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Subject:  helping my mom retire Date:  1/28/2008  12:07 PM
Author:  scientista Number:  1215 of 1929

I'm a regular on the consumer debt board because I'm currently revitalizing my finances through debt repayment.
This may not be the appropriate board for this question but it seemed to be the best place.
I need help and advice on a serious matter. I'm 26 years old and have been financially independent of parents since age 18. I'm extremely worried about my mother's retirement situation. She will be 57 this year and I am afraid she has very little savings for retirement. Here is a brief synopsis of her financial history:

1. Until about 1990, she was married to my father and was a stay-at-home mom. She never attended college.
2. Parents divorce, mom quickly finds a minimum-wage job to support me and sister.
3. Mom works at same company for about 12 years, getting several promotions and raises. She has $XXXX saved in a 401K. At some point during this time, she gets into trouble with credit cards and writing hot checks. She is under constant financial pressure due to overspending and poor understanding of credit and savings.
4. In 2002, she suddenly quits her job for bogus reason (she was passed over for promotion and was angry one day and just resigned). She is not eligible for unemployment. She cashes out 401K and refuses to find employment for about six months. She waits until her cash runs out to find a new job.
5. In 2003, she gets low-wage job without benefits at a famous big-box store. She refuses to try to find a job using her previous experience, because she is just too bitter about the previous debacle at old job.
6. She gets a promotion and raise or two at current job, attains health and dental benefits, and has some type of retirement savings plan. At some point in the last couple of years, her car, with less than a year of payments left, is repossessed, making it difficult to get to work.

One extremely difficult aspect of my problem is that she adamantly refuses to discuss her situation with me. She takes it as a personal insult that I would dare to try and help her. So, I don't have all the facts on the situation.
However, I am pretty sure her credit is very damaged due to defaulting on credit cards, being arrested for hot checks, having a car repossessed, and cashing out the 401K. She has only five year's worth of retirement savings at a low income level (AT BEST, I don't even know if she is actually saving). No stocks, no CDs, no Roth, or any other savings. She still lives paycheck to paycheck and frequently runs out of money even to pay for the most basic needs. For example, last summer I discovered that she had been living without electricity for several MONTHS because she couldn't pay the bill (we live in central Texas where high temperatures become life-threatening). She didn't ask for help paying it; I went round her house one day and found her in the dark. She is likely in poor health, but she doesn't avail herself of her medical benefits to get even regular medical or dental checkups. She says she can't afford even the co-pay and doesn't have a car to get to the appointments (she lives in a suburban area with no public transit). She has rented the same house for 15 years.

My biggest concern is that when she becomes unable to work, I will have to support her. Since she is so behind in saving, I suspect that she will only stop working when she is not healthy enough to continue, resulting in higher healthcare costs as well. I know she will probably get a small amount from Social Security, but not enough to pay her way. I have one sister who has practically disowned my mom because she's so irresponsible and she has refused to help. So I feel that I'm on my own with this problem.

My left brain tells me that this is HER PROBLEM. A lifetime of irresponsible choices has resulted in her predicament. I'm not responsible for her bad planning any more than she is responsible for my credit card debt. However, she is my mother, who gave me life and raised me up. I feel that I shouldn't just abandon her to the wolves.

I have considered saving some money specifically for her retirement but I fear that it wouldn't be enough to make a difference at this point in the game. Also, any funds I direct towards her will detract from my personal financial goals (including saving for my own retirement and getting myself ready for marriage and kids of my own).

Any advice you can provide would be well received. I especially need advice on how to frankly discuss the matter with her. I'm giving myself gray hairs over this predicament every day. It's just so frustrating to see someone you love giving up on life.

Again, I apologize if this is the wrong place to ask this question and please redirect me if that is the case.

Thanks so much,

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