Parents without retirement savings

According to the Wall Street Journal, nearly 60% of Baby Boomers have not saved enough for retirement.

While this is a monumental problem for our entire country, it is also one that seems insurmountable to people closer to the situation: children of Boomers.

Those members of Generation X (and younger) are facing some serious concerns about dealing with Mom and Dad’s money issues.

If you are one of the millions of adult children who see your parents nearing retirement age without a nest egg, here is what you can (and can’t) do to help:

Help Your Parents Help Themselves

The relationship between adult child and parent can be pretty fraught. However, if your folks are willing to listen to the voice of reason—as personified by the individual whose diapers they used to change—there are several things they can do to improve their situation.

First and foremost, planning on working a few more years can make a huge difference. If Mom and Dad love their jobs, let them know that working past 65 is a reasonable option. You can help to make this easy for them by offering to help with the peripherals that can make a job more difficult for an older worker. You can help them with commuting, learning new computer programs, packing lunches, etc.

Investing a little of your time in making it easier for them to continue working will pay off in both their retirement savings and your relationship.

If continuing to work is not an option, get Mom and Dad an appointment with a financial planner. There are several avenues available to those who are late savers, like the catch-up provisions in 401k plans and IRAs, and a financial pro will be the best person to steer your parents to the correct percentage to save to keep them comfortable in retirement. If you have to, make the appointment yourself and drive your parents there. It’s that important.

Help in a Big Way

For some families, it works to have grandparents living with a young family. If you can envision your parents’ years of retirement as happy family time with free babysitters built in, then there’s nothing wrong with offering to let them live with you. With housing being the largest living expense for retirees, opening your home to Mom and Dad is a selfless way to help them stretch their nest egg much further.

Don’t Burden Yourself

It is important to note, however, that you need to take care of yourself financially and emotionally before you help your parents. If the idea of living under the same roof again has you gasping for air, then clearly that is not a viable way of helping them. If your parents have made terrible financial decisions all their lives, then do not allow yourself to get sucked into their poor choices. You can only help those who want to help themselves.

It’s especially important to recognize that your retirement and your kids’ educational funds should be sacrosanct. You want to make sure that your future is taken care of—while you help Mom and Dad take care of their own. Remember, you are responsible for yourself and only help out if you can. As your parents probably told you when you were small—they made their bed and they have to sleep in it.

It may feel harsh to realize that you can’t swoop in and save your parents from their poor money choices, but you will ultimately be making better choices for yourself and setting a better example for your kids if you do recognize when your hands are tied.

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