Carrie Schwab Pomerantz
(SET ITAL) Dear Carrie: My mom brought us up in a home filled with love but not a lot of money. Now that I'm in my 30s and she's retired, I want to be able to help her out financially but in a way that also protects her sense of pride and independence. What do you recommend? -- A Reader (END ITAL)

Dear Reader: As I've said many times, I'm all in favor of one generation helping another. That usually is interpreted to mean parents or grandparents helping the kids. But as people are living longer and experiencing longer retirements -- with the corresponding drain on their nest eggs -- I think it's wonderful when kids can turn the tables and help their parents. It's especially great if it's not a huge strain on the kids' finances.

It sounds like your mother is one lucky lady, not only because you have the desire and means to help her, but also because you're sensitive to her feelings. And I think there are a number of meaningful ways to help her without making her feel uncomfortable.

SHARE YOUR FINANCIAL KNOW-HOW

You might open the door by talking to your mom about your own finances, what you're learning and how you're managing. Talk to her about budgeting, saving and how you make choices in your own financial life. That will give her the confidence that you're doing OK.

The next logical step is to talk about her finances. What are her income sources? Does she have enough to cover her essential expenses like housing, food and insurance? What trade-offs does she have to make? By looking at her budget with her, perhaps you'll see places where she can make different choices so she doesn't have to skimp in one area or another.

Helping her manage her money better will give your mother a greater sense of independence. At the same time, by reviewing all this with her, you'll be better able to see the areas where she might need a little extra help.

PINPOINT ONE AREA WHERE YOU'RE PARTICULARLY INTERESTED IN HELPING OUT

If your mom is living on a tight budget, she may be denying herself something that you feel is essential to her well-being and safety. For instance, does she have adequate insurance coverage? What about a cellphone or Internet connection? You could offer to pay for something practical like regular housecleaning or service on her car. Or maybe she'd really benefit from having a gym membership, but it would seem like an extravagance to her.


Carrie Schwab Pomerantz

Carrie Schwab Pomerantz is a Motley Fool contributor.

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