Loving kids to debt: Older Americans in trouble for 'helping' children

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  • Queencastle Los Angeles City, CA
    July 26, 2013 11:20 p.m.

    Coping with debt in old age is not a nice prospect. Yet there are ways out. Here's how to deal with debt for senior citizens. Article resource: get much more information in each of our blog!

  • alert Payson, Utah
    April 24, 2013 7:12 a.m.

    This is a good article on a serious problem. The comments are also very good. It appeared to me they read the article first before commenting. My rule of thumb is if I am hurting more than the one I am helping, something is wrong. Or to put it another way, if they can afford things I can't afford, then why am I helping them. The tuition for the school of hard knocks is pretty high and I have paid it too often. But it seems to be the only way I learn sometimes. By degrees I learned to profit from the experiences of others. I couldn't afford to or live long enough to make all the mistakes myself. Children need the opportunity to find this out too. Tough love is often harder on the parents than on the children. We helped our children at times when they were doing all they could and we could afford it. We have been totally debt free for over 15 years now. We could have done that decades earlier if I had been willing to listen to my wife more.

  • raybies Layton, UT
    April 23, 2013 8:30 a.m.

    Children need to experience poverty. They need to care for their own debts. It's a phase they need to go through as important as puberty. Too often they spring from the nest, attempting to get into a mortgage even before finishing college or just out of it. But that isn't always the best solution. Children need to work their way up to the dream home... not start life with it.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    April 23, 2013 7:50 a.m.

    Yup! and if the Republicrats get their way and continue to erode the value of Social Security payments, what will that type of youngster do? Their long suffering parents will have less to give financially and less credit to borrow their "gifts". The entitled offspring might have to leave their parents' home, face their own credit standing, buy their own health care. How will they manage?

    I was raised with the idea that, just as our parents sacrificed for us when we were young and vulnerable, we would reasonably and gratefully provide for them when they were old and worn out.

  • KG South Jordan, UT
    April 23, 2013 7:44 a.m.

    I think another facet of the problem is that college degrees once ensured employment, but no more. Some degrees are useless, but still cost an exorbitant amount to obtain. Too many students go to college and take classes, but don't plan a career.

  • Rynn Las Vegas, NV
    April 23, 2013 6:14 a.m.

    Jeanie - That is spot on about some parents wanting to keep an adult child dependent so they don't have to face a bad marriage. I have that within my family. I have an adult sibling who lives with my parents and they enable him to the point that it's crippling. They do everything for him and expect nothing in return (he has a rather large sense of entitlement as well).
    My parents have a bad marriage and I guess this is a great way for them to keep that problem on the back burner.

    Elizabeth G - Years ago I had a friend who didn't qualify for financial aid because her step-father made to much money. Meanwhile, he wouldn't help her with college since she wasn't his biological daughter.

  • Burnham Bountiful, Utah
    April 23, 2013 4:37 a.m.

    My husband is 78 and I am 66 yrs old. My middle son lived with us for a time but paid $700.00 a month for rent. Now my youngest son has been out of work for 10 months and he and his son, 16 yrs old, have been living with us. He moved back to Utah from California about 3 yrs ago and has lived with us all that time. We have incurred about $18,000 in credit card debt during that time. We were debt free before he moved here. We love him to debt I guess. He does much around the house while looking for work such as redoing my kitchen and landscaping my yard and some of that debt is from those things. He does the yard and the snow removal and fixes a lot of things that are needed that my husband cannot do. However, if he doesn't find work soon we don'g know what we are going to do. This economy adds to the problems we older Americans have because there is so little work available for him.I hope something breaks soon for the both of us.

  • Elizabeth G Vancouver, WA
    April 22, 2013 8:05 p.m.

    Maybe the reason students expect help with college is because the Federal Government expects parents to help with college. When filling out the FASFA (the form the federal government requires for consideration for college assistance and most colleges require for their scholarships), you must include your parents income information until you are 24 yrs. old. Even if you don't live with your parents or receive any help from them between the ages of 18-23, you must include their income information. The government & college decide your "need" based on that information. If your parents are making great incomes, the students receive little or no aid to pay for college. It doesn't matter if they divorced and kicked you to the curb right after high school graduation.

  • carman Wasatch Front, UT
    April 22, 2013 4:57 p.m.


    You are right that college costs are going up faster than wages. And there are fewer jobs available at typically lower real salaries when you get out.

    These are a couple of asons why it is particularly shameful tat the retirement generation and their lobbiest are fighting against decreases in the social security payment benefit growth rate, or any reductions in Medicare spending. The Boomers will bankrupt this country and many future generates if entitlements are not reigned in.

  • KG South Jordan, UT
    April 22, 2013 4:38 p.m.

    I recently graduated from law school. I am paying for it myself, and will be for quite a while. My parents support me in my decisions, and help here and there, with things like carrying boxes and helping drive a moving truck when I moved for school. I am proud that I am paying for my own education. But, that said, the problem isn't solely with the sense of entitlement. Tuition rates are out of control. In the last ten years, tuition at my law school has almost doubled. And in the last twenty years, it has gone up exponentially (about 15x the cost now than it was 20 years ago). So, before casting all the blame on the generations who seem to think they are entitled, perhaps some of the blame ought to be on the outrageous costs of higher education. I chose my career path, and went in with my eyes open, but the student loan debt load is a problem nationwide.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    April 22, 2013 3:26 p.m.

    I agree with pretty much everything posted here. I'm working hard to get my kids to own their lives and their decisions, and to learn from them. I'm not being selfish by not taking them on my vacations. I'm living my life. They can own, and live, theirs. That's where dignity lies.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    April 22, 2013 3:08 p.m.

    @RanchHand. I am honored that we agree!

  • bluebullet94 ,
    April 22, 2013 2:38 p.m.

    I agree with everything the articles states, but I really wish my parents would've managed their own money better and had the OPTION of helping their children if needed. They are both at retirmenet age now and mostly destitute and will probably end up living with one of us kids which will add a financial strain to a younger family. My primary goal in retirement is to have enough for and my wife and I to live comfortably and have the OPTION of helping our children in times of crisis or emergency. I would never give regular hand-outs to my grown children, but the ability to financially help a child without compromising our own financial position is something I would strive for.

  • jeanie orem, UT
    April 22, 2013 2:28 p.m.

    Enabling stay-at-home adult children or dependent-on-parent adult children is often a result of parents who need to retain control in their children's lives for one reason or another. It may be because of guilt for not feeling like they were a good parent when the kids were younger or because if they pulled back and let their kids be independent adults the parent's life would be reduced to a marriage that may not be happy. As long as there is a dependent kid (no matter how old) the marriage takes second place.

    Often it is easier to wring hands over a dependent adult child and continue to prop them up than face the reality of a miserable marriage or to let the past go. I've seen both reasons play out in my own extended family and everyone looses.

  • Lone Star Cougar Plano, TX
    April 22, 2013 2:02 p.m.

    I wonder if people will see themselves in this article either in the older set or younger set?

  • rlsintx Plano, TX
    April 22, 2013 1:38 p.m.

    Two words: entitlement and enablers.

  • RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    April 22, 2013 1:25 p.m.

    I hate to have to admit this, but I agree with Mountanman and several of the other conservative's comments on this.

    Eagles push their chicks from the nest for a reaon.

  • Ironmomo Ogden, Utah
    April 22, 2013 1:01 p.m.

    I had a neighbor tell me once, that as a Christmas gift, her and her husband were going to pay off their daughter and son-in-law's Nordstrom credit card, which had accrued thousands of dollars in charges.

    I suggested that perhaps a better Christmas gift might be a pair of sharp scissors that her daughter and son-in-law could use to cut their credit card into pieces.

    I don't think she liked my suggestion.

  • SG in SLC Salt Lake City, UT
    April 22, 2013 12:01 p.m.

    Great article, Mike! (This is Stephan).

    I think you would agree that, while Kay and Connie have made significant sacrifices for their adult children (as many parents do), they have also probably done a better-than-average job of trying to find a balance between being perfectly frugal/fiscally responsible and perfectly compassionate/accommodating.

    On a number of occasions I have been the beneficiary of my parents' generosity in times of need -- something for which I will never be able to adequately repay them, though I have tried. I hope to "pay it forward", as I am able. In contrast, my sister, who is not remotely self-sufficient and probably never will be, exploits my parents' unwillingness to see her and her young daughter go without the necessities of life. There is a "day of reckoning" coming for her, when our parents will no longer be there to enable her bad financial choices. The sad thing is, her daughter will end up being the victim, because I won't continue enabling my sister's behavior.

  • Albert Maslar CPA (Retired) Absecon, NJ
    April 22, 2013 11:18 a.m.

    These younger people mostly in their thirties, forties, and fifties, are usually college graduates who should know better but who have adopted non-traditional lifestyles and spending habits, and do not understand that merely having credit is not enough, there needs to be a willingness and ability to repay loans and borrowings. Easy come, easy go, and a dependence on the old folks to feel sorry for the kiddies and continue to sacrifice themselves for their indulgent children is a recipe for disaster, eventually for both.

  • Michael De Groote
    April 22, 2013 10:40 a.m.

    I just realized I don't want my parents to read this story. ;-)

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    April 22, 2013 9:11 a.m.

    I can relate totally. I've tried to bail out my kids I've learn the lessen about assuming, and what the word makes me and them.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    April 22, 2013 8:49 a.m.

    Stop rescuing your children. They will never learn about self reliance and being accountable for their choices. In other words, they will never grow up. We have way too many people like that in this country already.

    April 22, 2013 8:25 a.m.

    "Entitlement" has become a euphemism for the "I want it now, it's my right!" syndrome. We act like we were sent here to mortality to live a happy life of ease, not learn from life's hard lessons. But the profile is not new--every generation has had its share of loafers and coasters, and parents that encourage it: "I want my kids to have what I didn't" becomes "give 'em anything they want!"

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    April 22, 2013 8:02 a.m.

    Although this story centers on the problems of parents who do more for their children than they can afford, it triggered a note of gratitude in me because of my very different experience.

    I was raised by parents who did all they could for their six children but who had so little, what they could "afford" was miniscule. So, we children never even gave a second thought to the idea of them providing **anything** to us when we were grown. Rather, our mindset was to try and raise enough ourselves that we would be in a position to provide for them. Unfortunately, they both died before the question of how we were to provide for them became much of an issue.

    I realize our economy has changed a great deal in the 45-50 years since my "youth". But, remarkably, with all its challenges, most of which are self-inflicted and societal rather than economic, I still see an abundance of opportunity. As hard or easy as it might be, we must do a better job of instilling the idea of independence and self-sufficiency in our children, or doom them to some form of servitude and/or disability.

  • Twin Sister LINDON, UT
    April 22, 2013 7:22 a.m.

    This is a sad situation. I believe that part of what contributes to this problem is that those over 50 with adult children have discovered that these children are part of the "entitlement" generation. Many of these children expect their parents to give them anything and everything they want, and they haven't learned to distinguish between wants and needs. Additionally, I know of a few couples in their late 60s and 70s who haven't been able to retire yet because they felt that they "owed" it to their children to pay for their education---both undergraduate and graduate tuition. One couple is now in debt $70,000 because they helped pay for their son's law school. The son now makes a lucative six-digit income and "can't afford" to pay his parents back for any of that tuition they paid on his behalf. Obviously, not only did the parents err in helping their son out, but the son is also irresponsible and entitled.