Larry and Abby are in their late 60’s. They are broke, about to lose their home and there is nothing they can do about it.
But it didn’t have to be this way.
10 years ago, they had over $500,000 saved on top of the two rental units they inherited when Larry’s mother passed away. At the time, Abby owned a successful small business and had a comfortable income. Everything looked like peaches and cream.
So what happened?
Pat is their son. He borrowed money from his parents seven years ago to open his auto repair business. Pat was a great mechanic but a horrible business person.
Larry and Abby just wanted to help their boy. They convinced themselves that the money their were forking over was just a loan. They were sure Patrick would pay them back some day.
But as the days passed, the likelihood of seeing that money again grew smaller and smaller.
He slowly drove the business into the ground.
But each time he feel deeper into the hole, Larry and Abby were there to bail him out. They were sure that all Pat needed was a little more working capital.
Of course, this enabled Pat to amass even greater debt. Within three years he exhausted all his parent’s savings. They had to sell all the real estate they inherited and they refinanced their home as well. Even after going through all that, Pat was left with debts of over $300,000 including $150,000 to the IRS.
He was much too proud to close the business. He was determined to make it successful – even if it meant spending every last dime his parents had.
So was Patrick to blame for Abby and Larry’s financial destruction?
Not in my opinion.
Abby and Larry volunteered to become an ATM machine for Patrick. Nobody put a gun to their heads. But that wasn’t really the root problem.
You see, the reason they wrote blank checks to Pat was because they didn’t take the time to think about what impact their decisions would have on their own financial future.
They were very mindful about their spending – except when it came to supporting their kids.
Pat needed money.
They wrote him a check.
It was automatic – and it was ridiculous.
Abby and Larry put their heads in the sand. They didn’t pay attention to their own financial plan. In fact, they didn’t have one.
Sure they had assets and income. But even though their estate was worth over $2.5 million at the high point, it didn’t last long once they started writing checks for $50,000 every other month to keep their kid in business.
I know this is an extreme example. You might not be sending huge amounts to your children….but the amounts don’t matter. And it also doesn’t matter how your kids spend the money you give them. I don’t care if they use your money to open a successful business or go to Harvard. If you can’t afford it then you can’t afford it. Period.
How do you know you can afford the support you give to your kids? Have you ever said “no” to your kids when they asked for financial help? How did that impact your relationship?
If you are on the receiving end of this, do you have an obligation to your parents to discuss the ramifications of their support?