If Elderly Parents Want to Offer Financial Help

January 5, 2017

“Once a parent, always a parent.” You don’t have to have your own kids to know how true that saying is, particularly if you have elderly parents in your life. That caring and nurturing impulse never fully goes away, and can certainly factor in big when grandchildren enter the picture. With adult children living independent lives, support from senior parents often comes in monetary form, and can be a welcome gesture – but things can get tricky when elderly parents are on a fixed income, yet still want to contribute financially. Adult children in these circumstances are often torn between not wanting to hurt mom or dad and not wanting to add to their financial burden. If you’re in this situation, here are 5 tips to consider:
Try to understand where Mom’s coming from. It can be tough not to get frustrated when mom’s insisting on offering help that you know she can’t comfortably provide; so start by remembering her purpose for doing so. More often than not, these gestures are coming from a good, well-meaning place – so resist the urge to reject them outright in the name of what’s prudent. From there, you can move towards identifying what makes sense for both of you.
Treat Mom like an adult. Approach the conversation head-on, and don’t try and dumb things down, or act as if she’s not the best judge of what she can provide. Speak openly and directly with her about needs that exist and let her choose a way to help.
Get creative. Look carefully at your monthly expenses, and identify tangible bite-sized pieces that Mom might take on. If you have kids, maybe offer for her to pay $30 a month towards music lessons or sports clinics; or suggest she pay a one-time yearbook fee, or cover a driver ed lesson. Alternatively, think of something you could really use but haven’t budgeted for – maybe a snowplow service in the winter months, or lawn mowing in the summer. The more specific and targeted you are, the more transparent and clearer the arrangement is for both of you.
Think ahead. Is there an upcoming event in your family, or a holiday to celebrate? Open a Christmas Club account that Mom could make small deposits into all year long. Or start a graduation fund to cover party expenses; Mom’s incremental monthly contributions could end up covering the caterer, or paying for paper goods.
Give Mom the chance to feel empowered. It’s often the people with the least to offer financially who want to help the most. Your taking the extra time to think through viable opportunities for Mom to help out will go a long way towards making her feel valued and needed.
Do you have any suggestions for us? Tell us in the comments!