Dec 9, 2008

My Parents Make Me Sad

[edited to add: a lot of you have left comments offended by my question if it's wrong to hope for some inheritance from one's parents one day down the road. I responded to the comments, but also wanted to note higher up in the post for future readers -- I agree my parents owe me nothing. They have already given me so much, and for that I'm grateful. My father raised me and my sister always mentioning how one day we'd get the house a long time in the future, so in the back of my mind I just thought that would happen. My dad worked his whole life spending 8 hours a day plus a long hour-and-a-half commute, and he made a sizable income. My mother, who took care of the kids and house, always spent frivolously and taught me very bad spending habits. She is very narcissistic and only thinks about others when it benefits her. Thus, my hurt more than anything is the difference between the way my father thinks in terms of leaving something behind to his children versus the selfish nature of my mother. My father is dying of cancer and my mother will likely survive much longer than him, with all the money he saved hard all his life to have and spend in retirement. Ultimately, while an inheritance would be nice, I'm not expecting it or depending on it. It's more of the principle of the matter, if that makes any sense. One day when I have children and get older, I want to be able to leave them something, to have something to pass on after my life. I don't want them to expect that of me, but as a mother that's something I'd like to do if I have the financial means. In much of history and even today, a person's wealth is determined by two things - family and ability. Maybe with a little luck thrown in. If you want to judge me for thinking about these things, go ahead. I'm sure I'm not the first person to think them and I won't be the last.]

My dad, now retired and receiving a pension of over $4k a month, is watching his money flush down the train, and there's nothing he can do about it. Well, perhaps there is, but any reasonable way of maintaining financial sanity within my family is overwhelmed by his inability to be rational and my mother's complete lack of ability to comprehend reality.

I tried to help my family out. When I went home, I found out a bit more about the financial situation. My dad is retired, he has a little under $1 Mil in the 401k, which is less than it was, of course, since the market is in the shitter. That's a decent sum for retirement, I guess, though they do say you should save $1 mil per adult, and that's $1 Mil for 2. Regardless, that should be enough, if spending is wise. It doesn't even have to be frugal. But my mom refuses to accept that money, even that much money, is finite.

So they took out a $190k home equity loan to build on a new room to the house recently, and while my dad is keeping up on paying the interest, he isn't paying off more than a few hundred dollars of the principal every other month or so. He can't. My mom is spending something like $7000 a month. Or more. It's really sad. That's on top of what my dad spends on living... mostly food and medical bills (oh, yea, he has cancer, and has tons of co-pays for his doctor's appointments and drugs).

They don't need to be spending that much. It's mostly my mom's fault when it comes to this. My dad doesn't buy a lot. He has to spend the money on his medical bills. But my mom is just ridiculous. She spent $1000 on 5 pairs of shoes recently. When I ask her why she needed 5 pairs of shoes, she explains that when she finds something that fits she has to buy it, and a lot of it, because what if she never finds something that fits again?

Beyond the clothes, there's jewelery, makeup, a cleaning service that costs $800 a month (to clean the house once a week), overspending on groceries ($800 a month), etc, etc. And of course the few hundred on QVC each month. Which she watches picture-in-picture on her big-screen TV at all times to make sure she doesn't miss out on deals.

So... is it wrong to be upset that she will spend away any inheritance I might have otherwise one day seen? My dad is more of a saver than a spender, and he always said that he saved up enough money that one day he'd pass it on to us, his two daughters. But he's not going to live as long as my mother is and she'll be left with all of his savings to spend into debt. And that's what she'll do. At this rate, I don't think 1 mil minus the $190 in home equity minus my sister's college education will last her.

Even without considering a potential inheritance, this situation is whack. I keep trying to tell my mom to get a job but she says she doesn't have time. Yea, because she's spending her whole life glued to the TV and QVC. She says she spends all day cleaning, and the house is never clean enough, yada yada. It's one excuse after another. My mom is absolutely crazy.

My dad has given up at trying to get her to budget. She doesn't listen. He used to scream about it. Now he just screams about other things. It's so messed up. And I can't do anything about it... except just be wise about my own financial life. It's hard to change my psychology of spending based on how my parents taught me about money, but I'm trying... really, really hard. Ok, sort of hard.



9 comments:

lulugal11 said...

I am really sorry to hear that your mother is acting like she cannot see the reality.

Buying 5 pairs of new shoes when your father has to pay for cancer meds is really selfish on her part.

I know I should not be bashing your parents....but your mother is really out of touch it seems. She needs to focus on the harsh reality that her priorities are wrong at present and she needs a wake up call.

That is really sad...can you talk to your father and have him work out something with her? Like maybe he can take her off the credit cards or give her a separate account and a monthly allowance or something like that.

Sorry girl.

Sallie's Niece said...

I totally hear ya. My parents waste so much money and they still have one more kid to send to college. And they're losing money in their retirement accounts of course. But really there's not much you can do without being accused of stepping over the line. Forget the inheritance, I say interfere only if they look like they may pose a financial burden to you someday.

Lamar said...

so what? they're enjoying their retirement.

my parents have a $1000/month pension called social security as their sole income, so maybe I'm a little biased.

Anonymous said...

"Is it wrong to be upset that she will spend away any inheritance I might have otherwise one day seen?"
Yes. It not your inheritance, it is their money.

However, it is not wrong to be upset that it is used so frivolously and probably isn't truly making either of them happy.

It is not wrong to worry you may have to support one of them some day.

But to think if it as them spending a possible inheritance? Maybe a little wrong. Wasting good money is infuriating to watch though.

Anonymous said...

From your post it sounds like your Mom might have a bit of a spending obsession and if she continues, you may be supporting her. I think your familiy needs to encourage her to get help ASAP! SOrry you have to deal with this but you are wise to pay close attention.

G.L. said...

I guess the old saying about the apple and the tree isn't true in this case. If this is any consolation, in my family of seven, I am the only one who gives a damn about saving and investing. But back to your story - what are your parents' ages? If I'm not mistaken, the median life expectancy for women in the States is around 75, give or take. Sit your mom down, tell her that she has at least 75-[age] years left to live, and will have less than a million left. Divide it and ask her whether she thinks she'll be able to live on $20-30 thousand a year? A financial intervention of sorts... Or try to convince them to do a financial experiment and go for a month without spending any money, unless it's something absolutely necessary, i.e. bills, *basic* groceries, medicines, etc.

Donna Freedman said...

It IS their money. Your parents owe you NOTHING. It would be nice if everyone's mom and dad left a bundle, but that's not real life.
That said...I agree with G.L. that you need to have a come-to-Jesus talk with your mom regarding her financial future. You must also be very, very clear that you CANNOT and WILL NOT support her. You have YOUR life to think about and YOUR retirement to plan for, and taking in/sending money to a spendaholic parent would be financial suicide.
If she tries the, "But I took care of you and your sister and brought you up," don't be swayed. That's what parents are SUPPOSED to do. Your children are not your retirement account/long-term care aides. If they can help, great. But they need to put on their own oxygen masks first -- i.e., repay student loans, start their own families, fund their own retirements.
It sounds harsh, but there it is. And you need to tell her sooner rather than later, so that four or five years from now she doesn't start hinting that her money's evaporating and she needs help.
I'm sorry for your family's situation, particularly your father's illness. Don't, however, be pulled under.

her every cent counts said...

Hey Donna,

I agree that it's my parent's money and that they owe me nothing. To be honest, what I find sad is that my dad always talks about how he's going to leave his daughters something - he's the one who worked his whole life in order to not only save for retirement, but to also be able to do that. I don't even care if they leave me any money at all, it's the principle of it, I guess. My mom doesn't think about anyone other than herself. My dad is going to die in a few years because he has cancer, and my mom will surely outlive him. At that point, I'm going to have to step in and try to help her manage her finances. I'm not going to try to get her to "save money" so that I will have some lofty inheritance. I want to get her to save money so she can afford the rest of her life.

Anonymous said...

I am in a similar situation. I am a PhD student in a very famous university and had to borrow money to attend. My dad is also doing a PhD....for the past 16 years!!! He has never worked a day in the past 16 years and has lived off of loans from his PhD program; he keeps delaying his thesis submission year after year and my mom, who works a normal job, has had it with him! So have I! Every time I tell him that he brought the family to financial ruin because his damn PhD is taking so long and he has not worked at all (he is also 62 years old now!) he stops talking to me for days. The good thing is that I no longer live with them because I am away pursuing my own PhD, but I worry about what to do with them when they get old and if one of them becomes terminally ill. I have no money saved and they are in thousands of debt. I am currently giving them money and they want me to come home during the summer so I can work in order to support THEM!!!! Their excuse: we've paid for you all these years. My answer: YOU were the ones who decided to have a child! I am at my wits end because I am an only child and once I get a job, it looks like I will not only have to pay off my own debt, but also give a huge chunk of money for them.

Post a Comment