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Helping Parents Support a Deadbeat

Jan 10, 2005 | | Comments Comments Off

Question: I’m in my 20s and make a good salary, but I still live in my parents’ house — actually, in their basement.In my culture it’s considered the child’s duty to help support the parents, but I’m the only one of several children with a good job. So I help my parents pay their mortgage, and I also give my mother spending money each month.

I’m pretty sure that my mother gives the money to one of my older brothers, who wants to be a comedian and who refuses to get a job to support himself. I think she’s tried not to give him money, but he has a terrible temper and she’s afraid of making him angry.

I want to do the right thing, but I’m getting tired of supporting everyone and not getting on with my own life. Do you see a way out?

Answer: Of course, and so do you. You just haven’t been willing to take the first step.

It’s important to honor your culture, but it’s unlikely your culture includes an ancient tradition of supporting tantrum-throwing wannabe comedians. If your mom is passing along your largess, then you’re giving too much and indirectly aiding your brother’s refusal to grow up.

Figure out how much money you need to get your own place, build up a decent emergency fund and begin saving for retirement. Your parents may have convinced you that supporting them in their old age is your duty, but you shouldn’t count on being able to convince your own kids of the same thing. Your parents’ stipend can come out of what’s left.

If that’s not enough to pay for the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed, they may need to take the opportunity to downsize — perhaps into a house that’s too small to house Brother Freeload. If your mother has reason to fear your brother’s reaction, a call to the local domestic violence hotline can offer resources for dealing with the situation.

All this assumes your parents aren’t elderly, disabled or otherwise dependent on you to stay above the poverty line. If cutting back would throw them into an economic tailspin, you may need to remain at home awhile longer as you transition them to a more realistic standard of living.

You may well face a barrage of parental and familial criticism for daring to put limits on your dole. But if you’re convinced that you have a right to a life of your own — one that allows you to help your parents without being drained by their demands — then you’ll be able to survive. Interestingly enough, so will they. Good luck.

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Categories : Budgeting, Kids & Money, Q&A