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When your parents need financial help

It's hard for your aging parents to admit they need financial help, but done right, an arrangement can benefit the entire family. Here are 7 tips to help.

By MSN Smart Spending editor Sep 4, 2013 4:55PM
This post comes from David Ning at partner site U.S. News & World Report.

MSN Partner siteMany people are faced with the need to help their parents while still tending to their own retirement needs. It can be challenging to share resources with more people, and a plan is essential to avoid conflicts. Here are seven important points to consider when helping out your parents financially:

Image: Senior woman (© Image Source/Getty Images)1. Figure out how you will actually afford everything
Most people are quick to offer financial support without thinking it though, which often results in unneeded stress and arguments when the finances don't quite work out. It’s important to develop a financial plan from the beginning to clearly communicate what is possible. Your plan should cover you, your family and your parent's needs as well as possible. Don’t forget future needs either. It’s easy to allow immediate needs to consume all your resources because they seem so urgent, but that’s a recipe for disaster down the road. You need to take care of your future self too.

2. Talk about the new arrangement with all the people involved
It's important to sit down and talk about the plan. Don't forget to invite your siblings to the discussion to avoid confusion and duplicate efforts. Perhaps your siblings are already helping in some way, or might be willing to start helping out once they understand the situation. You’ll never know unless someone actually talks about it.

3. Your parents might need more than financial help
Another reason to sit down with your parents is to fully understand what they actually need. Money concerns are obvious, but many parents can also benefit from the emotional support that only their children can provide. In many cases, the care you can offer is much more important to them than any checks you can send their way.

4. Consider having your parents move in with you

It's almost taboo in our society, but living with your parents once you are grown and have your own family is actually quite common in many different cultures around the world. Yes, more people within close proximity often complicates even the tiniest issues, but it can also create joy. While there will be some extra liabilities, your parents can likely help out in many different ways just by being around the house. Plus, one less living arrangement to pay for can free up quite a bit of money. It could be a win-win.

5. Help them maximize their benefits
Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are all programs that can make the difference between worrying and not worrying about meeting basic needs. Chances are very high that your parents aren't maximizing their benefits from these programs. Take time to study the details so you can help them reap the most rewards, and you will benefit too by being able to plan more efficiently for your own retirement.

6. Spend time with them, and encourage them to have comfortable lives
Though money matters usually spark these types of discussions, continue the conversation by suggesting a more fulfilling life. Instead of sending a check for food every month, consider inviting them over for dinner every few days. Instead of gifting them cash for entertainment, consider taking a walk in the park. There are countless ways to be happy without spending a ton of money. Help your parents find joy in life.

7. Cherish the time you have with them

You may dread hearing your parent's complaints and try to avoid seeing them, but you will one day look back and miss the time you get to spend with your folks. You can always make more money, but you will never have more time.

Helping your aging parents can actually be a blessing in disguise, because a loving family can provide much more than any monetary amount can. So go ahead, ask your parents to see how you can help, even if they aren't seeking help. You may even become a happier person in the process.

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