Dealing with our parents' financial struggles

October 21, 2020
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By Rob Schulz

Mansfield Record

Recently, my best friend’s mom revealed to him her terrible financial situation, and that she had fallen hopelessly behind on her mortgage. Yesterday I took the day off to help him move her out of her home into an apartment. Needless to say, it was a rough day.

Having to deal with our parents’ financial struggles is a terrible experience. It’s stressful enough just trying to make sure your own financial plan is coming together for a safe retirement. Add to this the burden of unforeseen financial challenges from parents and it can all feel very unmanageable. Here are some thoughts and suggestions for getting through these difficult situations:

• Gather resources and use your network. You may need to engage with an attorney, accountant or financial planner. Don’t hesitate to seek advice and guidance. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may find financial support and guidance at the Mansfield Mission Center or the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Tarrant County. There is no reason to go it alone. Lean on your friends and connections to help come up with the best solutions.

• Don’t sacrifice yourself. It’s tempting to swoop down, be the hero and gallantly solve everybody else's problems. The issue with this is you may not be able to financially afford it. Wrecking your own finances for family members only assures there will be continual financial challenges for you and your family.

• Let them own it. It’s easy to feel guilty for their situation, but I think it’s much healthier to think of it as their problem, not yours. Provide the support, encouragement and advice they need but remember it’s their circumstance, not yours. In most cases, their situation is the result of years of poor decisions they willingly made on their own.

• Learn from it. “We are the sum total of our experiences” (From George by BJ Neblett) so use the experience as a lesson learned. A better understanding of what resources will be needed in your own retirement can be put to good use as you plan things out.

Unfortunately, financial hardship is a common problem among older retired Americans. In my friend's case, the bare-bones apartment we moved his mom into will account for 85 percent of her only regular income: Social Security. Poor financial decisions build on each other over time until finally coming to roost. It doesn’t have to turn out this way if you plan ahead and save.

Rob Schulz is a local Certified Financial Planner and author of “Thoughts on things Financial: Your Guide to a Chaotic Money World.” Reached him at You can buy his book by clicking here:

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