Carrie Schwab Pomerantz
(set ital) Dear Carrie: As a retiree, I don't have a lot of extra money. I've always helped my children and other extended family members, but now it's tough. How do I sort this out? -- A Reader (end ital)

Dear Reader: This is one of those questions that can pull at your heartstrings, as well as your purse strings. Of course, you want to be there for your family. And I'm all for families helping each other out, especially one generation to the next. But while it may have been easier to pitch in during your earning years, it's a different story once you're in retirement.

As counterintuitive as it may be -- especially for a parent -- at this time in your life, you need to put yourself first. To me, that's not being selfish or shirking responsibility, it's just being prudent. And it doesn't mean you have to suddenly cut off all support. There are many ways to be financially helpful that don't require writing a check. However, for everyone to understand, you have to be upfront about your financial situation.

LET YOUR FAMILY IN ON YOUR FINANCIAL CIRCUMSTANCES

If you're not used to talking with your family about your personal finances, this may be uncomfortable at first. You might ease into it by talking about the challenges of living on a fixed income. You don't need to go into detail. Just give an overview of your resources, your obligations and your limitations. This may be new news to whomever you've been helping, whether it's grown kids, an aging parent or another family member who needed a boost.

It could also be a real eye-opener, motivating them (especially your kids) to look a little closer at their own income and expenses to see how they could better manage without your help. Once you have their attention, you might also use this as an opportunity to share your own money management insights on the importance of creating and sticking to a budget, handling credit and debt wisely, and saving for the future -- especially for retirement.

ASK FOR HELP IN MAKING A GRADUAL CHANGE

If you've been providing constant support, this may be a difficult transition. So rather than making a unilateral decision to stop the flow of funds, discuss with family members how each person could make better money choices and gradually shift to greater financial independence.

Or if someone in your family has special needs that you've been taking care of yourself, figure out together how the rest of the family could share this burden. For instance, could you create a rotating schedule where a different person covers the cost every month? That way, everyone could plan their budgets accordingly.

The more you can make this a shared solution, the easier it will be for everyone to adapt to the new reality.


Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

Carrie Schwab Pomerantz is a Motley Fool contributor.

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