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How to politely let your elders know you won't support them?
Old 07-02-2007, 07:41 PM   #1
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How to politely let your elders know you won't support them?

I've seen this mentioned enough that I know I'm not the only one with this potential problem.

My wife and I are 30/29, and our parents are in their mid-late 50's. My parents-in-law have retired (and are rapidly running out of cash), and my parents are still working (but still spending up a storm).

We have tried to bring up the money questions with both parents, mentioning to both that we'd like to talk now so that we don't have to support anyone when we're older. Neither conversation really went anywhere. We got the "We're fine", and "Good idea, maybe we'll look into it someday".

My wife and I are planning on retiring early (I want to retire the day before I turn 40, if not earlier). We are retiring early partially because we're not planning on spending much. We'll hike, live aboard a sailboat, and other plans we're working on.

Anyway, point being that although we're retiring, we don't have the cash to support anyone. I want to make this point clear to both sets of families, on the chance that they're keeping "The kids will help us in an emergency" in the back of their minds.

Anyone have a good idea of how to write such a letter in a polite way? I'm thinking something like:

"Parents,

Wife and I wanted to write you a quick letter to inform you of our future financial plans. As we have mentioned in the past, we plan on retiring pretty early. However, our plans assume that our spending will be at very low levels.

This means that we will not be available to lend financial support to any relatives. We wanted to make this clear now, as we are concerned that relatives may see us retiring at such a young age and believe that we must be rich.

It was just something that concerned us, and we wanted to make certain this was clear.

Thanks,
Son & Wife."

Any thoughts?
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Old 07-02-2007, 07:48 PM   #2
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I took a less formal approach to it. The first chance I could work it into a regular conversation was to make a statement that all of our investments were structured to produce exactly as much money as we needed to live on, and that any changes to that structure had both dire consequences to our future, and immediate severe financial hardships in terms of taxes and penalties.

Its not long before someone asks about how to set up a 401k or an IRA or asks an investment question...its pretty easy to insert the above comment.

You get your point across: we're fine, but dont think about upsetting our apple cart...thanks...

In my case I had a great opening...everyone asked about our buying the new house..."wow, you must have spent a bundle!"..."well, yes we did and that sapped up all of our ready cash. We've got the rest of our investments set up so that we can live comfortably and hopefully pay for gabes college, but any other major expenses or cash drains and we'll be in trouble!".

Nuff said.
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Old 07-02-2007, 08:03 PM   #3
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OTOH, what if they have a bigger portfolio than you realize? You may be writing yourself out of their will.
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Old 07-02-2007, 08:04 PM   #4
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A couple of years ago, my dad asked about how much $$ he should have to be able to retire. I told him I could sum up the research quickly, and just told him to multiply the income he wanted by 25 and save that amount. I got a weird look and could tell he (1) didn't have that much yet, and (2) didn't really believe me. So I gave him a copy of the Trinity Study, and then Bernstein's Retirement Calculator From Hell Part 1 and Part 2. Next thing I now he's saving like mad and asking questions about retirement investing, asset allocation, withdrawal strategies, etc. My own little scared straight program.

- Alec
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Old 07-02-2007, 08:08 PM   #5
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Yea, I would not send them a letter, that is just asking for trouble, and you never know when you may need them for something be it financial or not.

I just tell everyone I am utter broke, hell tell them you have become disabled and are on disability or something.

Just anytime someone mentions $$$$ to me, I tell them I am broke, and then start hinting around to them to give me some cash, and they shut up real fast.
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Old 07-02-2007, 08:14 PM   #6
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Placing my tongue firmly.... Fine idea. You darn sure don't owe your parents anything. It's not like they did anything for you when you were growing up! The pleasure of your company is fine recompense for the years they spent feeding and housing you.

Sorry, but while I applaud the desire to retire before you are forty I just don't feel like anyone deserves it. This from someone who has no kids to support him in his dotage. What is it? Man proposes, God disposes. Parents get the kids they get, kids get the parents they get. In both cases you give the input you can, in both cases you don't give up or ditch them because things aren't working out in the rosiest way. That's my opinion anyway. But I never sired kids, so what do i know - maybe you do just toss 'em out the car if they're bugging you or don't do things the way you would do them.
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Old 07-02-2007, 08:17 PM   #7
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Our parents never ask for money, rather we give money to our parents (& in-laws) as gifts. There is Mother's Day, Father's Day, Birthdays & Christmas. We don't give a whole lot, maybe 2K/year to each set of parents. If there something special, like a new roof or Kitchen remodel, My Brothers & I might split it. We treat it case-by-case.
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Old 07-02-2007, 08:29 PM   #8
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Placing my tongue firmly.... Fine idea. You darn sure don't owe your parents anything. It's not like they did anything for you when you were growing up! The pleasure of your company is fine recompense for the years they spent feeding and housing you.

Sorry, but while I applaud the desire to retire before you are forty I just don't feel like anyone deserves it. This from someone who has no kids to support him in his dotage. What is it? Man proposes, God disposes. Parents get the kids they get, kids get the parents they get. In both cases you give the input you can, in both cases you don't give up or ditch them because things aren't working out in the rosiest way. That's my opinion anyway. But I never sired kids, so what do i know - maybe you do just toss 'em out the car if they're bugging you or don't do things the way you would do them.
Well I think some parents or in-laws have the hand-out syndrome, where they believe that because you were born, and they were responsible and fed you, that you owe them everything.

Then other parents and in-laws, believe that you did not choose to come into this world, they chose to bring you here, and that they owe you.

I can see both sides, my FIL, I would do anything for, he is my friend, always been there for us, and even co-signed for me to open my business, and I know without a doubt he would take a bullet for me or my wife if he Could.

While other family members, see us as a cash register, I have been to many a family members house where they think I owe them something because I worked my ass off, and they will even put down receipts in front of me for a new computer or something, and tell me how hard it is for them now since they bought it. Not being a bashful person, I then proceed to lecture them about being a idiot with finances.

Family members are sadly, many times just like your average person, that feels they deserve a hand-out.
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Old 07-02-2007, 08:43 PM   #9
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I find it presumptious (sp??) that you would even bring up that conversation...

What you are telling them is they are to stupid to save for their retirement and don't come knocking at our door.. sounds like a great way to get both sets of parents upset...

Just don't go there...
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Old 07-02-2007, 08:48 PM   #10
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Personally I try to keep the state of my own finances under wrap. Nobody in our family knows exactly how much money we have and when they ask we either deflect the question or lie. But I told my parents that we have to save a lot more for retirement than they did because 1) we don't have kids to fall back onto in case things don't work out financially, 2) we will probably never see a cent in SS benefits and 3) our tax rate will probably be much higher than theirs. Therefore I implied that we can't afford to support anyone else if we want to have a shot at retiring ourselves one day... I never implied that they might need help or that their retirement planning was inadequate. I just slipped it while having a general conversation with them about my retirement planning.
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Old 07-02-2007, 09:02 PM   #11
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Well I think some parents or in-laws have the hand-out syndrome, where they believe that because you were born, and they were responsible and fed you, that you owe them everything.

IMHO --- The hand-out syndrome in most cases is the child putting the tap on the parent.

True enough... I have known some younger people that had irresponsible parents where the child was more responsible. But in most cases, sober and mature thought is directly proportional to age!

Ceberon - On your original question about how to approach it... what you are considering just sounds a little like a preemptive warning. It is presumptive and will sound rude. It will just result in hurt feelings.

Bottom-line. It is difficult to save people from themselves.
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Old 07-02-2007, 09:09 PM   #12
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DW and I hope to never need any money from our kids. If either of them told me they wouldn't help us if needed that would be the end of any money for them. I would leave our money to a dog pound and that would be that. After what we did for our kids, college, cars, help with houses, one wedding and everything else they could think of I would be one unhappy camper if they had the nerve to tell us we were on our own.
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Old 07-02-2007, 09:24 PM   #13
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One way to head this off, especially if you're already RE, is to say things like "We're retired now. I think we saved enough. At least I hope we saved enough. If not ..."

They'll be afraid YOU'll be hitting THEM up for money.
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Old 07-02-2007, 10:27 PM   #14
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I like RunningBum's approach. If the subject of $ comes up just mention that you are scraping by and saving enough to meet emergency needs.

Make your goal of early retirement just between you and your spouse. When it happens you can dream up a song.. something like 'all our savings are locked up in an investment that only dribbles out money to pay the bills. We have a little set aside for ... education, or in a health savings account (as applicable).'
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Old 07-02-2007, 10:30 PM   #15
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Any letter indicating that you will not be supporting them will be hurtful and disrespectful. How would you feel when your kids telling you might be a burden and all you care is saving money for yourself after what you have provided for them all those years? It's true that we should not expect anything in return for raising and nurturing our kids. However, it is easier said than done since we are emotional beings. How can say no to our parents who have sacrificed so much for us? How can we walk away when they are in need of help?
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Old 07-02-2007, 10:31 PM   #16
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I believe in duty to family, even if they screw up. We needed to wait to retire so that there was enough padding in our budget to at least help somewhat when certain relatives get into bad situations. I also talked to a cousin of mine who is fairly well off and she also is available to help financially when needed.

Everyone has to look into there own heart and decide what they will do when worse comes to worse. It is easy to say you will draw lines at this or that, but until you have experienced real need by people you care about, you don't really know what you will do.

I did tell my sibs that when I retired, I would not be able to be as generous as I once was, but nevertheless they should let me know if they need help so we could try our best to figure things out. That help doesn't always include money. It may be as simple as a ride someplace. I should say that my sibs are not spendthrifts, which may have altered my thinking. Or at least how I would approach giving.
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Old 07-02-2007, 10:46 PM   #17
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I like RunningBum's approach. If the subject of $ comes up just mention that you are scraping by and saving enough to meet emergency needs.

Deception or dishonesty is undesirable. We need to be honest. If you are really care about their well beings and financial situations, express your desire to help them in a sincere way and be clear that it will not a handout. You are here to help them to save, invest and manage their money.
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Old 07-02-2007, 10:49 PM   #18
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In reality, Martha's post is more what I'm like. They all know I'm not a soft touch but I'll help if it's right. But it won't always be right just because they ask. I suspect it will come up at some point with one or two sibs.
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Old 07-02-2007, 10:58 PM   #19
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I wouldn't throw our parents to the wolves by any means. What I want to do is lower the chances that we'll be forced to financially assist a parent who didn't plan their own retirement well.

If worst comes to worst, my wife and I will un-retire and go back to work to pay for our parents. I'd hate for it to happen, which is why I'm doing my best to head that off at the pass.

I Know her parents didn't plan ahead, they've told me enough about their finances to know they're heading quickly towards a brick wall. They've said "We'll have to sell the house or something". That leads me to believe that they're willing to become homeless rather than slow down their spending.

My thought is that if I could somehow remove the idea of "We'll just stay at the kids house if we have to sell ours", then they'd be more likely to cut down on their expenses.

That's why I said I wanted to figure out a polite way to get that idea across.. IE, we're not saving up $5 Million and retiring, we're saving up Just enough to retire and not a penny more.

Plus, I figure the more often I mention retirement, savings, etc, the more likely it is that my parents and sisters will save a bit more. The topic certainly comes up a lot more now that my wife and I have made it clear that we'll retire before we're 40. That seems to get a lot of people interested.
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Old 07-02-2007, 11:34 PM   #20
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We supported the MIL to the tune of about 5K which was fine.

My parents still give me money since they give my sisters money and they want to be fair.

Of course, they are the ones who taught me to LBMM.
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