Should My Mother Save Her Money At My Expense

Question: Dear Luise: This is long. My 82 year old mother and I have a negative history 🙁 but I’ve been her main support for the last 9 years.) She lives independently half a block from me. She was getting 100 a mo. from her sister, but her sister is no longer doing that and wants my sister and I to do this. My mother says she gets 18,000 a year plus 40,000 (possibly a bit more) in savings. She will not take any money from savings and she will not let us get her a financial advisor.  When my youngest grads from high school 2010, I had planned to rent out my house (in the fall as he goes off to college), buy a used RV and go on the road for a year, staying near my sons and family including my mother. My college son is all for this; we will meet for breaks and have places to stay for the summer. I have been a mother for 41 years. My sister just lost her job, but says even if she hadn’t, she cannot and will not help in any way with our mother.  My mother is tired of living alone. I want to cry.  Am I wrong in telling her she needs to draw the extra 100 from her savings rather than from me?  I actually don’t have the extra 100 unless I give up my RV plans and take her in – the RV rental comes out of the house rental plan and selling my car. A.

Answer: Dear A.: This kind of situation usually activates guilt when we have nothing to feel guilty about. It’s not your fault that your mother wants other people’s money when she has her own. It’s not an unheard of concept but it’s an unrealistic one. If you were independently wealthy, it might be a different story…but I see letting yourself be manipulated when you aren’t wealthy as self-defeating. (We both know that your mother could create $100. a month income very conservatively from her savings.)

You have earned your retirement. That’s my point of view. There are people who believe that their job is to raise their kids and then take responsibility for their parents. It’s OK to choose that, if that’s what floats your boat…but it’s not OK to see it as mandatory. It’s my personal belief that for most of us it’s not even healthy.

There are wonderful retirement centers where older people don’t have to be alone and many are low-income. I’m exactly the same age as your mother and I live in one. I found it for myself, initiated my own move and take full credit for how well it is working out. There’s a strong chance that if you refuse to take on your mother’s issues she will find a sense of satisfaction in solving them herself…(although you may never hear about it!)

There are parents who have a sense of entitlement. I don’t agree. My son is my dear friend but I see my issues as mine to solve, not his. If I did what your mother is trying to do…he would set boundaries in a New York minute.

Your plans sound carefully thought-out and delightful. It is my sincere advice that you not let anyone take them away from you. Remember this, there are people out there without adult children that seem to manage just fine without anyone to be dependent on. It’s all about attitude.

Belief systems come into play here, but I think that when children leave home the Declaration of Independence goes two ways. Blessings, Luise

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