to pick anyway. Basically, keeping his head in the sand. I offered to help him out. My uncle doesn't know squat about investing either, so he lets me handle his 401k and his rollover IRA, from his previous employer. His only stipulation is that if I bankrupt him, he's coming to live with me! Anyway, I also told my Dad that more than likely, there's a 1-800 number he can call to change his investments, or request information, or at least talk with someone in HR. But my Dad likes to procrastinate.

My Mom and stepdad are pretty well off. She's on the old system with the federal gov't, so she'll get a fat pension when she retires in early 2009, at the age of 60. They have two houses, one up here in Maryland and one in Florida, and some property on a lake in VA somewhere. I was worried that they were over-extending themselves, but I talked to Mom one day, and she told me that when you combine both mortgages, plus the property taxes, the total comes out to about $1500 per month. In my area, that might get you into an apartment in a crack neighborhood, with all utilities included. You might even have your own washer/dryer, but will have to worry about your car getting ganked if it's too nice.

So, I think my Mom and stepdad are okay. They want to move to Florida when she retires, but she refuses to sell the place up here. Her reasoning is that if she hates Florida, she wants to be able to come back home. Unfortunately, she hasn't thought through far enough to the possible scenario of her hating Florida, and my stepdad loving it! She just said "Oh, we'll worry about that when we get to it".

In my Mom's case, I'd help her out if she really needed it, but I sure wouldn't help her hold onto two places, plus that lakefront property.

A few years ago, my Mom said something to me that, the more I think about it, seems kinda crappy. When I first mentioned building a garage, she said I should build a loft over it so that my uncle would have a place to live in if he ever needed it. Okay, my uncle is going to be 55 this year, and isn't in the best of health, so it's not exactly like Fonzie living over the Cunningham's garage. And more than likely, if it ever got to the point that my uncle was going to be destitute and needing a place to live, he's going to be even older and in worse health than he is now. Last thing he needs to be in is a loft above a garage! I'm thinking that's a hell of a way to treat your own brother, Mom!

The house I'm in really isn't that big, but it's big enough that it has a spare room that we don't use. I have two roommates right now. Biggest downside is that it only has one bathroom. But I figure that if I ever needed to house a family member, there is that spare room. And I could always put in a second bath if I had to. Or add onto the house.

As my grandmother's will currently stands, it's divided 40/40/20 among my Mom, uncle, and me. I'm the only grandkid on that side of the family. My uncle lives with my grandmother. I figure that when Grandmom's time comes, if my uncle still wants to live in that house, between the two of us we should be able to find a way to buy my mother out, if she wants to sell.
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Old 07-04-2007, 09:23 PM   #72
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Andre,

If you mother suggest your uncle living with you again, I would say "Yea Mom, but I would hate to have him living in a loft, wouldn't you rather YOUR brother live in one of your extra houses?"
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Old 07-04-2007, 10:00 PM   #73
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I think I have it in a nutshell.

"Glad to help you out of a bind, but i'm not your retirement plan".
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Old 07-04-2007, 10:47 PM   #74
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For some reason, real estate brings out the Worst in People.

Especially in Italy. The wierd Napoleonic laws dictate that, often, no close relatives can be written out of the will. Which leads to properties with multiple owners of equal shares, none of whom can agree on what to do with it (often hastening an empty property's degradation, since no one will put money into it if they can't agree to sell, which they usually can't).

Not exactly along those lines, but worth mentioning: my MIL is/was co-owner of her daughter's apt. She signed her half over to DH since she had given lotsa cash to SIL over the years and nothing to DH; she wanted to even the score AND make the major-chess-player move of blocking financially-untrustworthy BIL from ever mortgaging the apt. without DH's say-so.

This is the "gift" that will keep on taking.. since we are now on the hook for 1/2 an (expensive) property that we don't exactly own (in the meantime MIL pays "our" share of the prop. tax) and from which we can never, ever, realize a cent. To do so would mean either somehow forcing a sale (not sure if this is possible if ownership is 50/50).. or trying to charge SIL rent (good luck on that score since she has lived there 35 years or so -since she got married- w/o paying a dime). We love SIL but this is a crazy burden. She could never buy us out (the $ 'loaned' over the years by MIL is long gone). Her grown children are up in arms and for a while hated us irrationally, thinking we had somehow maneuvered this and thinking we were going to "evict" SIL/BIL or somehow "screw" them out of "their inheritance" (which they communally take to be the apt., only 1/2 of which was ever owned in the clear by SIL anyway.).

Here property is the Key Investment, for better (sometimes) or for worse. The mentality is to ensconce people in an immutable protective shell. It's not seen as liquid.

Not satisfied with having engineered this "guaio" (problem).. MIL has expressed to us her wish that we NOT ever sell HER separate apt.. (owned by her outright) after she is gone. Uhhh.. yeh.

MEANwhile, one of the daughters of SIL has turned a basement storage room appurtaining to the apt. into a (questionable?) studio apt. for herself (invoking the ire of many of the condomini). So now 30-something niece is also living rent-free and we weren't even apprised of (much less consulted on) this development. SOMEone (SIL/BIL) put some bucks into the retro-fit, which could either add value to the whole or be totally illegal and thus a liability, we're not sure and would rather not know at this point. At least it has a legal bathroom, having once been the apt. bldg. sales office.

We don't need or want this property. It would be nice to have the added cash if we could realize it, but that's not gonna happen. All I see on the horizon is potential lawsuits from the condo ass'n. and the city. I don't even know how to have DH 'renounce' this 'gift'... The whole transfer happened between MIL and her lawyer/"notaio".

What I hope is that when MIL passes, SIL can renounce her claim to her (1/3) share of MIL's place and we will then write over our (1/2) share of her (larger) apt. (also at a ridiculous cost in "notary" (notaio) fees.. like a RE agent's... but worse because unavoidable here; a percentage of every property transfer by law), at a substantial theoretical "loss" to us, but at least we will, we hope, be off the hook.
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Old 07-05-2007, 12:49 AM   #75
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Note to self: Tell Dad I love him, and maybe my parents in law aren't so bad after all...
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Old 07-05-2007, 03:49 AM   #76
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I know the context of the conversation is more related to money. But... many of us are much more likely to need to help your parents or in-laws when their health fails and you consider taking them into your home and care for them.

Trust me, you might think the money is a big issue. But it pales in comparison to health. You might wish you were so lucky as to only get the request to pay up a few $k. If you are balking at that... then they are probably not likely to get much support when they face the end.

If your parents were good people (forget the money handling issue)... call them and tell them how important they are and how they helped you to be the person you are today. Someday soon they will be gone. All you will be left with are the feeling of guilt that you gave them a stern warning about how they spend their money.

I once criticized my parents about an aspect of how they raised me. It was a minor pissing point. I was wrong and I regret it to this day. Nothing like a well educated (successful) son throwing something in their face after the years spent caring for me as a child and building the character foundation (i.e., honest, hardworking, and principled) that made me what I am today.

Bottom line: If they need help and it is within your ability to help... you will do so. If they are in such dire straits that it would break you... the government will help (since it is usually the result of medical costs).
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Old 07-05-2007, 05:47 AM   #77
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Our parents were great to us, and we will support their basic needs, even if it means we have to scape a bit ourselves. I stress basic needs. Just couldn't accept that they would be without food, clothing, shelter, if we could help. Will work with them as best we can. Most important thing is setting everything up as they are quite far away and we can only get to see them once or twice a year. That's very difficult, but been the subject of a number of threads before.
I know some people here, and some of our friends otherwise have not had as good a relationship with parents as we have, and that might have changed our view, but we were both fortunate in that our parents were there for us, we'll be there for them too.
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Old 07-05-2007, 12:43 PM   #78
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I've read most (but not all) of the responses so far, and I agree with the folks who will help when needed, but won't enable spendthrift parents.

Many of the folks in the "help under any circumstances" camp forget that parents often threaten to cut their kids off from money or other support if they're going to do something really stupid with their lives. An example is the kid who wants to quit high school or college to go on the road with his rock 'n roll band. Another is the daughter who wants to move in with her tattooed biker boyfriend who works a minimum-wage job (or doesn't have a job). Obviously there is nothing wrong with liking music, but as a career move it's not the best option (or even anywhere in the ballpark). Likewise, there's nothing wrong with a minimum wage job, but only if you're working it to afford school, etc... Typically, the threat of being cut off is sufficient to dissuade a child from such stupid behavior.

Why can't a similar threat to "if you keep doing that you're cut off" be acceptable for parents who REFUSE to change their spending habits or plan for their retirement? Why can't you let such stubborn parents feel some of the pain of their behavior before stepping in to help them out of a serious financial bind? It's human nature not to change one's eating habits, exercise regimen (or lack thereof), quit smoking, etc... without a health scare, so why not a "financial scare"?
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Old 07-05-2007, 12:45 PM   #79
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In our case, it will be a pleasure to help our parents if they need us. But financially, they are very conservative. Both have pensions plus rental income plus LBYM. Their net worth increases nicely since they retired. Each year, We give some gift money to them, both sides, a couple thousands. My PIL even set up an account to invest all the gift money. They did not spend one dime.
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Old 07-05-2007, 03:25 PM   #80
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Note to self: Tell Dad I love him, and maybe my parents in law aren't so bad after all...
Was thinking something similar....... My folks are long gone, but MIL is still around and suddenly the few kilobucks she costs me every year seem trivial, based on much of what I'm reading here. And, when her health was better and she was coming over one day a week to do our laundry, she ironed my underwear, folded everything neatly and put it away. Afterwards, she thanked us profusely for the opportunity to help out! In fact, I think she'll be getting a little raise!
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