Wednesday, August 31, 2022

What would you do?

I read a post this morning which I found it both horrifying and heartbreaking. The post went as follows (edited slightly for clarity):

"AITA ("Am I a Total A******) for not helping my parents when they are homeless?

My parents are terrible with money. When I (27-yr-old female) was little, my father gambled away all the savings, about $100,000, in risky penny stocks which got wiped out in 2008, and we were forced to move into a single-bedroom in a house for the three of us.

Then my mom fell for an MLM [multi-level marketing] and you can imagine what happened; they lost the down payment to the house they were saving for. I begged them not to sign up for it, since I saw it was clearly a scam, and showed them evidence that it was, and they just laughed at me and ignored me. They lost about $28,000 from that.


Then recently they fell for a college signup scam and lost $32,000. They weren't signing up for college; they just needed a loan and tried to go through a "private broker" who promised to get them a school loan that they would use on whatever they wanted. I went with them to see the broker and told them it was a scam, and they ignored me.

So basically they were trying to scam the government, and got scammed instead. I actually tried to pry the pen away from my father's hands when I got desperate, as he was writing his bank info and SSN [Social Security number], and he screamed at me that I was embarrassing him, and [signed] anyway.

Again they lost money, and now they are homeless because their credit is cr*p and they can barely afford even cr*ppy apartments. They probably can't get that money back since they have little documentation on the broker and what he promised. Now they live in their car and are begging me for money.

I have about $100,000 saved waiting to buy a house, and they know about it because I stupidly told them I was saving for a house, and now they are calling me and showing up at my apartment asking for money. They also want to move in in the meantime, but my roommate and I agreed visitation from friends or family is [maximum] a week, to prevent resentment; and if my parents move in, they probably will refuse to move out.

They are going to food pantries, and honestly I can't find it in myself to be that sympathetic, since they don't listen to me until they need my money. AITA?"

In a later post, someone asked, "How did you save $100,000 by age 27?", and the young woman replied: "Saving every penny, no eating out, [wearing] clothes from high school, having roommates, no car, only taking public transportation or riding my bike. I'm traumatized from growing up with no money, so I penny-pinch like crazy."

Responses to this post were universally in favor of letting her parents stew in their own juices. Some people strongly suggested she lock down her credit in case her parents take out loans or credit cards in her name (since presumably they know her SSN). Everyone agreed she should not let them move into her apartment.

I read this post out loud to Don, and we discussed the ramifications of such a situation. It's easy to give harsh financial advice, but not so easy when it's dealing with the strong emotional bonds of one's own parents and watching them living on the streets. Clearly the Fifth Commandment tells us to honor our father and mother; but does that include bailing them out of self-made scam-laden mistakes? In short, there is no easy answer to this dilemma.

What would you do?

37 comments:

  1. I would probably put them up in a dirt cheap apartment, order groceries for them, and pay utilities myself. It stinks but I simply wouldn't be able to cope with my parents being homeless. In a way, it's like dealing with a disabled family member.

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    1. As a "disabled family member" that has to be "dealt with", that's an offensive attitude. I didn't choose paralysis, or this life, and I don't exploit my family, I try to help around the house in every way I can, even if it hurts and exhausts me and leaves me in too much pain to sleep at night. Disabled people don't generally elect to be disabled. We're not here because of our choices, and we aren't irresponsible leeches like these horrible parents. These people are immature, financially irresponsible, and in this position entirely by repeated poor decision making. Hardly comparable to the disabled community.

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    2. My mother is disabled and paralyzed and I have to help her all the time. I myself have about 10 chronic illlnesses (not exaggerated) which mean I could go on disability if I chose to. I didn't mean to be offensive. I meant to imply they have some kind of mental disability which allows them to be preyed upon for get rich quick schemes. I was thinking of my friend's brother with severe brain damage rather than some physically disabled but mentally sharp.

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  2. I am in a similar situation… I put myself through undergrad, med school, and I work HARD. Over the years my mother has asked for money for rent, bills, whatnot, as well as my sister. It’s unfortunate, but their poor choices are not my problem. I’ve not given them a dime .

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  3. They made their bed, now they have to lay in it. I have 0 symphony for the parents and a lot for the daughter!

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  4. There's a thin line between adhering to the 5th Commandment and enabling. Given the track record of the parents, I'd be reluctant to put myself in financial jeopardy for them either. The parents should actually be ashamed to think of dragging their child down because of their bad choices! These people are addicts of a sort. A drunk needs his drink, and will stop at nothing to get it! I've been dealing with addict family members since my early teens. Given that this has been going on since the woman was a child, I'd say "H*LL NO!"

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  5. For my parents, I'd find a way.

    For her parents, no. If you read what she wrote, you can tell that she has been through a lot. And she is very careful with her funds. She's learned from seeing what not to do. And she knows that her parents aren't going to repay a "loan". They'll just keep coming back and asking for more.

    One of the warning signs is that she isn't saving up to get a mortgage. She is saving up to buy the house up front. And at 27, that's a lot of savings and a lot of forward thinking.

    The most I would consider, in the process of buying, is a possible small apartment on the property with the house. With a signed lease and all utilities that they are responsible for paying. And no access to her residence. But given her parents' past behaviors that probably wouldn't be wise. Because I wouldn't trust them not to come begging to get out of the rent or get money from her to keep the utilities turned on.

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  6. I would also make sure to protect my own credit from them. Then I would find a new place to live, rent a post office box and give them my new post office box to contact me. The parents showing up uninvited at her apartment would make me start creating all kinds of boundaries from them. I lived over four years with my husbands 30+yo cousin who refused to work and was quite content to live in our basement. I know we did not really help him in any real way by letting him live with us for free. I may feel differently if it was a parent but probably not.
    SJ from Vancouver BC Canada

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  7. I would have to help but ask for power of attorney, and fiscal power over them to keep them from doing the same thing over again. I would not keep them in luxury, just warm, safe, and fed. And, I would insist they get mental help.

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  8. I would help. But I would give money to the entity (apartment, grocer, pharmacy, doctor) rather than the parents. I might also ask for a durable poa.

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  9. Sounds like a b.s. tale to me, but I'm just a grumpy old cynic.

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  10. This could easily be me writing this. My husband and I decided a long time ago that we will not bail my mother out. I had to put a freeze on my SSN once when she was desperate and wanted it. I also hide my purse and any mail with bank, credit card, or any other information she could use to obtain money in our names when she’s in our house. I’m sure she has no idea how much money we have because we live so frugally.

    Giving money to someone who doesn’t know how to manage it is like giving alcohol to an alcoholic and expecting him or her to stay sober. It will only give them another opportunity to do exactly what they’ve done in the past.

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  11. This is actually not as hard a question as it seems: simply flip the scenario and imagine it is parents writing about an adult child. Tough love is the only hope. It's better and requires more sacrifice than the only realistic option, which is to cut them off entirely.

    They're feeling pain because of their actions and that is the only way they can change their attitudes. Giving them support will cushion them from the consequences of their stupidity and is exactly the wrong thing for them. Letting them move in is out of the question.

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    1. I've told this to my wife concerning our sons... 'Lotta good it does...

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  12. I believe that if you have lousy parents (clearly these are) that you shouldn't put yourself at financial risk for them. She has gone above and beyond with these parents! She has tried to stop them from participating in scams and they have "chosen" to throw money away. These parents don't understand that you have to "work" for money. She should put a freeze on her credit and secure anything with any financial information from them. If she helps them in any way she will be taking care of them forever! These parents clearly think only of themselves and not their child. They are leeches and they need "tough love".

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  13. They are toxic people. They could be mentally ill, stupid, psychotic, who knows, doesn't matter. Don't move them in and don't give them money. Give them advice and ultimatums. By that I mean tell them what they must do to help themselves and insist that they do it and if they do not you will do nothing more for them. If your child was buying booze or drugs and risking his life and needed help would you give them money??? What they need is to change their actions and if they won't then you cannot help them and the sooner you understand that the better off you and your parents will be. You cannot help someone by doing for them that which they must do for themselves.

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  14. I'm in a similar situation. I took my mom in for a while and supported her fully as she had become homeless through the result of her life choices. It ultimately was too much stress on myself, spouse and children (of which we have 3) and had to evict her. She lived in her truck and couch surfed for nearly a year, while I saved more money (all the while paying her insurance and cell phone) and purchased her a small camper which she was able to park on a family member's property. I still pay her cell phone and car insurance and gave her a pre-paid debit card she can use if needed with a limited balance. I also provide supplemental groceries and she comes to my house to do laundry. It's the best I can do without sacrificing my family's well being.
    KinCA

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  15. they will never learn unless they have consequences

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  16. Tough love and boundaries are real and necessary things. Reverse the situation what if this was a adult child pulling these actions and expecting the parents to bail them out every time? I am solidly with anonymous above they will never learn unless they have to face the consequences themselves.

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  17. Sad. I would not help and freeze my credit.
    https://clark.com/credit/credit-freeze-and-thaw-guide/

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  18. Red dawn the original is free with adds on YouTube. Wolverines

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  19. Turn them over to welfare government housing and services.

    Mama J

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  20. What parent would EXPECT their kids to bail them out of a self-inflicted financial mess? The daughter should lock down her assets and walk away.

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  21. It isn't "honoring" to parents to enable them to continue in their path of ruination that also brings you down.
    I would tell them NO and be clear. I'd put a lock on my credit and I would ensure "mom and dad" had no way to abuse me financially.
    If she's saved that much money, she's paid enough taxes to justify telling mom and dad that their help has to come from the government.
    Mom and dad seem to work hard at not working.
    The daughter is the ant and the folks the grasshopper. Don't feed grasshoppers.
    FWIW, I have a step daughter with a mom and a brother who specialize I this behavior. If she has something, it's deemed unfair by them. She had to move across the country to be able to have enough money to feed herself, because they kept her broke. I also have a close friend whose daughter has done this. Mom gave her the money to catch up her house payments and she bought a new Camaro because she said it made her happy. Daughter went through moms entire retirement savings and later her inheritance.
    Behavior doesn't change because we get people out of their situation. Behavior changes when they have to get themselves out of the situation.
    Mom and dad can live in their vehicle and eat at the soup kitchen while WORKING. I know lots of people who have had to do the same thing, when they moved to a new town for a job and didn't have the first/last/security deposits for a place to live. They saved it up, though.

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  22. If my parents started handling their finances the way her parents did, I'd know they had developed dementia and I'd take them to court and have the declared mentally incompetent and become their guardian, and make sure they were housed and fed. Her parents? They have a lifetime of financial idiocy behind them, so it obviously isn't dementia as we understand it. And no, I wouldn't give them a dime, since they are demonstrably incapable of handling it. The only help I'd give them is paying for them to take a Dave Ramsey course.

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  23. Children obey (honour) your parent … next verse .. parents do not exasperate your children… Ephesians 6

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  24. If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he'll eat forever. I wouldn't give her parents a dime. However, I would do what I could to pass on my wisdom and help them come up with a budget so they could have the same success she did/does. If they don't listen to stick with it, they'll have to accept the natural consequences of their own choices. That's on them.

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  25. Life is full of hard lessons. You cannot help someone who is unwilling to help themselves. You cannot give money or charity to a fool and expect them to suddenly stop acting the fool. When you help someone like this you become the enabler and postpone any chance of them waking up to reality and choosing to change their lives for the better.

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    1. As they say, God helps those who help themselves.

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  26. I look at the 5th Commandment a lot like I look at "forgiveness", it is very much possible to honor your parents (or forgive someone) without setting yourself up to be abused, again. Yes, it will cost you but they are your parents and God said... I think I read in a comment or two that it's a matter of providing for them, and I think that's it. Just enough that they're not living on the street and eating from dumpsters. And DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY - pay for what they NEED and provide it. Is that going to interfere with your financial goals? Probably. Are you going to sleep better for having done it? Definitely. And if it were me, I'd up the ante and tell them that I'd match whatever they could come up with each month (to a certain point). Or suggest that there's a 'bonus' if they can increase their bank account by $xxx each month. Unfortunately, this young lady's parents need a parent or guardian to do this for them.

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  27. The term I learned when my wife flew her inheritance/family business into the side of the mountain was "financial arsonist". The way I dealt with it (once she reappeared and after I had cleaned up most of the mess) was very strict rules and a strict allowance, paid in cash. (My attorneys said I should clean out what remained of the bank accounts, change the locks and file for divorce, but the kids wanted their moma). After a year of stewing, or perhaps considering how she had gotten herself into this predicament, she went out and got a job. She worked that job up until she retired from it last year. She is also sitting on all of the inheritance she got when her sister died unexpectedly a few years ago. Even financial arsonists can learn, if the lessons are taught in the correct manner.

    I would not want to be in this young lady's position. However, she is not a a$$hole for doing what's she's doing.

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  28. hmmm... Fifth commandment, is 'thou shall not kill.' I believe you intended to refer to the Fourth commandment, 'thou shall honor thy father and mother.'

    Granted, unless you were thinking she should 'solve the problem of her parents... permanently.' Lol...

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    1. That would depend entirely upon which version of the Scriptures that you read. My experience is that quibbling over things like this only leads to strife.

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    2. Actually, it really is the 5th commandment. :) "Thou shalt not kill" is the 6th.

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  29. If I felt it was unsafe to bring my parents into my home, I would arrange an apartment, hire a housekeeper for them, and provide for their basic needs as a matter of charity. I would be in contact with social services and whatever organizations might help with their care and stability.

    I think there is a question of work/income that isn’t clear in this story, and I sense there is a mental illness component as well - lots of people blow inherited and found money but still hold down jobs and support themselves- they might not maximize opportunities but penny stocks never left anyone indigent that I know of. Not working, however, is a fast path to physical, mental, and spiritual decline.

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  30. My in-laws did something similar (not buying into scam after scam, but consistently using credit to live above their means, refusing to engage in frugality, and viciously attacking me for doing so).

    We never gave them cash or credit cards, but we did pay off balances and their mortgage (there wasn’t much left) to save them from hitting the rocks.

    Since the latest round of inflation made even continuing to live in a house she owns outright unaffordable, my MIL (FIL has since passed away) recently moved into a one-bedroom apartment attached to our house, where the only bills she has to pay are car insurance and supplemental health insurance. We even cover her groceries. That apartment and the knowledge that it would eventually come to this are major reasons why we chose this house.

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