Most of us grew up having our parents pay for things — from food and basic necessities, to sports fees, and maybe even college. However, eventually the situation might reverse, and your parents could be asking you for financial help. You will most likely want to return the favor and help them. Adults have to consider their own finances as well, though. Helping one’s parents in addition to paying one’s own bills can be difficult. In addition, the way you respond to the request, and whether you say yes or no, can affect your relationship by adding an extra weight.
Although many parents would only ask for financial help when necessary, and many adult children feel guilty saying no, you need to be sure that the situation works for you too. Here are five situations when you should help your parents financially.
1. You can afford to help your parents
This is the most important factor to consider when deciding whether or not you can help your parents financially. If you have a lot of extra money and your parents really need help, you should probably help them. Even if they want money to do something fun (and not necessary), you still might want to help them out as a way of saying thank you for the many years that they helped you. However, even if your parents are asking for a very small amount of money, if you don’t have the money, you can’t help them. You also need to consider whether or not taking money out of your savings would put you in a dangerous and unstable financial situation.
2. The request is reasonable
Remember all the times that you asked for your parents to buy you something (a toy, a game, clothes), but they said that you didn’t need it? Well, the same can be true if your parents are asking you for money for something they don’t actually need. If they have a genuine emergency, you should help them if you can. Many different issues would fall under the emergency category, including a job loss, a death, and an unexpected expense that needs to be handled. However, if your parents want money to go on a vacation, buy a fancy new car, or otherwise spend money that doesn’t need to be spent and you have your own bills and debt to worry about, you may need to say no.
3. They don’t ask you for money very often
Just like a parent would cut off a greedy child, you may need to do the same to your parents. It sounds harsh, but even parents can get into the habit of believing that they are entitled to money, or that you have an endless supply. Part of this, of course, has to do with the situation itself (it’s different to consistently pay for your parent’s groceries if they lost their job than if they just don’t feel like paying for them). Giving to someone you care about too often can actually hurt your relationship; this can cause you to neglect your own needs or form resentment to the person asking for the money.
On the other hand, if your parents are facing an emergency, or they have rarely asked you for money, you need to consider that too. If they don’t ask you for money very often, you should try to help them if you can afford it. For many people, it’s difficult to ask someone else for money (and this can be especially true of parents who have to ask their kids). So do your best to be respectful and to genuinely consider their request.
4. You are comfortable with the arrangement
Giving your parents money doesn’t mean that you are never going to get paid back. You might feel more comfortable giving them money — especially a large amount — if you agree on a time frame for when they will pay you back. You need to clearly determine if you are giving them a loan or just flat out giving them the money before you hand over any money at all. If you are comfortable just giving them the money, then there are situations when that would be a great thing to do, if you can afford it. However, make sure that you and your parents both agree about if, and when, they will pay you back. Otherwise you risk never getting the money back, or even hurting your relationship if you disagree about the terms of the gift or loan. You could even start to resent your parents, especially if they consistently make bad choices and then need money from you.
5. You have considered other options
Your parents might have savings of their own or have other options for securing a loan or gift. However, if you really want to help your parents, you should sit down and talk to them about the options that they have. It is very possible that they have already exhausted every other option that they can think of, and they are only coming to you as a last resort. Your parents might not have extra money in savings, or they may not qualify for a loan with a low interest rate. Even if they could get the money elsewhere, you may feel that giving them a conditional loan, rather than sending them to get a payday loan or other loan, is the best idea.
Many parents would only come to their kids to ask for money if they had to, and most children would jump at the chance to help their parents financially. However, sometimes you will want to help but you just won’t have the money available. As important as it is to treat your parents with respect and help when you can, you may have to say no. If you do have to say no, figure out if you can help in other ways (perhaps you can help them with rides if their car is failing, or you can invite them over for more meals if they are having a hard time affording groceries, or you might even cosign on a loan if your parents are trustworthy and responsible). However, if you think your parents consistently mishandle their money or overspend, you might help them even more by helping them set a budget or encouraging them to see a financial planner.