When Your Parents Need Help

by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA

A new Starbucks just opened a block from my office – what a treat! It was an even bigger treat to run into an old friend there yesterday. Catching up over lattes (hot chocolate for me since I am pregnant), I learned that she has a fabulous new job, a gorgeous husband, and the best son in the world. Unfortunately, she is unable to enjoy any of it because she is so worried about her parents. Picking up their mail the other day, she found numerous overdue bills. Even worse, when she asked them about it, they acted very strange. In case you are one of the many people whose aging parents may need some financial assistance, here are a few tips: 

  1. Be courteous. True, they may have made mistakes or be desperate for money, but nothing will get easier if you start bossing them around. Chances are, it is not easy for them to ask for your help – even less easy to accept it. Don’t make things any harder than they need to be. 
  2. Gather all the facts. If you are going to straighten out their money problems, you need to see everything – every bank account, IRA, 401(k), insurance policy and credit card account that they may have. Only when you have a 360-degree view can you make sound decisions.
  3. Think long-term - in this case all the way to the end (for them, that is). Don’t start pouring money over them, but rather work out a long-term plan for how you can restructure their finances to make their dollars last longer. Then fill in the holes where needed.