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When the Shoe is on the Other Foot: Helping Your Parents Retire

We begin life as helpless newborns completely dependent upon others for every aspect of our well-being. The ‘others’ are most often our parents. We then spend a couple of decades leaning on them while learning to be independent. This sometimes continues well into our adulthood.

Find out now: How Much Do I Need to Save for Retirement?

The Relationship Timeline

Parents begin as super heroes, all knowing, all seeing and become unreasonable overlords who just don’t understand anything as we reach adolescence. By our late teens we become amazed at just how uninformed they are but by sometime in our twenties they redeem themselves as knowledgeable, thoughtful people.

Often we don’t fully appreciate our parents as the independent people they are until they are ready to retire and sometimes turn to us for advice about what to do or even for more tangible assistance . This assistance can be emotional support, money or even a place to live.

How to Help

Even the most careful and thorough planners are likely going to have questions and concerns about retirement, which will only increase as they age. Here are 4 tips for helping your parents to retire:

Be Honest

The first and most important rule should be a given, honesty. Honest conversations mean expressing both your ability to help and the limits of what you can do. This is particularly important when your parents for whatever reason do not have adequate financial resources set aside to retire. Driving yourself into bankruptcy to provide for your parents won’t help either of you very much.

Another significant aspect of being honest is sharing the responsibility with siblings. Even if you are the responsible child or the financial professional in the family, including siblings in the process is important. This not only improves the intellectual horsepower dedicated to the situation but it helps distribute the emotional toll so there is less of a threat of burnout.

Call in the Pros

When and where necessary don’t be shy about bringing in professionals for guidance and assistance. Bankers and financial advisors can be a good place to start when there are assets to be utilized over the coming 20, 30 or more years. Making a plan now will go a long way towards alleviating stress later. Discuss the benefits of reverse mortgages with a knowledgeable representative and explore the options of selling and downsizing with a real estate agent.

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Where resources are limited or non-existent contact municipal, county or state social service agencies to explore available programs to help your parents clear financial hurdles. Nonprofit religious and secular organizations can also be fonts of information and often offer assistance in coordinating benefits and programs, taking some of the pressure off of you.

Stay Involved Once they Retire

There is no substitute for you! Even though during the early years of your parents’ retirement they may still be entirely independent, it’s a good idea to get into the habit early of paying regular visits and making regular phone calls to check-in. The emotional and health benefits for both your parents and you can be enormous while the financial benefits are often under-appreciated. You can be your parent’s first line of fraud protection and protect them against the potential for catastrophic financial loss.

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Increasing your involvement with your parents once they retire is a great way to ensure you are alerted to scammers, hucksters, cheats and frauds that prey on the elderly by, phone, mail, online and in person. Simply asking if they got anything interesting in the mail or online can help you prevent their getting ripped off.


Consider the fact that you wouldn’t be reading this today if it weren’t for your parents. They provided the foundation for all of your successes now and in the future. Parents do what they do out of love and usually expects nothing in return. The hardest part of growing older for many people is the feeling that they are becoming a burden. While it’s not part of planning to retire, reassuring your parents that you are there for them because you care and want to help will not only ease their minds but remind them of what a wonderful person you turned out to be (which means they must have done something right!).

Photo Credit: flickr

Frank Addessi Born and raised in the center of the known universe, Brooklyn NY, and currently hiding out in the bucolic hills of northeast Pennsylvania writing about personal finance. His expertise includes personal loans, credit cards and retirement. It's not easy living the American Dream but someone has to do it!
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