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Your own money needs to come first

As the baby boomer bulge gets older there are lots of us with parents needing help and kids who are still dependent.

As the baby boomer bulge gets older there are lots of us with parents needing help and kids who are still dependent.

But many who are younger than boomers find themselves in the same fix.

Take Mariah and Dawn. They’re twins, 37 and very close. Mariah, divorced with two boys, lives in Vancouver and Dawn, recently separated with a daughter, is in Edmonton.

Money is tight, time tighter and they are both completely stressed about their unemployed younger brother and their seventy-something parents who live in Nova Scotia.

The twins admit they are “kind of bad” with money. But they are torn between helping their parents who have little savings and their own financial demands. Dawn has twice increased her credit limit to send money to their parents and Mariah has just flown their brother to Vancouver to live with her until he gets a job.

Neither is contributing to their kids’ RESPs and both are considering stopping RRSP contributions for a couple of years.

They asked me for advice. Here it is. Whoa!

I told Mariah and Dawn to imagine they are on an airplane with their kids and the cabin depressurizes.

According to pre-flight instructions, they should put on their own masks and then help the children.

But it’s hard to do when you are fearful for your kids’ lives. You naturally want to help them first.

However, the fact is that if you don’t take care of yourself you may not be capable of helping your kids.

The same is true of money. Mariah and Dawn should focus on putting their own financial houses in order first. Unless their brother has some kind of health problem he can fend for himself.

Nor should they start forking out money to their parents before a plan is in place for the future including the possibility of downsizing, assembling community supports, applying for seniors housing and creating a thorough budget so the twins know exactly where their parents stand. Mariah and Dawn must concentrate on their own financial health first. Otherwise they put their future welfare in jeopardy, which will leave them unable to help their family members.

Alison Griffiths is the author of the upcoming book Count On Yourself: Take Charge of Your Money. Reach her at alisongriffiths.ca or griffiths.alison@gmail.com.