Here are some questions and answers about helping aging parents:
How can I keep my own retirement savings on track while helping my parents?
People tend to quickly say yes when a parent asks for help. But it’s important to examine your own budget and retirement plans, and calculate how much you can realistically spend over time. Adults should ask, “How much can I help without hurting myself?” said Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist. You may want to consult an online retirement calculator or a financial planner if you can afford one, to help analyze your situation.
If you decide you can help financially, be clear about how much you can provide and what the money is to be used for so boundaries are established upfront, said Julie Fortin, a financial planner in Windham, N.H.
If there isn’t much extra money to spare but you are determined to help, you may have to cut back in some way — say, postpone buying a new car — to free up cash. You could consider reducing what you contribute to your own retirement savings, but eliminating contributions is unwise.
“Don’t stop your own savings,” said Erin Wood, a planner and wealth adviser in Omaha. “You don’t want to end up in the same situation your parents are in.”
What if I’m reluctant to press my parents for details about their finances?
“Most people don’t feel confident talking to their parents about money,” Ms. Wood said. And parents may feel embarrassed or ashamed about asking for help, which can make a discussion even more difficult.
So accept that the conversation will be awkward — but have it anyway.
To avoid misunderstandings, it’s best to begin talking when parents first ask for help, Ms. Wood said. Don’t be shy about requesting details about their finances, she said. “No one should give an open checkbook to a parent, or to anyone.”
Pinpointing the reason for their cash shortage can help identify possible solutions. If it’s a costly medical prescription, you can help identify options like taking a generic drug or using a money-saving mobile app. If your parents are spending a lot of money on entertainment, they may be bored and need some structured activities — perhaps a part-time job or volunteer work, if they’re able.
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