11 Your par­ents’ debt isn’t your bur­den

Money Of­fer them sup­port that doesn’t come from the wal­let Tues­day, Oc­to­ber 10, 2017

StarMetro Vancouver - - MONEY - Gail vaz-Oxlade

While the me­dia likes to fo­cus on just what a bunch of layabouts mil­len­ni­als are, I’ve seen the other side of this coin: young peo­ple deeply con­cerned about their par­ents’ ir­re­spon­si­ble fi­nan­cial be­hav­iour.

Some young adults feel caught be­tween strug­gling with their own goals and their par­ents’ re­quests for help. Or they’re des­per­ately afraid they’re go­ing to be on the hook when mom and dad re­tire with noth­ing but a bunch of debt.

If you’ve lost sleep at night be­cause of your elders’ bad be­hav­iour with their money, it’s time for you to start treat­ing your par­ents like the grownups that they are. If they were your adult kids, I’d be telling you the same thing: hands off. This is not your prob­lem to fix.

What­ever money you’ve al­ready given them, con­sider it writ­ten off. It’s gone.

But there will be no more. You must deal with your life and your par­ents must deal with theirs. If it blows up in their faces, that’s the way it is.

You can’t be re­spon­si­ble for another per­son (un­less they are your mi­nor kids or have come to need through no fault of their own). Your par­ents have made their bed, now they must lie in it. If you con­tinue to en­able them, you have only your­self to blame for your anger and dis­quiet.

Love them. Hug them. Don’t give ’em another nickel!

I get that kids feel re­spon­si­ble for the moms and dads who raised them. It’s that very sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity to your par­ents that likely has you tak­ing good care of your own fi­nan­cial life.

But un­like the par­ent-child re­la­tion­ship in which par­ents are re­spon­si­ble for their chil­dren be­cause they chose to bring them into the world, the child-par­ent re­la­tion­ship is dif­fer­ent. Through their be­hav­iour, your par­ents set the tone for that re­la­tion­ship. Your par­ents are adults and have to as­sume the re­spon­si­bil­ity of adults: to take care of them­selves.

If you have a par­ent who is ir­re­spon­si­ble with money, a par­ent who is try­ing to guilt you into pro­vid­ing for them as they did for you as a child, a par­ent who seems to have not one iota of com­mon sense and no plan for the fu­ture, you need to rec­og­nize this is not your prob­lem.

Above all, you can­not help any­one — not even your par­ents — if that help ne­ces­si­tates putting your­self at risk. All that does is cre­ate more prob­lems.

How do you say, “No” to a par­ent you love? It’s tough. But it goes some­thing like this:

“Mom and Dad, I know you’re in a tough spot. I would be happy to help you fig­ure out how you’re go­ing to change what you’re do­ing so things can get bet­ter. And if you want me to help you find a pro­fes­sional to help, I will.

“But I’m afraid I don’t have the fi­nan­cial means to bail you out or of­fer you any sup­port. I need to take care of my fam­ily and my­self so I don’t end up where you are right now. And I am de­ter­mined to never be a bur­den on my chil­dren, so I must keep my fi­nan­cial house in or­der.

“Please let me help you fig­ure out what you have to change. I love you and want to help, but not with money.”

if they were your adult kids, i’d be telling you the same thing: hands off.

For more money ad­vice, visit Gail’s web­site at gail­va­zoxlade. com


if you’ve lost sleep at night be­cause of your par­ents’ bad be­hav­iour with their money, it’s time for you to start treat­ing them like the grownups that they are, writes Gail vaz-Oxlade.

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