How to Support Your Broke Parents

It's hard enough to support yourself nowadays, so what happens when you're faced with the prospect of supporting your parents? It can create stress in your life — not to mention put a strain on other relationships, especially between you and your spouse — but it doesn't have to go down like that. If your parents are teetering on tapped out, and looking to you for help, here's how to make the best of it for everybody involved.

1. Recognize Their Hardship and Provide Emotional Support

It's not easy to ask anyone for money, especially when you're a self-sufficient adult. But sometimes things don't always work out financially. If your parents are experiencing a serious financial downturn — like, they're broke — the first thing you need to do is recognize their plight and offer emotional support. Even if they haven't always been the most responsible people financially, the last thing they need right now is your judgment. Let them know that you're there for them to talk to, vent, cry, or whatever they need to do to get over the initial blow of being bone dry. Assure them that you'll be there for them as a pillar of emotional support whenever they need it.

2. Help Them Navigate the Road to Government Assistance

If your parents qualify for government assistance — and if they're truly dried up financially, they will — help them navigate the red tape of getting what they need to survive. There will be agencies to visit and plenty of forms to fill out in order qualify, and if they're of a certain age, they may require your capabilities to expedite the process.

3. Introduce Them to New Ways to Make Extra Money

What's so great about the American marketplace today is that there are so many (relatively) easy ways to make extra cash. Depending on how mobile and motivated your parents are (if they're broke, they should be plenty motivated!), they could bring in a decent amount of dough by becoming drivers for Uber or Lyft; watching people's pets by signing up with DogVacay or Rover; or hosting travelers by offering guests accommodations in their home via Airbnb, VRBO, or Roomorama. My own parents have been financially strapped at times over the past few years, and they've converted part of their home into rental efficiencies to bring in extra money. These are just a few of the more popular ways to earn income without a grueling schedule or backbreaking work, but you'll find other viable options with a little research into the "gig economy."

4. Tap Into Your Own Contacts for Potential Job Opportunities

You've made a ton of contacts over the years to help yourself financially, so maybe you can tap into those resources to help out Mom and Dad. There's absolutely no shame in that game. You probably shouldn't hit up somebody you've just met to ask if they have extra work for your parents, and your parents definitely shouldn't expect an executive position out of this deal, but maybe one of your long-standing contacts with whom you have a good rapport and mutual respect has some office or light cleaning work they can throw your way. There's no harm in asking around.

5. Consider Paying "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" Recurring Bills

If your parents' money situation (or lack thereof) has really hit the skids, you might need to open your own wallet to alleviate some of their financial pain. That doesn't necessarily mean that you need to take over all their bills — you have plenty of your own to pay, remember, and your own wellbeing is your first priority — but there may be areas where you can help, however nominally.

My friend Maria is a small-business owner, and she recently told me about how she helps her parents who are currently in a financial conundrum.

"My parents are broke, mainly because they never pursued an education and have worked hourly jobs their entire life," she said. "I suggest people help their parents by taking care of recurring bills that you can just charge on a monthly basis without having to have a constant dialogue about expenses. Parents usually tend to feel bad asking for help, so it could be a bit humiliating for them to constantly have to ask for money. I help my parents by paying their health insurance and utility bills."

6. Offer to Help Them Downsize and Restructure Their Life

If your parents are broke, but they have assets that can reduce their debt load, now is the time to downsize. Maybe it's moving into a smaller home, or maybe it's selling off some long-held prized possessions. These prospects aren't exactly attractive, granted, but this situation that they're in is exactly why people make investments in the first place — to provide financial padding in times of strife. Material possessions are hard to part with — especially when you've worked so hard to earn them — but food, water, and shelter are more important than an old coin collection or a garage full of valuable treasures. In addition, help them restructure their life and rearrange their priorities so they're living in the most efficient manner possible once they get back on track.

7. Evaluate Your Own Life to See How They Can Fit In

Worst-case scenario, your parents need to become your dependents and move in with you and your family. It may not be the most ideal solution, but most of us would take our parents in, especially if they can still care for themselves, before letting them lose everything to debt and be faced with homelessness. If that's your reality, it's not the end of the world. Take a deep breath, schedule a family meeting, and sit down to discuss how to best make this work for everyone. Who knows, you might find that it's not so bad after all. The kids will have Grandma and Grandpa around more often, you'll have a little extra help around the house (hopefully), and you now have a round-the-clock babysitter so you can sneak out for a cold one — because God knows you deserve it.

Are your parents broke? How are you helping them weather the storm? Let's chat in the comments below.

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