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Should you help your aging parents financially?


This is a tough question that will affect more and more of us every day. Pensions are becoming rarer and most people retiring today have very little retirement savings. Luckily, social security is still paying out, but that might change in the future. People are also living longer these days and it’s easy to see that more and older retirees will need help financially.

Some background

Of course, you should help your parents out if they need it. For me, the question really is how much I should help my parents. I come from an Asian background and our culture expects the kids to support their parents in their old age. I saw this with my maternal grandmother. She was my only grandparents who lived longer. She had 9 kids and they all chipped in to support her when she retired. I know this is common with other cultures too.

should you help your parents financially?Now that my parents are getting older, I’ll have to think about this more. My dad is still making money from his various hustles, but we don’t know how long that will last. He rents out his condos in Chiang Mai to Japanese retirees, day trades, sells Buddha amulets, and lends money. However, he is 67 now and he is starting to slow down a bit. My mom is splitting time in Thailand with staying with us to help raise Baby RB40 and she doesn’t have any income.

The problem with their retirement is that they won’t have much income. They don’t have pensions and they don’t qualify for social security benefits because they didn’t earn 40 credits. The worked in the US for many years, but just didn’t make enough to qualify. They have some assets, but I don’t think that is going to last long once they start to live off of it. My dad invests in Thailand’s stock market, but I don’t trust him at all. He doesn’t believe in dividends and only trades for short term gains. He makes good income from IPOs though. He gets some shares from the underwriting broker somehow and always makes a bundle whenever there is an IPO.

My dad is a unique case. He was orphaned at 8 years old and he has always fought for everything he got. He never asked anyone for anything and he won’t ask for financial assistance from his kids. He doesn’t mind it if I send him money though. FYI, it is very common for Asian people to send money to their parents. When I was making a good salary, I sent anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 per year to my parents. Now that I don’t have a corporate job anymore, I’m not sending them much.

Help out financially

I will have to keep a close eye on my parent’s finances because at some point we’ll have to help out more. Luckily, I have 2 brothers who have good jobs and are willing to help out financially. We would like our parents to spend more time in the US as they get older so we can keep an eye on them. This will cost more than them retiring in Thailand.

My mom has been staying with us for almost 6 months now and our monthly expense hasn’t increased much. She eats what we eat and doesn’t buy anything. By staying with us, her cost of living is very low.

The only big problem is healthcare. She can’t get health insurance because she has some pre-existing conditions: glaucoma and cataract. These things need to be monitored on a regular basis. Luckily, Portland has some healthcare assistance for low income people. She was able to see an optometrist and pay minimally because she doesn’t have any income. It’s not an ideal situation to not have health insurance, but we are making it work for now. She plans to go back to Thailand a few months per year and she can get a complete health check there. She can also get any needed procedures because Thailand has public healthcare. I’m hoping to get emergency health insurance for her later this year.

Make a plan

For the long term, I would like my parents to move into a condo nearby. I went in with my brother on a one bedroom condo a few years ago for this purpose. It is being rented out right now and makes enough to break even. Once they move in, the 3 of us can share the costs of their condo and groceries. They can live in the US part time and go visit Thailand a few months per year to take care of any big health issues. At some point they will qualify for Medicaid, so that should help us out.

Here are some points that I learn so far

  • It’s probably better for them to spend all their money first. That way they will qualify for many services for low income/asset people like Medicaid and food assistance program.
  • Keep the condo in our name so we can deduct tax.
  • Combining households is a great way to cut expenses, but it can be quite difficult.
  • We’d better treat our parents right so Baby RB40 sees a good example and treats us well when he is a billionaire.

How about you? Would you be willing to help out your parent financially? Assuming they are not extravagant, I think we are obligated to help out. I don’t mind paying for my mom’s cost of living at all. It’s not all that expensive because she is also very frugal. If she insists on driving a luxury car and spa visits, then it might be a different story.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 60 comments… add one }
  • [email protected] April 24, 2013, 12:42 am

    I did! I don’t even see it as a cultural matter (though in Southern Europe the expectations are that you don’t leave your parents – which seems fair). For me it was a matter of love and respect – I could do it and I did help my parent financially for over 10 years. It was an honour and I am even a bit sad that now I don’t do it any longer (they both passed away).

    • retirebyforty April 24, 2013, 9:13 am

      Sorry to hear that. I think helping parent or kids out is just natural.

  • GregoryT April 24, 2013, 1:24 am

    I think you are right to show BRB40 good traditions in taking care of those before you.
    I saw that in my parents, when taking care of their parents, and I’ll try to do the same
    for them when/if they need me to. They’re in their 70’s, but still pretty independent.

    Financially, dad was an accountant and so was sis… I went in the tech direction.
    Mom and dad have done well at making sure they are financially okay until the end, I believe.
    And if not, me and my sis will find ways to make sure they are.
    And I’m guessing dad will be skyping with somebody the day he dies, and mom may be playing some kind of online scrabble.
    IOW, there’s many pieces to that puzzle, and I think that’s what they might call quality of life. Finding ways to enable people to do, what they love doing, until the end.

    In your circumstances, sorry for this long winded email, but I’m a nightowl, so ramble on I do, and I’m also interested in what your best options are.

    I don’t want to fire up any political, Obamacare, or whatever it might be called controversial topics on this. I’m more interested in learning the facts, and options, from real people that aren’t trying to sell me something. I think I get that from RB40’s blog – good, honest info.

    So with that in mind…
    RB40, could it make sense to get place in Canada for your parents to live?
    Oregon, Canada – not that far apart.
    Canada seems like a peaceful place to live and I’ve been there on a few vacations that were amazing.

    So then healthcare comes to mind.
    I don’t follow this well – so please don’t consider me any kind of expert in this area – I’m asking, more than saying, this is how it is.

    How true are these?


    Would it make sense for you to buy your parents a place in Canada rather than local?


    • retirebyforty April 24, 2013, 9:17 am

      I don’t think it’s that easy to immigrate to Canada as a retiree. Usually a country want immigrants who can contribute. I don’t think they would welcome a penniless retiree…
      I think it’s a perfectly valid option to immigrate to Canada for a job right before you retire though.

    • Sidney Levesque April 25, 2013, 7:05 am

      Elderly parents should live close by. Imagine the cost of having to travel to Canada or Thailand when they get sick and need help or have surgery? Also, when elderly parents live far away, you don’t notice subtle cognitive changes that might be taking place that are red flags and could indicate they shouldn’t be living alone anymore or they should have someone coming to their home daily to check on them. Sometime phone calls just don’t tell you the whole story.

      • retirebyforty April 25, 2013, 9:03 am

        That’s true about the cognitive problem. Even a short visit isn’t the same as living nearby.

  • First Gen American April 24, 2013, 1:45 am

    I guess it depends. Of course I’d help my mom. She would give the shirt off her back for me and I’d do the same. If my dad were still alive though, I probably wouldn’t help him..but he ran off with what little savings we had and then tried to sell the house we were in from under us and leave us with nothing. Oh and had a gambling and drinking problem too. I can’t see how giving money to him would do anything positive. Thankfully he died long ago (during this whole sell the house business), so I’ve never had to face that moral question with him.

    Like many immigrants, it sounds like your parents did everything they could with the means they had to give you a better life. It’s only fair to repay those sacrifices and help them enjoy their old age. I think it’s only in America where the multigenerational home is seen as unusual.

    • retirebyforty April 24, 2013, 9:18 am

      I hear you. It depends on how they treated the family when we’re growing up. That’s why I want to set a good example to show our kid. When we’re old and penniless, we can crash at his place. 🙂

  • Bobby @ Ban Excuses April 24, 2013, 3:11 am

    I’m curious, why you didn’t think about these things before you retired? As they say, “put all of your ducks in a row.”

    • retirebyforty April 24, 2013, 9:19 am

      My brothers can take up the bulk of the financial support if I can’t. That’s why it’s not a huge deal. They can retire in Thailand and just visit once in a while as well if healthcare become a big issue.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor April 24, 2013, 6:13 am

    I’m fascinated by the differences between cultures. I can imagine my Dad’s reaction if I sent him some money–he recently caused a major scene in a restaurant when I tried to pick up the check! Seems the expectation in the West is for the parents to leave a decent inheritance for the kids, not for the kids to contribute to their parents’ support in their elder years.

    • retirebyforty April 24, 2013, 9:20 am

      I think that’s because previous generation were relative well off and have some saving. Things will get tougher for retirees soon and I’m sure we will see more multi-generation household in the future.

    • Jason April 24, 2013, 2:57 pm

      That’s so funny – my dad is the same way. “I don’t need charity!” He still treats me like a broke college kid and sends $20 in a card each birthday 🙂

  • Moon April 24, 2013, 6:45 am

    I am helping out my mom financially already. She hasn’t worked since we were borned (me, my twin and my younger sister) and I don’t think she actually has any skills to find a decent job. I send her $1300 every 2 months. Both of my sisters also give her allowance every month too, just not as much as me, since I live further (they still all live in Hong Kong) and I make more money. She is not working and has no grandkids to take care of, my only concern is that she is not saving up what we gave her and just spends it very unwisely. My mom is very secretive about her money and no matter how many times I told her “Mom, please save up what I gave you, don’t just blow it on something stupid. This is my hard earned money and you cannot count on the money keep coming – what if I lose my job one day or I die?”. She looks at it as “her money” and don’t want us to ask about it. It is definitely my biggest concern of helping out parents finanically.

    • retirebyforty April 24, 2013, 9:22 am

      Maybe she is saving the money you sent. You never know, right?
      Thanks for sharing your story. We all help out when we can too. Luckily I have two brothers who can help out.
      It’s going to be tough for future generations who only have a single child.

    • Narendra Singh December 26, 2014, 9:49 am

      I’m Indian and yes, I know that we need to take care of our parents. But the problem here is my parents were incredibly bad with money made wrong choices and lost everything. Despite this they sent me to the best schools and paid for my education and I had all intentions of taking care of them but that resolution is wavering. For one, my parents lived a very lavish lifestyle and were always concerned about status in society. That has made me very weary of status symbol and I like to live very within my means. Depsite all the economic suffering, they don’t seem to have learned their lesson. My father is not retired and my mother runs a small business, and they live in a rented house ( they owned a house they could not afford). Now they want me to buy them a house in a luxurious building and pretty much support them through out their retirement.Everytime, I tell them to cut down on spending or that they should look for something less expensive they guilt trip me by saying half their money problem was because of my education.( I’m an only child by the way) Now I feel resentful because I feel like they saw me as an investment rather than a child they wanted to educated and nurture. It’s not like I’m not willing to help them buy a house, but I cannot and DONOT want to be in the same situation as them. I live in small apartment, I’m saving for retirement, health care and don’t really spend on anything. To make me buy a house I cannot afford will upend my financial future. How is that fair? My dad and mom called me one day saying they needed money urgently and they were desperate, so I ran out got money from my credit cards and sent it to them and then months later I found out it was for some jewelry scheme my mother was involved in that needed to be paid every month. Really, you need jewelry for what?! How do you think that makes me feel? Every time I call them, they are either sick or they hint at money problems. Call me whatever you want to, I’m not funding my parents out of reality spending or helping them maintain status quo. I want a peaceful life, not a rich or a luxurious life something my parents are hell bent on upending!

      • retirebyforty December 27, 2014, 5:35 am

        Sorry to hear that. It’s tough to be in that kind of situation. Maybe you need to sit down with them and set clear expectations. Tell them you can afford to give them a certain amount of money each month. It will help them with their retirement, but they will need to cut back. Good luck. I hope you find a good compromise that works for everyone. I know it’s difficult. We’re having the same issue with my dad.

  • Jonathan April 24, 2013, 8:29 am

    I have been supporting my parents for 13 years now. I have 4 siblings but they do not feel the same desire as I do to help out. So I am basically their only source of income. I probably have given them enough money through the years to retire on. But I do it out of love. They raised me and took care of me when I was young. This is how I am paying them back.

    • retirebyforty April 24, 2013, 9:24 am

      Sorry to hear that. It’s sad that you sibling don’t feel the same way. I wonder how siblings can turn out so differently. They are all raised the same way, right? Luckily, my brothers feels the same way as I do and they are helping out.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina April 24, 2013, 9:17 am

    I give my mom a couple hundred bucks every time I see her. Every two months between $300-$500. I also pay for a couple of minor bills. She usually saves this money (I see it since I have access to her bank accounts) or buys something for my brother or I.
    My parents were immigrants to this country, and my mom hasn’t worked in the system to gain social security benefits. She was a housewife, and then started cleaning houses.
    My plan is to help her financially. I have projected/estimated I will have to give her around $1500 a month x 12 = $18,000 to live by. If I can I will try to give her more. The plan is to split her cost of living costs with my brother once he starts working. But he is only 16 now, and still has several years before he starts making an income post college. He and I have both agreed on this, and I would hold him to it! Believe me.
    This means I need to increase my income over the next two years by $20,000 minimum. It’s my motivation to work hard and hustle on the side.
    I do know I don’t particularly want my mom living with us right now. In the future, as she gets older, I’ll have to think of ways to add a mother in law suite to our property or buy a house nearby.

    • retirebyforty April 24, 2013, 10:35 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story. I like my mom living with us because she helps a ton with our kid. I know I can’t live with my dad though. He is very disruptive. That’s why we got the 1 bedroom condo. They can move in there and still be close to us.
      $1,500/month is a lot of money! We will have similar outlay once they move into this condo. Luckily my brothers will help out as well.
      A mother in law suite is a good idea.

  • Anil @ PeerCube April 24, 2013, 9:52 am

    I have been supporting my parents financially for now over 15 years. This is what I learnt from my experience and goes contrary to some of your thoughts. I have been sending 5-7x of money you send to your parents every year.

    “I will have to keep a close eye on my parent’s finances because at some point we’ll have to help out more.”

    What I learnt that not to give them lump-sum amount every year. Instead I setup an automatic transfer every month. This allows them to have constant cash flow but not too much money at one time that relatives/friends ask for loan that never gets paid back or they blow it in few months and then struggle rest of the year.

    “This will cost more than them retiring in Thailand.”

    Definitely it will cost 10x in US of what it will cost them to live in Thailand excluding any healthcare costs. Plus they will become dependent on you not only financially but also emotionally, physically, and every which way for support. Plus you are uprooting them at old age from their familiar surroundings and friends/family/relatives support system they have known for all their life. Put yourself in their shoes and think how you would handle such changes when you get old.

    Also, one major health scare with your parents will force you out of retirement yourself. Last year, my Mom had knee surgery. It cost me one-tenth of what would have cost me if my parents were in US. I could easily afford such surgery in India and pay cash but there is no way I could do the same in US.

    A few years ago, my Mom had heart attack while she was visiting my sister on east coast, the cost would have bankrupted my sister if not for her network in immigrant charities who picked up over 100K in hospital bills.

    “By staying with us, her cost of living is very low.”

    Her cost of living is very low because she is living with you and it is just incremental cost of one extra person. If you execute on the plan of having them in separate condo, there cost of living will go very high. I would assume it will be atleast 50% of what your cost of living is excluding healthcare cost. Healthcare cost is a big unknown.

    “She plans to go back to Thailand a few months per year and she can get a complete health check there.”
    “They can live in the US part time and go visit Thailand a few months per year to take care of any big health issues.”

    Your parents can do this when they are relatively healthy. Once they get older and not as healthy, it will be a pain for them to travel between US and Thailand. My parents are now at the age where they hate long international flights and such flights are very uncomfortable and taxing on their health. They used to travel every year but now they complain even traveling to US once every 5 years.

    Overall IMO, I believe your parents and you will be well off if they stay in Thailand and you support them financially from US. I will suggest you and your brothers to visit them regularly. You can build a nice support system for them at the fraction of the cost of living in US or they can live like a King in Thailand for the amount you will spend on them in US.

    • retirebyforty April 24, 2013, 10:41 pm

      Sure, it’s much more affordable for them to live in Thailand. Traveling long distance is a pain and it will be much more difficult once they are older. Thanks for sharing your experience.
      They lived in the US before so it’s not a huge deal to move here. Yes, once they move into a separate condo the cost will go up. That’s mostly due to the housing cost. My brothers will pick up most of that cost though. They can claim my parent as dependents and also deduct mortgage interest on the condo. It will still be expensive, but I’d rather have my parent nearby if possible.
      We’ll see how it goes.
      Healthcare is the biggest problem, but we’ll get them emergency health insurance later this year. They should be able to get medicaid in a few years as well.

      • Alice April 26, 2013, 7:10 pm

        I am being the devil’s advocate here… I understand my statement will be unpopular. (I too am an immigrant and am my grandmother’s and mom’s retirement plan. Both have worked in the US 26+ years.)
        Have they earned income in the US? Can they qualify for Medicare/Medicaid based on no earned income?
        How moral is it for American tax payers to support your aging parent’s lack of financial planning? Especially since your parents have affordable healthcare in Thailand. By living in the US, they are living out of their means and unless you and the brothers can support them 100% I find the notion of them moving here to apply for welfare immoral.
        Also, my grandmother’s SS was so low she qualified for Medicaid part B. if you have family member’s financial support, that counts as “income” (she had to declare I cover her housing by doing what you plan to, putting her up in a condo).

        Good luck. Sorry if this seems harsh.

        • retirebyforty April 26, 2013, 11:47 pm

          Yes, they worked for 10+ years in the US, but had some gaps in income so they don’t have the required 40 credits for social security benefit.
          How moral is it for American tax payers to support anyone’s lack of financial planning? There are 14 million people getting disability benefit from the government and a lot of people on medicaid.
          I have paid hundred of thousand dollars in taxes and no one in my family have received a cent in aid so far. Why should I feel bad if my mom apply for medicaid once she run out of money?

          • Diane C April 28, 2013, 6:09 pm

            You should feel bad if:
            1. She is not entitled to it, for whatever reason.
            2. She is living in this country because you want her to. Just because others may (or may not be) gaming the system doesn’t make it right or moral for you and your family to do so.

            As to what you have paid in taxes thus far: completely irrelevent to your mother’s situation. Your taxes pay for your future benefits, not your mother’s.

          • retirebyforty April 29, 2013, 1:37 pm

            She also paid tax when she worked here. I think that entitled her to get some benefit. If she doesn’t qualifies, the screener will turn her down, right?

  • Jason April 24, 2013, 12:03 pm

    This is a tough question. My folks look like they are going to be fine for the long haul. But assuming that parents need some help, it’s a fine line between help and enablement. I’ve met people that have very irresponsible parents and because of this, they need help ALL the time, only it never seems to actually help.

    I’m also seeing people my age with kids that are on the road to that state too. They have a low-paying job, lost their house, inheritance from *their* parents already spent, etc and their kids will have next to nothing growing up. Assuming these kids can help when they start working, how much should those kids help their folks?

  • krantcents April 24, 2013, 1:56 pm

    I was lucky that my mother supported herself until she died at almost 99 year sold. If she hadn’t I would have helped by probably having her live with us.

  • [email protected] April 24, 2013, 1:57 pm

    It seems that the best situation is to help financially, but not so much that people expect it and use it as a crutch that they assume will always be there.

  • nicoleandmaggie April 24, 2013, 3:43 pm

    Shouldn’t you be paying her childcare?

    • retirebyforty April 24, 2013, 10:45 pm

      Yes, I give her cash. I’ve been meaning to look into setting up some kind of nanny payment. It might be more advantages when we file tax, but I don’t really know.

      • Alice April 26, 2013, 7:13 pm

        She would have to pay tax on the “nanny” income.
        Legally you can claim her as a dependent since you provide over 50% of her living expenses, FYI. Tax advantage.

  • The College Investor April 24, 2013, 7:53 pm

    I will if I have to! People often consider getting old and retiring as a part of life where they can afford to take it easy, but reading through your post gives a more realistic idea of what old age will be like for some people and why children need to support financially. It’s really not just a cultural thing because in some parts of the world, children are not expected to take care of their elders, but it does not mean they shouldn’t. The same goes for a society where people are expected to take of their elders, but it does not mean they should if the parents can well afford to take care of themselves. It really depends on the situation.

  • papadad April 24, 2013, 8:21 pm

    Joe – not having medical insurance on your mom while she is in the USA is a risky and dangerous predicament. Perhaps Obamacare will allow her to get a policy for major medical (presuming she is not covered by medicare or social security) for a reasonable price. I dont know. It’s certainly something i would consider – never travel to a country without health insurance (or in case of Thailand or India or other low cost location, self insure, ie, cover via cash)

    Things like stroke can turn into huge expenses if they suddenly happen while your mom is in USA…. think taking care of Baby RB40 is hard? Dealing with a non-insured parent when they have suffered a stroke, do not have medicare, or insurance at all etc could cause total financial destruction for your mom/dad as well as you if you need to step in and support care. Hospital care, on going medicines, whew.. huge burden.

    This is where long term care insurance, good health insurance that is global in nature really need to be a part of retirement planning.

    My dad is what I would call “insurance rich” but financially not well off at all ….. having opted to use his savings and modest income to buy good long term care and health insurance to “keep him alive” as he hits various health troubles. He is 77, still working 36hrs per week despite fighting cancer (x2 types) . He lives alone (divorced years ago)

    My mom on other hand gets a tiny SS check each month, lives in an unnecessarily huge house (afraid to leave the family homestead) all alone, has suffered lung and brain cancer, 2 strokes, and other ailments, has only minimal health insurance, and no long term care / nursing home insurance. She was too proud to take SS disability at 57 and is now turing 70 and being a teacher, got almost no credits in SS so her check today is tiny.

    It pains me to see them “suffer” and we kids live in 4 corners of the world,….far far from them. I’ve tried to help (23 years in Asia has rubbed off on me, I believe the whole filiel piety concept is noble, just, and in many cases…required) . but also think I need to wait as long as possible before stepping in to help…simply because my mom’s desire to be independent is the very reason i think she is alive (stubborn old goat syndrome).

    This is a financial and emotional big issue – we are sadly a sandwich generation. Not easy dealing with kids, aging parents and our own financial future security. The need to care for aging parents has partially limited my ability to think logically about retirement any time soon — just too many uncertainties lying out there to make me feel confident to pull the retirement switch now.

    Then there are the excuses… maybe when parents are gone…kids out of college…etc etc… then I will be 65 and so much for ER. Ah well.

    Life is …. Good ….

    • retirebyforty April 24, 2013, 10:51 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story. I agree that having no medical insurance is not a good idea. We’re hoping to get emergency health insurance for her later this year when she turn 65. I don’t think long term care insurance is in the card though.
      If she needs long term care, we’d probably opt for moving her back to Thailand. It’s much more affordable there.
      They don’t have much asset in the US so I figure, the hospital won’t be able to collect much anyway.
      It seems like you either have to have good insurance or just no money at all to be able to handle healthcare here.

  • Squirrelers April 24, 2013, 9:28 pm

    I think in most cases, there is an obligation to help parents. That is, if they truly need the help. My father doesn’t like me paying for things for him, and I respect that. My parents were great to me growing up, and I feel like they would deserve being taken care of if they truly needed assistance later, as that would just seem natural. Respect for elders is a great thing.

  • Pauline April 25, 2013, 1:15 am

    I would help in whatever I can, especially since they look financially savvy. If my parents were a financial wreck, I would pay their mortgage and bills, fill their fridge and let them settle the rest.

    • retirebyforty April 25, 2013, 9:01 am

      That’s a good policy. I’ll probably do the same with a little extra spending money now and then.

  • Kris @ Everyday Tips April 25, 2013, 5:01 am

    I help now and have for a long time. It would be really hard though if the parent(s) didn’t manage their money well and expected others to pick up the slack.

    It is interesting how it can be cultural too. I know many people who just know that their parents will live with them as they get older, it is just how life is.

    You son is getting so big, and is still adorable!

    • retirebyforty April 25, 2013, 9:02 am

      He is adorable, but he is such a typical terrible 2s boy. He doesn’t listen to anything we say and it’s hard to keep my patience with him. He’s still a lot of fun though.

  • Greg April 25, 2013, 8:43 am

    I somewhat have the opposite issue. My parents continue to give my brothers and I money and we yell at them to stop and enjoy it for themselves. So, I look forward to the day that I could convince my parents to take a little charity rather than give it, but I don’t see that happening.

  • Diane C April 25, 2013, 7:37 pm

    “[T]hey don’t qualify for social security benefits because they didn’t earn 40 credits.”
    Followed by:
    “Luckily, Portland has some healthcare assistance for low income people. She was able to see an optometrist and pay minimally because she doesn’t have any income.”
    Followed by:
    ?It’s probably better for them to spend all their money first. That way they will qualify for many services for low income/asset people like Medicaid and food assistance program.
    And then this:
    ?When giving money, give cash so there are no bank records. If you have $10,000 in the bank, you probably aren’t going to qualify for low income benefit.

    If you and your family want your parents to live in this country, then you should be prepared to cover ALL of their expenses. This whole article makes me very uncomfortable. Helping your parents is admirable. Helping your parents by gaming the system, not so much.

    • retirebyforty April 25, 2013, 10:42 pm

      My mom worked and paid tax in the US for many years. She just didn’t make much money and did not earn 40 credits.
      They didn’t just immigrate here this year. The system is design to help poor people just like them. Is it wrong to receive assistance?
      I paid hundred of thousands in tax over my career and haven’t even receive a single cent in assistance.

  • [email protected] Guy,Skinny Wallet April 26, 2013, 7:56 am

    We help out my mom with certain things when she needs it. We really aren’t in a position financially to help much, but we are better off than her. She is currently living with her parents and taking care of them ( in their 80s). When they pass away, she will be living with us to help us with the kids and we will help her financially by allowing her to live with us.

  • Cindy Brick May 2, 2013, 1:09 pm

    This is one of your best, Joe — very thorough, yet brings up questions that make us think.

    I agree that the gorilla in the room is healthcare. If my folks hadn’t purchased a cancer insurance plan decades ago (it’s not available anymore, darn it), my dad’s multiple myeloma would have bankrupted them, in spite of Medicare and other insurance. It took him 3 years to die — and those cancer meds are insanely expensive.

  • Zimmy May 2, 2013, 6:04 pm

    Honestly, if there isn’t anyone else around that can help your parent(s) and they need help, I would suggest that you help them. I am not saying to cover their bills 100% but you can still offer help in whatever ways that you can. You will find that looking at yourself in the mirror is easier if you do so.

  • thatgirljj May 6, 2013, 9:28 am

    This is an interesting discussion. My family is lucky to have 3 grandparents who prepared well for their retirement, but one who disasterously has not, and now has health problems, extensive debt and needs assistance. Thankfully she has medicare and limited social security benefits, and we’re sharing the responsibility for her with an equally frugal family member. But it’s still hard for me not to be a little resentful of that line item on the budget. Thank you for the reminder that this is something of my cultural paradigm speaking, and that it’s very common to take this on with grace and a positive attitude.

  • Jeanne May 10, 2013, 6:59 pm

    Great topic. I guess I am fortunate in that my father provided for himself and he’s in a nice Nursing Home. My mother passed away of cancer before she even had the need for long-term care.

    But, should my father ever need it, I will do everything I can to care for him.


  • davidmichael July 3, 2013, 9:24 am

    Interesting topic. Since I am 76, I’ll share some of my own experiences. (Retired for 20 years after selling my own company.)

    We expected to be making $10,000 a month in retirement. But…lost my pension in a divorce, and my second wife’s annuity company went bankrupt. Stuff happens, that’s life! So we live on Social Security and enjoy every day. Some of our investments went south (stocks) but others (I-Bonds and Homes) have done well. And we have a cash bucket that we replenish through work every five years or so. I enjoy the financial challenge and it makes me feel part of society rather than depending on someone else. In other words, our independence is very important.

    As a result we don’t want any money from our five children. They have their own expenses and I do not want to be a finanical burden, although I must say that four of them have really done well (as MDs and Hi Tech).

    They do small things for us, like fly my wife to see them several times a year. This year, our doctor daughter is taking us on vacation with her family for a week on the Maine Seacoast where I grew up. We love those contributions. On the other had, one family just bought a condo with the possibilities of having us use it in our later years. That kind of threw me on tilt. Don’t want anyone paying our rent, regardless of our age. Then they bought my wife an I-Phone and want to pay the costs as part of a company plan. That was tough since we had planned to buy one in a few months by ourselves. Autonomy is very important as an American male. Finally, I said it’s OK and now my wife talks daily with the kids so it does save us some expense. Most importantly, my wife is super happy to talk with the kids all the time and even sometimes with the grandkids, who are totally programmed into one thing or another.

    When we are in our nineties, maybe the story will be different. With my wife’s family, all five kids bought their house when the parents were about 85. It worked out well, as we gave them monthly payments to add to their social security income. They passed away at 95 and we just sold their house this year for a small gain. So, in summary, be careful about taking care of your parents in old age in our culture. I know that it is traditional in other cultures (like the Middle East and Asia) to take care of them. Here, we value independence and autonomy. I tell my wife and kids, when I can’t pay the bills and bicycle across country, shoot me or send me downhill on my bike where there is a steep turn. Sounds nuts, but this is America where being self sufficient is part of our DNA.

  • Andie July 10, 2013, 12:42 pm

    Whether you would want to help your elderly parents at their retirement depends on couple of variables:

    1) did they take care of you when you were growing up?
    2) are they frugal at the point of retirement?
    3) what is your own finanical situation?

    In my case, my parents provided room and board, but were phsyically and emotionally absent in our childhood. They were too pre-occupied with their serveral business ventures, and were millionaires, but they did not have the time nor interest to spend time with my brother and I. So we don’t know our parents at all, and did not have any family experience from them. For awhile we felt like we were orphans.

    Since they burned all of their assets, millions gone… flew to US and expected the children to take them in and take care of them. My brother laughed and shutted the door in their face. I was nice enough to helped them out by getting them a place to live.

    Now, their spending behavior seems to carry over from their past. They are spending money on eating out, shopping, taking friends out to dinner, gambling, you name it. They are spending more than me! When I advised them to slow down, they accuse me of
    threatening them and telling them they are not worthly to live. Right down nasty.

    So for my case, I cannot see myself continuing helping these two seniors out anymore…

    • Getting To One Million April 27, 2016, 5:44 am

      I think you should throw them out and not give the a chance to come back. Stop torturing yourself.

  • FREE September 19, 2014, 2:23 am

    Provide for those who provided for, and gave birth to, you. It is an HONOR that you won’t always have, since they will eventually pass away…

    I know from personal experience that you will REGRET it if you don’t give them your best while they are alive. AND THEY SHOULD BE FREE TO SPEND HOWEVER THEY WANT, JUST AS YOU WOULD WANT TO BE FREE…

  • Josette December 7, 2015, 7:29 am

    Good Morning,

    I indeed and also believe it is honorable and respectful to help ones parents financially or otherwise. Depending on the situation, as parents become less dependant or need assistance, it should be a given to step up and help anyway possible.

    My precious Mom passed away this past April from cancer. My family and I took the initiative to ensure she was taken care of throughout her time here. This included financially and in other ways, too. Daily needs were tended to and were necessary for my mom to get adequate rest and care. As her daughter, it was a no brainer- We loved her and wanted her to be cared for. We assumed the responsibility because she mattered. I think in essence, it may depend on the relationship, circumstance, etc. on approach to helping, but overall, I think being there for ones parents in ways possible is the right thing to do.

  • Getting To One Million April 27, 2016, 5:41 am

    Fortunately, I don’t think I’ll need to help my parents financially because they live a very comfortable lifestyle and are still millionaires at age 76 and 80 and are good savers. If they ever do, I’ll help them out.

    • retirebyforty April 27, 2016, 10:49 am

      That’s great news. Have they investigated their options? My parents refuse to talk about this.

  • Susan @ FI Ideas April 20, 2018, 10:21 am

    This is a really important discussion and I think we do need to think more about this in the FI community. We have helped our in-laws so much recently, and fortunately they have so far not out-lived their money. I know that in the Asian culture, you take on the responsibility to care for your parents and it is common to have them live with you. Our Social Security system was probably devised partly to take the burden away and now we all live in huge houses, apart from each other. There is good and bad in both, as always!

    I appreciate your advise at the end of this article. Good strategies.

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