Helping parents in retirement

My mom is 86 years old and still lives in the house where she and my dad raised five of us in a small town in rural Minnesota. My mom has never had a driver’s license, a cell phone or a computer. We replaced a rotary phone in her house a few years ago with a push button model, and that was a big deal! From her perspective, the rotary phone worked just fine. It had a cord that was about 15 feet long. Since it was the only phone in the house that long cord was a valuable asset when we were teenagers seeking privacy while on the phone. Now a cord of any length seems incredibly cumbersome and restrictive.

My mom's lifetime of frugal spending habits have served her well. These days, she sticks strictly to her Social Security income to cover her living expenses.Mom’s lifetime of frugal spending habits have served her well. These days, she manages solely on her Social Security benefits. She has a small savings account set aside for an emergency but sticks strictly to her Social Security income to cover her living expenses. My siblings and I have each broached the topic of selling the house and moving Mom into an apartment. A few years ago, those conversations met a quick dead end, with my mom emphatically stating she had no intention of moving. Now, she is at least willing to consider the possibility. The stairs have become more challenging, the yard work needs to be hired out, and upkeep is a worry. I am encouraged that she is willing to think about a different housing arrangement, yet she remains very worried about how to pay for it. Mom grew up in the depression era and abides by the mantra, “you only buy what you can afford.” She doesn’t have a pension that provides her the security of ongoing income in retirement.

Selling her modest house would provide her with enough money to cover a few years in an apartment or assisted living. So it’s very likely that my siblings and I will need to help cover some of her future costs. While I am happy to do that, and I believe my siblings are as well, the challenge we face together is not just a financial one. The bigger challenge is mental. How do we help my mom feel okay about leaning on her kids? I want her to feel that planning for her future, whether it’s the next 2 years or the next 15 years is something we can do together and that she doesn’t need to do it alone.

In our last conversation, Mom mentioned that maybe she would wait to hit the jackpot at the church bingo event before she’d think about a possible move. Needless to say, she isn’t quite on board yet. I feel that my siblings and I are in a very fortunate position where we are able to help my mom, if we can just get her to agree! But I know that many people are not, and are struggling with their own finances and ability to save for retirement.

As a result of these discussions with our mother, it has definitely forced my siblings and me to focus more closely on our own retirement income needs and think about where our income in retirement will come from and how long it may last.

How have these conversations gone with your parents? Have you found yourself in a position to step in to offer assistance? Or maybe you had to provide financial support whether a parent wanted your help or not? How did you handle the situation and help them become comfortable with it?

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3 Responses to Helping parents in retirement

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is my first time responding, so please be patience. I am a 57 yr old single woman with 2 grown sons, who has never been married. I have a single family home that I have lived in for 11 yrs. I am a Federal Government employee with 32 yrs of service. I am eligible for retirement but can’t afford it right now. I have TSP which is my retirement but have not been putting the max in. I also have a little savings that would help out in an emergency. I plan on working another 4 yrs at the most to pay off my credit cards. As I sit here writing this, I realize I need to take action and ensure everything possible is in place or going in that direct. I know I can’t do everything, but I do realize I can continue preparing myself to prevent my sons from carrying such a large burden after I demise. My goals are to be free from debit, have my funeral plans paid and arranged, and have enough funds to ensure my sons are ok in life after I am gone. I also realize I need to speak or seek advise from someone with experience who can suggest which roads I should take. Any feedback is welcome. Thanks Sandy Allen

    • Lisa Ardrey Lisa Ardrey says:

      Sandy I think your first blog response was incredible, thank you for sharing. I also think you are on the right track in getting a better understanding of your personal and financial considerations affecting your life from your current goal of eliminating debt to your future goal of retirement. Keep in mind, that planning for achieving your goals involves multiple steps. For example, once you’ve defined your personal and financial goals, you also have to explore how you are going to accomplish those goals, implement your plan and regulary review your plan since adjustments may need to be made along the way. Finding a Financial Advisor to help you navigate your options is a good idea since they may be able to bring new clarity to your goals and enhance your confidnece in your ability to achieve them.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Laurie, there are now many more options available for seniors. Please help your mom by speaking with her, her friends, and her physician/nurse. Also take into consideration the type of care and services provided, plus the costs. In addition to assisted living facilities, etc., look into senior “village” (for seniors living on their own). Good luck.

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