Reader Question: My parents have always been bad with money, and recently they lost their home to foreclosure. They found another place to live, and they both work, but since the foreclosure my dad has been asking me for money on a regular basis. He tries to make me feel guilty, and he calls or asks me to come over to talk about it when my mom isn’t home. He even asked for half of the bonus I received at work the other day. I know they need help, but I’m not sure what to do.
I can tell you love your parents, because you’re looking for the best way to help them. I think your brain knows what to do, but your heart is having a hard time doing it.
The first thing you’re going to have to accept is your father is being very manipulative right now. Put an end to these private meetings and phone calls once and for all. If he wants to talk, make sure he understands it will only happen with your mom in the room.
Second, understand there’s nothing wrong with helping your folks get back on their feet. However, any financial help you give them should be temporary in nature, and it should be a gift. Don’t get involved in giving them money every month just because they raised you. That’s not how this works. When you permanently subsidize someone, you take away their dignity. You also change their status, and compromise their ability to stand on their own two feet.
In return, you should let them know you expect them to work toward changing their financial behaviors with the help of a quality financial counselor — one with the heart of a teacher. It’s often difficult for parents to accept advice and suggestions from their own children, but it’s for their own good. Sit down with them, and gently let them know how much you care, and how much you want better, happier lives for them.