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Dear Liz: In your answer about filial responsibility, your statement that the letter writer’s financial situation is the result of her own choices and that she needs to stop blaming her parents is completely misjudged and inappropriate. Clearly, the writer is not blaming the parents and seems amazingly strong and clear thinking for one with her early background.

Answer: Here’s what the writer wrote about her situation:

“I am an only child in my late 30s and received no financial help from [my mother] from the age of 18. In addition, my father died when I was very young, leaving us fairly destitute with no life insurance. I feel that both of these legacies have contributed to my less-than-optimal financial situation.”

The writer goes on to say that she’s trying to catch up financially but she feels it would be futile because she may have to support her mother in the future.

The writer started her adult life at a financial disadvantage compared with people whose parents helped them pay for college. She may now regret the choices she made — perhaps she took on too much student loan debt or spent more than she earned to make up for early deprivation. Those were her choices, however, and at some point she needs to take responsibility for them. Twenty years later, it’s time to let go of the idea that her financial situation is her parents’ fault.

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6 Comments

1

I have to say I’m shocked to see you double down on this one, Liz. If the letter writer is facing the real possibility that she’ll be required (legally or socially) to support her mother in retirement, then her financial situation is clearly not the product of her own choices alone, and it’s clearly not the case that “the statute of limitations on blaming your folks has long since expired.” (And unless there’s more to her letter than you quoted, she said nothing about “spen[ding] more than she earned to make up for early deprivation” or any other regrettable choices, so I don’t know where you’re getting that from.)

There’s a time and a place to play the “personal responsibility” card. This is not it.

2

Liz is totally right to double down on this one. This woman is responsible for her financial choices in ger adult life. And if she made poor decisions, that’s not her parents fault. Facing the possibility of supporting her mother does not give her a “get out of jail free” card on her own decisions. Knowing that, as an only child, the burden of caring for her mother would fall to her should have led her to makkng better financial decisions in her own life, rather than simply blaming her parents’ poor example. This woman has grown up in the age of financial literacy. I’m in my mid-30s, and since my early 20s, through the magic of the amazing internet, I’ve been able to access myriad financial websites with scads of good, free financial advice (including Liz’s columns) to educate myself. Nope, the buck stops with the woman…not her parents.

3

The writer was blaming her parents for being financially behind in her 30s. Not receiving financial aid from them between the ages of 18 and 30 is her excuse for already having “less than optimal” financial situation. While it helps to have parental assistance in young adulthood it is not required if you live responsibly. Some do just fine without their parent’s help and some have endless bailouts from parents and still accumulate massive debt. It is very much an issue of personal fiscal responsibility. She has a legitimate concern about being saddled caring for her mother in the future, even if she didn’t already have money problems, but LW implied her current situation was all her parent’s fault. Liz rightly called her out on her finger pointing for her CURRENT financial issues.

Here is the original letter: http://asklizweston.com/you-may-be-held-responsible-for-a-parent-who-fails-to-save/

4

The letter writer sounds sorry she wasn’t born with a spoon in her mouth, and wants people to feel bad for the fact that she wasn’t gifted money to start adulthood with; and any savings short comings should be attributed to that fact.

Truth is, there’s hundreds of stories where an 18 year old starts with nothing, works full time and pays for college, gets a decent job, and buys a house and saves for retirement on their own. My story is like that. And I’m positive I will be caring for both my parents when they’re older, but that’s no excuse to throw my hands up and say ‘what’s the use of saving?’

Some people look for a way up, others a way out, I guess.

5

Nice comment Liz. Growing up is not an easy thing..

6

I ‘m with Liz, there are thousands who aren’t given any head start by one or two parents and still manage to be a financial success. Depends on your own financial choices as an adult, which isn’t anything a parent can control.