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Ask Dave

Help Mom And Dad But With Limits

Anna acquired a debt from her parents when she was 21. Her parents didn't tell her she'd have to pay all of it back to them. Dave says there are a couple of different dynamics here.

QUESTION: Anna in Houston acquired a debt from her parents when she was 21. She used up their entire retirement fund to come to America. Her parents didn’t tell her she’d have to pay all of it back to them. She’s now 32 and owes them about $20,000. If she pays them, they will also want to come to the United States. Dave says there are a couple of different dynamics here.

ANSWER: There are two different transactions here. One is you owe your parents $20,000. Two is do you want to or are you able to or should you give your parents shelter if they try to come to America?

I think what you’ve got to do is have some realism. You have the option of saying no. It’s an unpleasant conversation, but it is a no. “No, I cannot support you, except I can do this much, and I don’t know where you’re going to get the rest.”

Certainly you owe them $20,000, and to the extent we can use that money to get them set up and get them started here, that’s fine. But then how are they going to eat? Because they’re not going to be eligible, I don’t think, for Social Security because they haven’t paid into the system here. It’s not the first year that scares me. It’s the 20th year when they’re 84 that bothers me, and you’re still writing checks because you didn’t say no? No, I think the cost of living in the Philippines is going to be considerably lower. If you want to help support your parents, that’s the place to do it.

That’s their decision to be tense. They don’t have the money to live the American dream. If you pay them back what you owe them, then they don’t have the money. Why is it your job to pay for everything after you pay them back what you owe them? The unreasonableness that you’re discussing here has got to be addressed. The unreasonableness is that you are somehow made of money and can write checks and furnish these streets of gold. That concept has to be corrected. If they can’t accept that, then the relationship is going to be strained, because you can’t give them what they think they have. You don’t have the money. As soon as you don’t give them something they want, this relationship is going to be tense, because until they get a realistic grasp on what it takes to live and those kinds of things, it’s absolutely ridiculous. You’ve got to address that with them, and you’ve got to come to some closure. If they start to be logical, then you can support them to some degree, they can support themselves to some degree, the $20,000 helps them make the move, but this idea that you’re supposed to furnish them their dream just doesn’t work. You have got to work through that relationally. Otherwise, when you bring them over here, you’re going to have 20 years of hell on your hands. That’s not okay. You’re not obligated to do that for your parents.

You are obligated to help them as you can as they react in reasonable manners. The rest of this is crazy.