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My parents are on financial downward spiral

Let me start by saying that this probably falls under the 'MYOB' category, but you know, sometimes it's really hard when it's your own parents and you are witnessing them on the verge of financial ruin. And I apologize if this is long (again) - I just need to vent.

For as long as I can remember, my parents have always had financial problems in one form or another. How bad it was in the past, I don't really know because they did a pretty good job of keeping it from me when I was younger, but now that I'm older, I see things for what they are and it's not pretty. I think it's pretty safe to say that it's pretty much rock bottom for them. My parents have 2 mortgages on their house, god only knows how much they have in credit card debt, but I suspect that a few of those cards have been cut off, so I can only imagine how much debt it must be - they don't even pick up the phone at their house anymore because usually it's bill collectors. (my mom actually told my H this) Luckily, they have never ever asked me or H for help financially, and I?m sure they never would only because they aren't the type of people to do that. (pride) Either way, we aren't even in any position to help them financially, nor would we ever. H & I are both on the same page about this so we are mentally prepared if it ever did happen. I've offered my mother advice in hopes that she would take it to get out of the financial hole they are in, so has my H, and every single time, it's been one excuse or another, so we just gave up because we feel like it's pointless. Amazingly enough, they somehow found money to blow on a 50something inch LED television that my dad said cost them something like $2500. This was less than a year after he dropped like $2000 on a HUGE apple desktop computer. Meanwhile, my mother is always pissing and moaning about the fact that they never have money to take a proper vacation. And then will make snide remarks to me about how it must be nice that my H & I go on vacation. (Wellllll.....if they didn't spend $2500 on a stupid tv, maybe they'd have money for vacation.) Oh yea, nothing is ever their fault either when it comes to the financial problems. Not sure how they figure that, but it's always some excuse.

One other thing I should mention too - my dad is perpetually out of work. When I was younger, he was working fairly steadily, but even back then, there were long stretches of time where he was not working. Currently, he's supposed to be part of a union, and I thought that the whole point of being with a union was so you would have somewhat steady work, but ever since he's joined, which was about 6-7 years ago, he's been out of work more than he's actually been working. And yet, he still pays union dues, for what reason, I have no clue. Oh and ps - his unemployment just ran out, so they are living off my mother's salary, which is not nearly enough to cover the mountain of debt piling up. My mother, on the other hand, has always worked. Because my dad is out of work and has no unemployment coming in either, she's actually considering getting a 2nd job. Meanwhile wtf is my dad doing? In my entire life, my mother has been laid off a total of 2 times, and luckily both times it happened, my dad was working, but the minute my mother would start a new job, all of a sudden my dad finds himself out of work again. And the cycle repeats. I'm not there, so I have no idea what my dad is even doing in terms of looking for a new job - my mother told me that she sends out his resume to places, but he never hears anything. (supposedly) This, the financial stuff, and then another situation that I won't even get into because that is longer and even more complicated, is definitely taking a toll. My mother has become bitter, nasty at times, depressed, and seriously hates on pretty much everything these days and is so negative. I hardly ever call her anymore because I just can't deal. What really cracks me up about all of this - she actually told me that she ordered some sort of Christmas gift for my dad that was $500, then in the same sentence, tells me that she has to cancel it now since she has no money. I wanted to scream at her....whyyyyyyyyy would you even order something like this when you have no money?????? Thankfully, my parents live 2.5 hours away, so I don't even see them so much - but a lot of it has to do with me not wanting to deal with the bs that goes on in their house anymore because I never really know what the mood is going to be when I?m there. It sucks too because I don't want to have this kind of relationship with my parents.

Oh yea, I posted not too long ago about some issues with my brother too, and I have a feeling that his issues may be stemming from what is going on at home since he is still living with our parents and this is what he sees on a daily basis. Whenever I try to ask him about this, he says everything is fine, but I know that it's not based on what my mother tells me. Maybe he doesn't know what's going on or how serious it is, but I cannot imagine it because any time my H & I have gone to visit, they tend to fight - a lot - and right in front of us. I'm pretty sure it's like that on a regular basis, maybe even worse when we aren't there. I imagine that it's also negatively influencing him. Instead of it pushing him to do something to get the hell out of the house, it seems to be having the exact opposite effect. I?m thinking he sees that my dad is never working, so why should he and he thinks it's perfectly ok to be lazy. He is still in college though, so I could be totally wrong and he really is just that busy with school work.

Anyway, if you managed to read all of this mess, thanks....feel free to tell me I should be minding my business with this, but I?m sure many of you understand how hard it can be when it's your parents. I?m sure Tarpon will suggest that my mother should leave my father based on what I said here - and believe me, I've considered it, but I definitely do not feel that it is my place to even suggest such a thing. I keep hoping my mother will just come to that conclusion on her it wrong for me to feel this way about my own parents?

Re: My parents are on financial downward spiral

  • I did read through your whole post and 2 things:

    1) you said you and your DH wouldn't help your parents out, cause you're not in the financial position to do that, NOR WOULD YOU EVER. That struck me as strange, because when they get super old, and possibly need help, you don't expect to help them at all? Maybe I was brought up different, but I actually think about that scenario all the time, and what I can do to prepare to help my mom out someday if she needs it. They took care of us and provided as children, and one day the tables might be turned. Not that your parents sound like they are making such smart decisions, but to be so against EVER helping them seems like a really tough stance. What would you do if their house was foreclosed upon? Would you just let them figure it out for themselves, or offer them a place? Just wondering. I get that they are responsible for their own life choices but still, I couldn't do that to my mom.

    2) if this IS your stance....then you need to butt out, and not judge, just keep the money issue out of conversation if possible. Since you refuse to do anything in terms of helping, it's not really any of your business.

  • I hear ya!  My ILs are the exact same way.  They moan about having no money and then turn around and upgrade their cable and buy a new computer.  DH had been paying them back for school loans and he couldn't write them a check because they couldn't deposit it at their bank since they were in the hole and they "wouldn't actually get the money".  And then they decided they needed another (3rd) dog.  It frustrates DH and I both to no end.  They are talking about declaring bankruptcy for the 2nd time now. 

    We also aren't helping.  I think that we might feel differently if they were making an effort to make good choices but they aren't and that is why we can't support them.  We would be the first people in line to help them find a credit counselor or agencies who specialize in helping folks in their situation, but other than that, we won't be opening our wallets or our home.  If they needed fifty bucks for groceries one time, I would *maybe* consider doing that but I'd go to the store and buy a gift card for it so I knew that we at least tried to ensure they actually spent the money where they were supposed to.  That may sound harsh but it is a problem entirely of their own making and they need to figure it out themselves.  

  • I understand they are your parents but given all the things you wrote, I would be reluctant to help them too. 

    Dont moan and groan you have no money and then go get expensive things you cant afford!   I have no sympathy for people who do things like that.


  • it has to be so difficult to deal with that. ive had that with friends and it makes you want to bang your head against the wall so i totally get you with wondering why they spent 2.5k on a tv and cant pay their bills. seeing as they've always mismanaged their finances i think it was smart for you and dh to agree to never help them. i'm sure if they shaped up and then became elderly and they needed help you'd revisit your decision but for now, the way things are, i dont blame you. there are consequences to people's actions. i get that you needed to vent. how awful-you tell them you're going away and they make nasty remarks-that totally pulls any happiness of sharing fun news. my only suggestion is this-dont discuss anything about finances with either of them-ever.
    Friday, December 28 2012. The day I had emergency appendix surgery in Mexico and quit smoking. Proof that everything has a good side!! DH and I are happily child-free!! No due date or toddler tickers here!! my read shelf:
    Alison's book recommendations, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf) 
  • Thank you all for the responses.

    To NYC Artist, I apologize if my intial post sounded completely heartless. You have to understand that this comes after years and years and years of living with and now listening to their financial woes. I'm 38, and my parents are actually in their early/mid 50's, so please imagine how it feels to deal with this over the course of a lifetime. And now it's just at the point where it's rock bottom. Just to be clear, when my parents are old(er), naturally, my H & I will revisit our decision to help them out in some way. I would never leave them out in the cold, so to speak. But to help them out at this moment in time when they have made very VERY poor financial decisions time and time again that could have really been avoided, we both feel it is not our responsibility to help them out financially. We will be there for them to give them advice, recommend credit counseling, etc, as we have already done repeatedly and yet they choose to ignore, but if they were to ever ask for help financially, and I doubt they even would, we would not even be able to. Put it to you this way - my H & I are doing ok financially, but we are not well off by any means - we have a decent chunk of money in the bank for emergencies and such, some of which actually has to go towards replacing our roof from hurricane damage now, have no outstanding debt other than our mortgage, but even if we gave that emergency money to my parents to help them out, it would not even put any significant dent into their financial mess. Not only that, I feel that it would just enable the larger problem. I mean, my mother seems more concerned about buying my dad a $500 present for Christmas with money she does not even have - before paying other bills or putting food on the table. What is wrong with this picture here? I estimate they are in the hole something like 30k, probably more, who knows, and that's just with credit card debt. I know for a fact that neither one of them has any sort of retirement money set aside - my mother did have some money in a 401k at her last job (not much according to her), which she wound up pulling out (against my advice), to pay bills when my dad was, you guessed it, out of work, again. And she stopped contributing to the 401k entirely after that because she 'needed the money'.

    I do try to as much as possible to stay out of it, but it's so hard when it's your parents. The fact that I do not live so close to them helps because I don't see them so often. I have tried to just distance myself, but it's hard when my mother sends me an email detailing all of the problems they are having and how it is just getting worse and worse. I suppose I could just delete the email, but it's hard when it's your parents.

    So yea, either way, thanks all for listening, and thanks for the advice - I really do appreciate it.  

  • I definitely can see how that would be extremely frustrating. :( Sorry if I came off harsh. Honestly, I'm currently arguing with my own mom, about other sorts of issues, and the stupid Italian and or Catholic guilt makes me unable to give her the sort of consequences that she probably needs. I do agree that your parents have to deal with the consequences of their choices as well. I guess I was thinking worst case scenario, but as for them being irresponsible, well you are shouldn't turn into your responsibility.

    And with my mom, I think I can learn a lesson from your post actually. I can't keep cleaning up the messes she creates in her own life (aka family drama, and I always become the "messenger" who has to smooth things over for her). They are adults and they make choices that they do need to be held accountable for.

    I wish you and the family luck, and I hope that somehow they make it out of this tough spot. :)

  • Not harsh at all....that is how you were raised. I do treat my parents with respect, my father included even though I have to admit that I've lost a lot of respect for him over the course of the last 6-7 years.  And believe me, I love my parents and do care about what happens to them. If I didn't care, I would not even bother venting about their problems and just go on my merry way. It sucks - I just wish they would stop ignoring the problem and making excuses and do something about it. Everything that happens to them is everyone else's fault somehow. I guess it's going to really take them losing their house for it to really sink in. The worst part about that though is the house has been in my family for over 40+ years. It used to be my grandparent's house, but my grandfather sold it to them....I hope it doesn't come to that, but you know, this is like watching a really bad dj trainwrecking - it's painful to watch.
  • I definitely understand how you feel.  Though the difference though is that my parents both work their butts off.  Though I worry that my mom is going to work my step father into an early grave and he is 8 years younger than she is!  He works 6 days a week around 12 to 15 hours a day doing manual labor.  He is always working side jobs to supplement their income.  

     I think my mother is a borderline hoarder.  She is a yard sale/auction junkie.  She never spends a lot at once but when she goes twice a week, that stuff really adds up.  You have no idea how many times I have gone over to their house in the last year (we live twenty minutes away so we see them pretty frequently) and the living room furniture has been different.  

    I worry so much about my parents finances.  When my H and I got engaged last April, we told them we were paying for the wedding and planned on keeping it small and simple as we would rather have a small, intimate wedding and save up for a down payment on a house rather than have a wedding for 15K.  My mom said she wanted to contribute as I am here only daughter and we did a lot of things cheap.  One thing about my mom is the women is a bargain hunter.   We split the cost of the wedding and total everything came in under 3K.  However, I learned after the wedding that her car was repossessed and I felt horrible.  We did pony up the money to help her get her car back though.  

    I am the oldest of four (at 30) and my brothers are 28, 26 and 13.  Now that Christmas is upon us she still wants to spend $200 a piece on each on of us and two of us have spouses that she spends around the same on.  Plus she has 4 grandchildren.  I told her the adults do not need this kind of money spent on them and focus on the kids.  She absolutely refuses to spend less no matter how hard we all talk her out of it.  I am so grateful for everything they have done but I feel so bad watching my step dad work so hard to for the extra money.  But you can't seem to talk people out of how they choose to live their lives.

    I keep praying that maybe H and I will win the lottery and set them up for the rest of their lives.  Fingers crossed! 


  • Just know you are not alone.

    My FIL constantly complains about not having any money but then he blows $1000 on a stupid pyramid scheme.  He gets no more sympathy from us. 

  • My IL's are the exact same way, but they don't buy anything at all because they know they can't afford to. They recently just re-consolidated all their debt. Luckily, hubby isn't like that at all.

    It's a tough situation, they never ask for help...but even if they did I myself wouldn't help them...and I think hubby would to stupid to as well. If people can't control their spending habits, you giving them money to help out isn't going to change them. They are obviously trying to keep up with the Jones's and that's why tons of people are in debt.

     My only suggestions are to a) keep your distance and just be nice and brief (hubbys mom was a moody beast during our engagement because she knew she couldn't help out with the wedding like she wanted to which was fine, we understood, so she practically avoided us until after the wedding) and b) don't nah them or offer to can't change someone's ways...they would need therapy to correct something like that..

    Maybe for X-mas, you could get them some financial books (Dave Ramsey, Susie Orman, or David Bach)

    I wouldn't worry about's not your problem, not your life...they can always declare bankrupcy and receive plenty of help from Obama.....

  • image ranzzo:

    I am the oldest of four (at 30) and my brothers are 28, 26 and 13.  Now that Christmas is upon us she still wants to spend $200 a piece on each on of us and two of us have spouses that she spends around the same on.  Plus she has 4 grandchildren.  I told her the adults do not need this kind of money spent on them and focus on the kids.  She absolutely refuses to spend less no matter how hard we all talk her out of it.  I am so grateful for everything they have done but I feel so bad watching my step dad work so hard to for the extra money.  But you can't seem to talk people out of how they choose to live their lives.

    I keep praying that maybe H and I will win the lottery and set them up for the rest of their lives.  Fingers crossed! 

    Yea, this is totally my mother too - I appreciate the gifts they give to me & H, but we keep telling them to not spend so much money on us. Especially since it's not like we can spend so much on them in return. It's so funny too - my mother would sit there and complain about how certain family members always give 'cheap' gifts and how she spends so much on them, but for me it's like hey...they are only buying what they can afford. I think that's fair. And she should be happy that thought to get her anything at all. It's been a while since she's said that about anyone, but it used to really make me angry. 

    Oh yea, my mother also tends to buy things she doesn't need or use either. She once bought this exercise thing - I think it was a nordic trak or something like this. The thing just sat there, in the middle of the dining room, collecting dust and was never used. I had no idea how much it cost until I saw a commercial for it on tv....4 easy payments of $400 or something.

    My brother, on the other hand, has no problem asking for a $600 software program for producing music. Especially if he knows how bad the financial situation is. I seriously am afraid that my brother is going to wind up just like them because he thinks that this is 'normal'.

  • image stw_77:

    Just know you are not alone.

    My FIL constantly complains about not having any money but then he blows $1000 on a stupid pyramid scheme.  He gets no more sympathy from us. 

    Ugh...that's absurd. As far as I know, my parents aren't stupid enough to do that, but then again, who knows....

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