Are You Responsible For Bailing Out Your Financially Irresponsible Parents?

We often hear stories about beleaguered parents who continually dip into their bank accounts to keep their fiscally foolish offspring from ending up on Skid Row. But what about when the shoe is on the younger generation’s foot?

That was a question put to Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax from a reader whose parents cut them off when they turned 18, but who now are in danger of running out of cash.

As one would expect, there is no clear-cut answer for this. Yes, children are generally under no legal obligation to bail out their parents, but is there an ethical or moral duty?

“If adult kids are uncomfortable with (or foresee resenting) the idea of supporting their parents after said parents burned through their money irresponsibly, then that needs to be part of the conversation before the parents’ money runs dry,” writes Hax. “For example: ‘If you’re in danger of running out of money, then we all need to start planning now, because we haven’t planned on supporting you.'”

Hax suggests trying to talk your parents into going as a group to see a financial planner who specializes in retirement. And if they won’t go, you might want to go on your own — at the very least, you’ll probably learn something about your own savings.

As for those people who say you should just let your irresponsible parents dig themselves out of their hole, Hax writes, “It’s a lot easier to have this belief than to act on it… few adult kids can legitimately argue that their parents did nothing for them.”


Carolyn Hax: What happens when parents go broke during their golden years [Washington Post]