We often hear so much about millennials’ finances that it’s easy to forget older Americans have money woes, too. The Great Recession pushed back retirement for many middle-aged boomers and decimated a lot of their life savings. So it should come as no surprise when young adults are faced with the conundrum of whether to loan money to Mom and Dad.
When to Bail Out Mom & Dad
Offering assistance should hinge on how stable your finances are. Just as a parent wouldn’t want to jeopardize his or her own security for the sake of helping the kids, you shouldn’t risk your retirement or miss monthly payments to bail out your parents. “You have to assess whether or not your are sacrificing your own goals in order to help your parents, ” said Jorie Johnson, a certified financial planner based in Brielle, N.J. “It depends on where you are in your life and where you’re at in your career.”
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It also depends on what type of assistance your parent is seeking. “If it’s a one-time event, it’s less concerning than if it’s ongoing, ” Johnson added. Helping a parent cover emergency car repairs, for instance, is different than covering mortgage payments each month.
In situations where long-term aid is necessary, you can offer to help but “need to sit down with your parents and come up with a budget or plan, ” Johnson said. That way your relationship, bank accounts and credit scores won’t incur too much damage. A person-to-person loan won’t impact your credit, but co-signing for them on a loan or making your parents authorized users on your credit cards can. (You can view your credit report summary for free on Credit.com to see where you stand.)
Here are some other things to consider when your parents ask for help with their finances.
1. Make It a Gift
Loaning money to friends and family often backfires, said Sophia Bera, a certified financial planner and founder of GenYPlanning.com, so she suggests not doing it at all. “If they are going to help their parents out, it should be a gift that they don’t expect anything for in return, ” she wrote in an email. “I think it works well when it’s a monthly amount that they can work into their budget as opposed to gifting away a large chunk of their savings.”
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