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Should Tracy Morgan pay mom's mortgage?

Members of the TV star's family have criticized him for not paying off her house, which is headed to foreclosure.

By Karen Datko Feb 1, 2012 7:59PM

Comedian and "30 Rock" star Tracy Morgan is taking heat in the media for not paying off the less than $25,000 his mother still owes on her Ohio house, which is headed for foreclosure.


Morgan reportedly offered to give his mother, Alicia Warden, $2,000, presumably enough to keep foreclosure at bay, but too little to stop some family members from taking him to task in a very public way.


It's an ugly situation. The New York Daily News reports :

Warden says she worked until February 2011, when she lost her job. Not long after that, she adds, she first approached Tracy about helping her.
She claims he initially agreed to pay off her house, but changed his mind after accusing her of giving an interview to the media. (She denies doing this.)
Her unemployment benefits have run out, and Warden says she asked her son for help earlier this month.

What followed was an offer of $2,000, which Warden says she turned down. "God don't like ugly," Warden told the Daily News. “Karma comes back to you.” Post continues below.

We have no way of knowing all of the family dynamics here, but the situation raises a good question: How obligated are well-off grown kids to help out parents who have less money?


There are several ways to look at this, and Daily News readers pointed out some of them:

  • Family trumps all. The past doesn't matter if you have the wherewithal to help a parent/sibling.
  • Or is it quid pro quo? Should the grown child's willingness to assist be based on what transpired earlier in life?
  • It's nobody's business. Family matters should be resolved privately, and those who aren't in the know should refrain from judgment.

Parents seeking help from financially secure children happens more than you'd think, according to a recent Wall Street Journal story called "Are your parents sponges?" Among the personal accounts in the article:

Jeffery Lemon, a 46-year-old dentist in Aberdeen, Wash., extended an offer for his 62-year-old mother to move in with him, his wife and their three children when her consultancy practice dried up several years ago and her home fell into foreclosure.
The problem? She felt entitled to the help, Mr. Lemon says, and he didn't feel he could say no. His siblings also expected him to step up and help their mother.

Lemon, who's saving for his kids' college, supported his mother for a year before he stopped -- and that didn't go over well. The story didn't explain what happened after that.


The WSJ article mentions some tips to manage the situation, including:

  • Keep the amount of your wealth secret. Hard to do if your net worth -- $18 million for Morgan -- has been reported in the media.
  • Set limits. For instance, instead of paying all of a spendthrift parent's credit card bills, the articles says, pay for their fee to attend credit counseling.

That advice clearly says you are well within your rights to set the amount of your largesse, even if you can afford more.


The Washington Post's Michelle Singletary, who alerted her readers about the WSJ story, observed:  

For years I've advised people who can afford it to set aside money in an account to help financially strapped family members.
However, while I believe that to whom much is given, much is required, helping family comes with a lot of pitfalls.

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