Ghost of Support IV

Wrote about reverse mortgages and questioning why they would be needed, if parents in need had adult children. Neil Remington Abramson commented on the circumstances of parental support of their own parents, within his own family. Lorne discussed practical reasons why one might expect parents to need to be self-sufficient in later years.

Est-ce que c’est préférable que les parents prennent soin financier d’eux mêmes, afin de démontrer aux enfants qu’ils/elles aussi doivent prendre soin financier d’eux mêmes? Qu’est-ce que c’est la morale préférée de l’histoire de La Fourmie et La Sauterelle?

Here, Neil Remington Abramson comments further on reverse mortgages and general family support issues (e-mail correspondence reproduced with permission):

Reverse mortgages are not necessarily a good thing. I think Consumer Reports had something to say. The people getting the mortgages are given up to 40% of the values of their homes, but the fees they pay are much higher than even a bank would charge. They are told that they will never have to pay back the capital and interest until they die or move. The reality is that many elderly people move into care homes before they die, and they discover they have no capital because the interest and fees have swallowed the full value. And I wonder if they end up owing more than the value of the property – does the mortgage company try to get the heirs to assume the debt?

I have an elderly relative who has arranged a reverse mortgage. He claims that he is very short of money but I remember my mother (dead 19 years) complaining that this relative always claimed to be short of money, even when he was making more than my stepfather. And the situation was exacerbated because when this guy retired at 65, he was given a choice between a lifetime pension and one that was a fixed a 20 year term, with a higher monthly amount. He took the 20 year term pension, figuring that, having smoked all his life, he wouldn’t live past 85. Now he is in his nineties, and without a pension, and no longer smokes. He survives on his investments (which of course he claims are very small – what’s new), and renting out rooms in his house. There are a number of people I know, and have known, who claim to be poor even when I know they have impressive assets, compared with most others. I used to call one of them the richest poorest person I knew.

An issue that Lorne doesn’t deal with is the question of the parents’ responsibility for their own lives, not to mention their adult children, who are responsible for their own lives as well. I read stories that the average American has saved only a very paltry amount for his/her retirement. $7,000 I sort of remember from last year.

We have lived in a very consumer-oriented society all our lives. We have been blasted by endless marketing about always spending now to get what we want. Even our political leaders have urged us to take on more debt and keep spending, to keep the economy going. Well, the whole society has been set up to reward those who do not save, and punish savers with low interest rates and generally poor returns. Now that mandatory retirement has been abolished, these people realize they can’t afford to retire, because they have too much debt and too few savings. And that’s part of the problem as to why our kids can’t get decent paying jobs.

Now, the chickens are coming home to roost. If your health goes, you have to retire, even if you can’t.

If a person is a saver, then why is such person supposed to help profligate family members, including children, maintain lifestyles they never could have afforded if they were planning to keep themselves financially secure throughout life?

My relative doesn’t want to come live in my basement. He wants to maintain his own home and independence and lifestyle. He surely bears some responsibility for his own situation. As I am responsible for mine. My parents expected to take care of themselves, and they did through careful saving. I intend to do the same. I think self-reliance is an important value. How do you teach that if it’s only in theory, but in practice you run the “Bank of Mom and Dad” as a friend described his situation with his children.

One of Aesop’s Fables is the story of The Ant and The Grasshopper. When the grasshopper comes begging for food and shelter, after spending all summer enjoying himself, while the ant worked to put in supplies for the winter, the ant tells him to “drop dead” and slams the door in his face. The moral was that people had to take responsibility for their actions. In the revised Walt Disney version, the ant welcomes the grasshopper in and they live happily ever after. The revised version is a reflection of what we have become. People can do whatever they like, because there are no consequences for not taking responsibility for themselves. Ultimately, anyone who has taken responsibility, is expected to also take care of everyone who didn’t.

If my elderly relative needed to live in my basement, I guess we could deal with that. But I am not going to pay to satisfy these people’s unreasonable desires that I be responsible to maintain whatever they think their lifestyle should be, It is one matter to love family members and to honour in particular elderly relatives. It is quite another to let them escape the consequences of their own actions. They are responsible, and they have always had full authority over the actions they took to meet that responsibility. I would, and will help. But the extent of my help will not be dictated to me, and will be based on what I can responsibly do, while ensuring that my own responsibilities are addressed.

Where did I learn these values? Presumably I got them from my parents. Am I honouring my parents by trying to live up to the values I learned from them? You help out as you are able, though in the context of what you can afford. This is because you remain responsible for yourself, and don’t want to become a burden on your children.

If God disagree with my views, then I will be glad to discuss my attitudes and actions with Him, when that time comes. In the meantime, I think self-reliance and responsibility for one’s own affairs are important values I will likely hear from God, I suspect sooner, rather than later, if He wants me to re-think my position.

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About brucelarochelle

http://www.lmslawyers.com/bruce-la-rochelle
This entry was posted in Ageing, Family Support Obligations, Seniors. Bookmark the permalink.

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