As a Financial Coach, I receive questions from people worried about their money problems. However, in the past two months I have received emails that were eerily similar. Adult children are asking “How do I help my aging parents who don’t want help”. These experienced people are getting ready to retire and don’t have a plan on how to make it happen. The husband/dad has been stripped of any financial responsibilities for past mistakes he made. To top it off they have more debt than money saved.
What happened to Grandma’s common sense?
For many baby-boomers the situation seems bleek. Papa’s income is beginning to drop and Mama was promised that she would never have to work outside of the home. Things would be better if they had saved a bunch of money for this transitional time. However, Mama has a problem with over-consumption and took control of the household finances when Papa bounced some checks many years ago.
The parents have been totally sucked into the consumerism mindset and the fiscally dysfunctional culture that we live in today. We are beginning to see this over and over: baby-boomers and retirees with no control over their spending and declining incomes. What happened to grandma’s common sense of saving up and paying for things?
My expert advice can help so long as Mama wants to fix the problem, but in this situation she doesn’t. Mama has to have at least one “inroad”, such as regret or the hope that they can make things better, in order for financial coaching to work.
When things seem hopeless
Now that I’ve set the stage and everything seems so hopeless, here are some pointers for helping aging parents who don’t want help:
- Continue finding opportunities to bring up what you have learned. Be a real-life testimony for your parents to learn from.
- Blame the CULTURE for all “easy credit” and for removing the stigma of maintaining tons of debt. This is an “I understand your difficulties, Mom and Dad” point-of-view and it might bring her closer to realizing she has a problem.
- Encourage your Dad through this difficult time. He is the best chance of making an “inroad” for change in your Mom.
- Ask them “What are you going to do when Dad stops working”? (Things that make you go hmmmmm)
- Find someone your Dad looks up to (friend, close relative, guy from church) that might be able to speak into his life.
- Did your Grandma and Grandpa die with debt (assuming they are no longer with us)? Use that as an example of how your parents aren’t living up to their examples.
- Don’t EVER say “Dave Ramsey says” unless grandmama listens to his radio show herself.
- Don’t EVER sit quietly by when the word “bankruptcy” is spoken. This is a great time to speak up and preach about personal responsibility.
- Don’t EVER give them money without a requirement for change. You can feed them but don’t pay for any of their bills or you’ll find out that your $100 payment to the electric company is the exact same amount your Mom spent at the department store the next day.
These suggestions won’t solve the problem but they will open the doors of opportunity. Giving up on them would be disrespectful, even if they tell you to buzz off and mind your own business!
Be patient and remain alert for any opportunities to help your aging parents pay attention, not interest.