• Julie Katz

Should you support relatives using your retirement funds?

Four important considerations for seniors.

When I worked as director of an independent living apartment, we raised the rent. I lovely couple came to me and told me they could not afford the increase, because they were sending money every month to their daughter who had made personal choices that left her unable to support herself or her family. I contacted our clergy for advice and was told that this couple needed to take care of themselves first. Their daughter could apply for help from a charitable organization.

Remember the airline announcements to put the mask on yourself before assisting others? Unless you are still on a payroll, retirement income is limited to interest and dividends at best. Except for the very wealthy, savings are not a bottomless pit.

Whether you go on a trip of a lifetime or help a relative is up to you. Seeing your disabled grandchild get around with the help of the latest wheelchair may be much better sight than traveling around the world to see a beautiful landscape. If a family member or friend is asking you for money that is less extreme than helping a disabled child, consider these factors:

  • Can another individual or organization help this person?

  • Can the person get loans to solve their problems and you can help if necessary to pay off the loans?

  • If you give money to your relative, will this allow them to pull themselves out of their current dire situation or just continue the status quo? Rehab or higher education are examples, but there are always loans.

  • What are you being asked to fulfill - a need or a desire?

What if you are not giving up a vacation but medicine, food or housing quality so you can support a relative? Don't do it. Even if your relative is the victim of some unfortunate illness, accident or violence, there are other ways to support them. You can do research for organizations willing to help, babysit, make meals or encourage others to give generously to crowdfunding. Being hospitalized, because you didn't have the resources to take care of yourself, benefits no one.

This approach may not seem kind or generous to some readers. Ask yourself, am I enabling my relative or being taken advantage of? If the answer is yes, keep your hard earned money.

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