Dear Carrie: How do I protect my 80-year-old parents from siblings that are mooching off them? My parents have a rental home that they've been counting on for retirement income, and my brother and his wife have been living there rent-free over seven years. They say they're going through rough times, but I don't see them tightening the belt like everyone else.
Mom and Dad are touchy about not having their money, but they are torn in that they can't evict them, either. How can we start talking about this so we can resolve the situation? — A Reader
Dear Reader: This is a really good question and more relevant in today's society than you might expect. In a recent industry survey, 44 percent of retired respondents said they contribute to the financial support of at least one other individual (more than half of which were their adult children), which adds to their own financial pressures. By allowing your brother to live rent-free, that's just what your parents are doing.
However, knowing that it's a common situation doesn't make it any easier to handle. Most families struggle to talk freely about money, especially when there's a potential problem or inequity. But if you can get your parents to start a conversation, you'll be doing them a big favor — and you and your brother as well.
TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED
I'm a strong believer in families helping families, but I also believe that one's own retirement has to come first. Your parents shouldn't in any way feel guilty about bringing this up with your brother. They may, however, need a little encouragement. That's where you can come in. While it's really up to them to start the discussion with your brother, you can offer some thoughts and ideas to help them feel more comfortable and assertive. Here are some suggestions:
— Discuss your parents' economic situation frankly with them. Do they really need the rental income? If so, by helping your brother, they're hurting themselves. They planned and saved for a comfortable retirement and they have every right to enjoy it. Help them look at their monthly financial needs and pinpoint how not having the rent affects their well-being. Put it on paper. It's easier to talk about a concrete situation.
— Help your parents understand that their generosity might actually be doing your brother a disservice.