By Hanniz Lam
My parents retired more than 10 years ago. They have different spending habits as my mom was accustomed to saving for a rainy day and splurging on good meals and holidays once in a blue moon.
My dad however was not much of a saver. He would earn his salary, pay my school fees, household bills and for our daily meals and would be left with not much. He is also a smoker so a chunk of his salary went there.
Since retiring my mom would still earn from returns from her ASB savings. It’s not a lot but enough to sustain her simple lifestyle. My dad still had to work on creative advertising projects to earn some extra income. I contribute to him a little despite him always asking if I’m doing OK. Am I financially stable? Do I owe any loansharks or credit card companies?
I always reply jokingly by saying “Ya, so what are you going to do about it?”. In a way, I followed my mom’s prudent spending ways, only purchasing necessary things and some good meals with friends and holidays before the pandemic once in a blue moon.
I’m thankful I can still give my dad some financial assistance but not all parents are comfortable with accepting financal help from their children.
How can you do this without causing them to feel embarrassed?
Share your financial know-how
You might start by talking to your parents about your own finances, what you’re learning and how you’re managing. Talk to them about budgeting, saving, and how you make choices in your own financial life.
As I run my own business, I usually share about the projects I’m working on.
That will give them the confidence that you’re doing okay.
The next logical step is to talk about their finances. What are their income sources? Do they have enough to cover their essential expenses such as housing, food and medical bills?
By looking at their budget, perhaps you’ll see places where they can make different choices so they doesn’t have to skimp in one area or another.
Helping them manage their money better will give your parents a greater sense of independence.
At the same time, by reviewing all this with them, you’ll be better able to see the areas where they might need a little extra help.
Pinpoint one area where you’re particularly interested in helping out
If your parents are living on a tight budget, they may be denying themselves something that you feel is essential to their well-being and safety. For instance, do they have adequate insurance coverage? My dad doesn’t have insurance and because of his advanced age, it’s no longer possible.
What about a cell phone or internet connection? You could offer to pay for something practical like regular housecleaning or service on their car. Or maybe they’d really benefit from having a gym membership, but it would seem like an extravagance to them.
Focus on something you think would improve the quality of your parents life and tell them you’d really like to cover it for them; that rather than being a burden, it would make you feel good to do it.
Pay for a special treat once in awhile.
As my parents sometimes get on each others nerves, I try to take them our separately so they have their own talk time.
Bringing them out for a bit of entertainment eg going to the movies will show them that it’s not just about money, but also about spending quality time with them.
Show continued interest in helping them stay on top of their finances.
Your interest in helping your parents is a valuable gift in itself. Especially if it’s not a one-time event. As your parents get more comfortable with having you involved in their financial life, make an effort to stay involved.
Keep discussing your mutual finances, the transitions you each have to make at different times in your lives, and the continual choices that are necessary. And don’t shy away from the difficult topics such as estate planning. For instance, make sure they at least have a basic will, durable power of attorney reference for financial matters and an advance healthcare directive.
Having brought you up in a house full of love, rather than being put off, your parents will recognize that your concerns for their financial security come out of love. That should give them a real sense of pride.
While there are parents who are embarrassed to ask for financial aid, there are parents on the opposite spectrum who expect their children to pay for all expenses from house mortgages to household bills to daily meals and other luxuries.
This is where you need to know when to draw the line. As much as you love your parents, you need to be clear that they shouldn’t be splurging all your hard earned money and making you feel like a horrible child when you bring the topic up that they are spending more than you can afford.
You can give them a credit card with a limit with no overdraft option, for example.
That way they don’t have to always come to you for money and you can still control how much they spend.
Have a personal finance question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot respond to questions directly, but your topic may be considered for a future article.