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Am I responsible for taking care of my aging parents?

Published: February 9, 2023   
Dave Ramsey

Dear Dave,
My parents are both in their 70s. They have been healthy and active all their lives, but in spite of them both having good jobs they neglected to plan and save for retirement. Is it my responsibility now to provide them with financial help in their old age?

Dear Reagan,
It sounds like you might be a little irritated that your parents haven’t been responsible with their money. The way you described the circumstances, it’s understandable — to a point. But in my mind, there’s a bigger question when it comes to helping your folks. How big is the burden?

Let me ask you a few things. Do you have the money to help? Now, can you provide this help without your own family suffering or going without? If both answers are yes, I think your question may be a little more about your own aggravation with your folks than any ethical or moral obligation.

A few years ago I spoke with a guy who was in really good shape financially. He made over $1 million a year, and he had plenty set aside in savings and retirement accounts. His father was in poor health and had never handled his money wisely. The son asked me if he should help out his dad by giving him some money every month.

In my mind, there’s no question the right answer was yes. And that’s what I told him. If you’re making millions, but don’t want to help out your sick dad, there’s something wrong with you. There’s something missing inside you that money just won’t fix. However, if you and your family are barely getting by — let’s say you bring home $3,000 a month — you’re not morally required to help a parent who was irresponsible with money their entire life.

I’m not sure what your situation is, Reagan, but I hope you’ll look at things with a little grace and reason. It’s a tough situation to be in, because it sounds like your heart is being pulled in different directions. My advice, above all else, is to pray about it. And, if you have a spouse, talk to them about everything, and make sure the two of you are in agreement on what should be done before moving forward.
God bless you, friend.
— Dave

Dave Ramsey, a best-selling author, personal finance expert and host of The Ramsey Show, can be heard by more than 18 million listeners each week.

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