It can be difficult to deal with oppressive debt, especially when it can feel that there are no options. It can leave you feeling embarrassed and vulnerable. When it comes to older folks, that embarrassment and vulnerability can be heightened for a variety of reasons. In April 2008, I wrote about that topic: When Parents Are in Debt. Now, results from a study reported in today’s USA Today reveals that older Americans are “are racking up credit card debt faster than other consumers amid dwindling retirement portfolios and rising medical costs.” It’s time for us younger folks to be more proactive.
This generation of Americans is the last to either have witnessed the Great Depression of (for now) the 1930s. They lived most of their lives in the shadow of that time. It’s been my experience that when an older person is facing bankruptcy, they are not being proactive in dealing with their debt. Most of the time, it is an adult child or other younger family member that steps up to help them. They are too embarrassed. They may tell you it’s none of your business.
It would be really easy for me to simply say “go talk to your parents, tell them that you want to review their finances, and that you want to know what they are spending their money on.” Real easy, right. Of course, if I offered that, I’d have to ignore the fact that parents do not want you involved in their personal financial lives, that they probably feel it’s not your place, and it’s none of your business. It might even provoke a family disagreement (which is a polite way of saying a fight…although families don’t really fight over money, right?).
Let this USA Today article be a starter for you.
Try, “So… mom and dad, I came across this article from USA Today and another at CNN about credit card debt and older Americans, and I want share my concerns with you.” I also recommend re-reading the April 2008 post about parents in debt to bring yourself up to speed on the issues you might have to deal with when speaking to them. Reach out to them. Start talking.
- Reactive vs. Proactive
- When Parents are in Debt
- Talking to the Kids: Dealing with Failure
- Talking to your Kids
- Unintended Consequences in Estate Planning