On the surface, the answer of whether or not you should support your parents in their later years is an easy one – yes, of course you should, right? You don’t want to see them aimlessly walking around the neighborhood, begging for food and meds. Besides, you would be paying them back for raising you and paying your expenses and maybe even helping you financially with your education.
But… what if your parents decided to live a very extravagant lifestyle and made zero effort to boost their retirement savings? And were ignorantly or purposefully negligent in their financial decisions. Should you support their retirement then?
Family is family, but you didn’t exactly have a choice about supporting yourself when you were brought into this world. You were a dependent with no alternative and really no freedom of choice to earn an income. You were entitled out of necessity.
Parents who don’t make conscious decisions to invest in their retirement and live below their means DO have a choice. They are choosing present or future financial entitlement and opting to think about themselves instead of the family members that they eventually become dependent on.
Taking that a step further, what if they were 100% capable of earning an income to delay withdrawing from a tiny nest egg, but instead choose to not work at all and live now off of their paltry savings, knowing full well that in a few years they would be 100% dependent on their children or other family members? Do you still owe it to them to support them and that behavior?
Like it or not, I think this is going to become more and more of the norm. Baby boomers are going to demand retirement (ignorantly or not), and as I explored last week in my inheritance post, their average retirement savings are dismal:
- Only 15% aged 44-54 have over $250,000 saved
- Only 19% aged 55+ have over $250,000 saved.
- 44% aged 44-54 have less than $10,000 in total savings.
- 29% aged 55+ have less than $10,000 in total savings.
Even if your parents are in that stark minority (15 or 19%) with a decent amount of savings, would you feel safe having them retire to never work again on that amount of savings? I sure wouldn’t.
The thing is, you may not even have a choice. Unbeknownst to me until I was researching for this post, as many as 30 states have filial responsibility laws that mandate adult children to pay for their parents basic life needs, should they need it, including nursing home care.
But… for the sake of discussion, let’s imagine you DO have a choice and your parents lives aren’t entirely dependent on your decision. If your parents were negligent in their financial decision-making and you had your own family and self to financially look after, would you still foot their bills for them?