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Dear Liz: I read with interest your recent column about the filial obligation law possibly coming into effect in California. I hope this is true. I have three grown daughters who make terrific money and who will not offer a pittance to me. I live on Social Security, period. I could really use a few hundred dollars a month to supplement. They had a glorious childhood and this is really sad and inexplicable. I want to contact someone involved with this law, if possible. I am puzzled and hurt. More than money, this situation has a strange malignity to it.

Answer: Currently, California’s filial responsibility law — which makes adult children responsible for supporting their indigent parents — isn’t being enforced. When similar laws in other states have been invoked, it’s typically because the parent is receiving governmental aid or has racked up a bill with a nursing home that wants to get paid.

One of the reasons the laws aren’t enforced is because most people feel an obligation toward their parents. The fact that your daughters apparently don’t indicates that there’s either something missing in their characters or in your characterization of the situation.

Here’s another perspective:

Dear Liz: I am 67 and live in a retirement home. I strongly feel that children should not have to take care of their parents. We all have time to save for our own futures. I left a marriage with very little other than a small child. We did lots of free events together because there was not money to spend. I did immediately start saving for retirement and her college. It all worked out, but had it not, I would not expect her to support me in my old age. I chose to get pregnant and have her…. She did not chose to have me!

Answer: Thanks for sharing your experience. My guess is that if your financial life had not worked out — if you hadn’t been able to save enough or if your savings had been wiped out — your daughter happily would have stepped up to help if she could. People who do their best to take care of themselves often find the support that isn’t offered to those who don’t.

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Categories : Elder Care, Q&A, Retirement

14 Comments

1

As far as the first letter goes, does she know their debt situation? My husband makes really good money, but we are working on paying off debt and taking care of our stuff. I would recommend she take a good look at how she interacts with her children. It sounds like she expects them to take care of her. Ask them what they think of their “glorious” childhood. Their perspective may be totally different.

2

If you don’t want to take care of your own parents, why should the general public be forced to. Everyone needs to step up, look around and do what they can for their own family.

3

Women from a young age, should be educated about how to set goals to become financially independent, unless unforeseeable circumstances should intervene. Generally speaking though children should be responsible for their parents, but the bottom line is, most kids wish they didn’t have to.

4

Children should not be forced to take care of their parents in their old age. Obviously, it’s the right and moral thing to do, but it has to be their decision. If my children abandoned me in my old age, the option is to write them out of any will, but I don’t foresee that happening.

Mark

5

I know of a particular situation where the parent (mom, in this case) repeatedly made bad financial decisions and lived beyond her means. She made a good salary, but was simply irresponsible with her money choices. This is a case where her children should not be obligated to help her out unless they choose to do so. Her kids have managed to grow into responsible adults, despite the poor examples that mom set. She has tried to move in with them and sponge off them, but they were smart enough not to allow it, as they recognized that she would bleed them dry financially, as well. Sad situation, but bad choices lead to bad consequences!

6

I have saved all my career and my mother (who also saved and whose lifestyle was healthy) had a debilitating stroke and now requires skilled nursing care 24/7. She cannot walk, feed herself, etc. She is completely dependent on others.

She did not buy long-term-care insurance. She did travel the world (I haven’t yet — I don’t think I can responsibly afford it.) So, are you telling me that after I saved I should put my own kids at risk of having to support me because my mother lost the health lottery?

You bet I do what I can for my mom. I visit her often, wrangle with paperwork, and make sure nurses and hospice are on the same page, etc. It has, frankly, been difficult to continue working, and my own health has suffered because of it. She would be very upset if she knew . . . thank goodness she does not.

7

Maybe these parents didn’t do what was necessary to take care of themselves or their children properly, which includes the discipline to not indulge their children or themselves instead of saving and budgeting – that’s not the child’s decision. I myself am estranged from my parents and I sure do not expect to give them a penny of my hard earned money, much of which is put away in savings for retirement so that I do not find myself in the position to rely on my children in the future.

8

My background is in geriatrics, and I would like to offer another perspective (not necessarily true of this letter writer, but in general..) While there sadly ARE “deadbeat” adult children who ignore their needy parents, most families pull it together to help out Mom (or Dad) even if it is only one of the children who manages it all.

BUT….there are also seniors who are reaping what they sowed as parents….those who were abusive, neglectful, or totally selfish, spending time and money on THEIR wants and impulses (and breaking the checking account) while the kids went without. Often, this is combined with a toxic (or mentally ill) personality that is so inwardly focused that they STILL think what they want is more important than what their grandkids may need from their own parents. This is sad, but I cannot blame these people for cutting these “parents” out of their lives and pocketbooks.

9

Parents, stop financing your child’s education if you are neglecting your retirement. Young people have a lifetime to pay for their education you won’t have a lifetime to fund your retirement!!!

10

People should not have kids just so they have someone to take care of them in old age. It’s not the child’s job to care of the parent. And it’s no secret that everyone gets old, so people should plan accordingly and save money for retirement. If kids are forced to take care of parents in their old age becuase the parents weren’t responsible enough to save for retirement, then the adult kids won’t be able to afford to save for their own retirement and so it’s going to create a vicious cycle where people are constantly being taken care of by their offpsring.

To the writer: Although you may think that your kids are well off, life is expensive and with mortgages, taxes, cars, their own children to take care of and their retirement to wisely plan, your kids may not have any extra money. Unless they’re millionaires, I don’t think you should assume your kids have money to take care of you.

11

The first letter writer admits that the problem really isn’t about money. The legal system might be able to force her daughters to give her some money, but it can’t force them to love or appreciate her, which I suspect is what she wants.

12

It’s not fair when a parent doesn’t plan for his/her future and then one child gets stuck having to look after them forever. I’ve had my mother living near me for twenty years of my twenty-three-year marriage, and she has always expected my life to revolve around her and her needs. Well, I have nothing left to give. She spent 60 years smoking, wasting tons of money on cigarettes, and is now in poor health. I can’t take care of her. She can’t take care of herself, but she is refusing to go to a nursing home. I am moving in eighteen months several hours from where I presently live. She is going to have to go to a nursing home because I can’t handle her living with me. She has some money, but doesn’t want to pay for it. And my siblings won’t help. It’s always on me. And it’s not fair because she has always treated badly, but she has a way of making me feel guilty, so that’s why I am in this position in the first place.

13

Whew, I’m glad my parents are dead. And I’m glad I don’t live in a state that imposes filial responsibility on children. My father-in-law could really blow through a stipend.

14

I think the first writer needs to find a family counselor not a lawyer to help her deal with her families feelings towards each other and why she feels entitled to her daughters money….did she put them through college? help them with a downpayment on a house? or just feed them and feels entitled to getting that money back. These are all issues this family dynamic needs to explore.