Should I Bail Out Mom From Financial Struggles?

by Joe Plemon on July 4, 2009

A sign of the times
Creative Commons License photo credit: Michael (mx5tx)

Q: My mom, who is not good at money management, nevertheless handles all of her and dad’s finances. She just called to tell me that she had her car repossessed earlier this week. Mom asked me to give her $1,000 so she can get it back. She also asked me not to say anything about this to my dad. My husband and I, who do well managing our money, want to help. Should we give Mom the $1,000?

A: No, because you would be placating the symptom instead of addressing the problem. Yes, your mom has problems managing money, but your dad is also part of the problem. He needs to step up and get involved.

Your offer to help, therefore, should involve challenging your dad to own up to his responsibilities as well as helping both of your parents learn better money management. Because you do well managing your money, you could offer to share some of the money principles with them that have worked for you. If that goes well, offer to help them develop a budget. However, because most parents don’t readily accept advice from their children, don’t be surprised if they decline your offer. Should that happen, you should challenge them to seek help from a trusted family friend, pastor or professional financial counselor. If they will not consider help for their finances, they need to consider marriage counseling.

Assuming they accept help, it is essential that your parents agree to the following ground rules:

  1. Both are equally responsible for making the budget work.
  2. No secrets.
  3. They will continue to meet each month to fine tune the budget.

At this point, because they are dealing with the real problems (not the symptoms), you may consider giving your parents some short term financial help.

Hopefully, this crisis will be the catalyst that motivates your parents to face their problems. Your willingness to be involved is certainly commendable.

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