Aging – nobody wants to deal with it, but we are all going through it. Recently I’ve been watching from the sidelines as some of my close friends go through difficult times with their parents. One friend in particular has been faced with a horribly difficult question: Should she let her destitute and bankrupt dad sleep in his car, or welcome him into her home?
The financial crisis of the last few years affected some Americans much more than others, and in the case of my friend’s father, it was devastating. An early retiree, he lost all of the savings he had put into the stock market. This left him dependent only on social security for monthly income. His savings account was quickly depleted. At the beginning of this year, he was evicted from his apartment.
With maxed out credit cards and the task of moving his possessions into a storage unit, he finally let his son and daughter know what was happening to him. He asked them to help him move – they asked why in the world he was moving. Their reaction to his predicament was shock. They had no idea that their father, a strong-willed, fiercely independent man, was in need of assistance. Because he hadn’t let them know of the situation before it was too late, he entered homelessness and bankruptcy before they could do anything to help.
The week he started sleeping in his car, another blow hit. He was hit by another driver in an intersection and his car was totaled. He was lucky to be uninjured. Of course, his daughter urged him to come to her house and stay as long as was needed.
During his stay, which is now several weeks long, the reality of the situation hit home. In advance of his meeting with a bankruptcy attorney, my friend’s father informed her that he had no intention of looking for a job, despite being able bodied and qualified to work. Instead, he would wait in the hopes of receiving an inheritance.
My friend is at the end of her patience, and I can’t blame her. For now, she’s accepted her father as a roommate who won’t be paying rent. He expects her to prepare his meals and is visibly upset when she leaves the house to spend time with her friends. The situation emphasizes the importance of talking to your parents about their retirement and investment plans for their later years. Don’t wait until it is too late to learn the truth about their financial troubles – or hopefully, lack thereof.