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Ask Dave

A burden to help?

Robbie asks if the adult children of healthy senior citizens, who failed to plan for retirement, have an obligation to help the parents financially. Dave offers some guidelines, while suggesting there may be a bigger question in the mix.

QUESTION: Robbie asks if Dave thinks the adult child of a mentally and physically healthy senior should be burdened with providing financial assistance to that parent if the parent has neglected to plan for retirement. Dave lays out some guidelines for situations like this, adding that he thinks there’s a bigger question here.

ANSWER: Based on the wording in your question, I can only believe you don’t think the adult child should be “burdened” to provide this assistance. My guess is you’re talking about one of your own parents.

I understand you might be aggravated with a parent who has been irresponsible with their money. But in my mind, there’s a bigger question. How big is the burden?

I talked to a guy recently who was making $1.5 million a year. He was questioning whether he should help his dad — an older man in poor health, who didn’t handle his money well — by giving him $1,000 a month. There’s no question you give that guy money. You’re making millions, but you don’t want to help your sick dad? Come on!

Let’s say you bring home $2,000 a month, and you or your family are barely getting by. In that scenario, you’re not morally required to financially take care of a parent who was irresponsible with their money.

It’s all relative. Do you have the money? Can you provide help without placing an undue burden on yourself and your family? But no, you’re not morally obligated to destroy your own life, or your family, to take care of a relative who didn’t take care of themselves financially.