Monday, December 3, 2007

Parents and Finances: What Do I Say?

I mentioned last week that I had a frustrating financial conversation with my mom over the holiday weekend.

A little background:
My parents have always been okay with money. They make about $75k a year between them, they have no car payments, their mortgage is only about $850 a month (with 8ish years left), and they have enough saved for retirement, but they have $35k on a HELOC. After listening to me ramble about personal finance like it was going out of style, a couple months ago my mom asked me to show her how my budget worked and how to set one up for herself. The first thing I did was ask her to think about what was important to her and what goals she wanted to set, but she sort of dismissed the idea and just wanted to do the budget. I walked her through the rest of the process and I've been giving her advice little by little (when asked) ever since.

Then this weekend she asked me about her savings accounts at credit unions. She has two savings accounts at two different credit unions, but doesn't use or need them for anything specific. She puts $25 a month in each of them to keep them active so that if they have an emergency and need to buy a new car, they can get a good rate from the credit union.

Basically she wanted to know if $25 was a good number to put in there, but there were so many things wrong with the whole scenario, I hardly knew where to start. All I could think was, EMERGENCY THAT WOULD FORCE YOU TO BUY A BRAND NEW CAR ON SHORT NOTICE????? Are you kidding me??

Of course I didn't say that. I tried to be polite and tactful about pointing out that she not only didn't need to buy a brand new car, but that she also didn't need to get a loan for one, and that there was no emergency that would FORCE her to do this, but the conversation quickly devolved into pointless arguing. Mom said that "at their age" they would never buy a used car again, and I said that the entire point of any of this was to not go into debt. I told her I couldn't understand what kind of emergency she was even talking about. She said a car accident. I said that's what insurance is for. She said they won't pay enough to cover a new car. I said they don't need a new car, and the argument went in circles from there.

I don't know if I'm not explaining things right or if she's not listening to me, but somehow the message is not getting across. I kept obsessing about this conversation for the next few days, trying to figure out what to say to her.

In the end I think the root of the problem is priorities. She and my dad have not sat down and figured out what their financial priorities are. They say they want to retire early, remodel their house, and buy a new car or two, but they already have $35k in debt. At the rate they're paying it off, they'll finish the same year they want to retire, and that's without buying any new cars or remodeling the house. If they do everything they're talking about but don't give up anything else to do it, they're on pace to be in debt when they retire, and I can't figure out how to get them to see that.

It's very frustrating to have them ask for my advice and then not take it. I know that I can't make them change their behavior, and that they're predisposed not to listen to financial advice from their daughter, but I don't want to give up trying to help them. I'm going to visit again for Christmas in a couple weeks, and I'm sure personal finance will come up in a conversation at some point. I want to say something that will spark a realization, but I don't know what that is. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Matt and Carol said...

It's what Dave Ramsey calls the 'powdered butt' syndrome - once someone has powdered your butt they don't listen to advice about money. :(

Don't have any advice for you, but hang in there. We have a couple who did FPU with us in the spring and it literally saved their marriage. Now his parents are finishing doing it with them this fall. Lead by example and go from there.

Love ya girl! Was great chatting with you the other night! How is ebay/amazon/yahoo whatever coming?

TV Girl said...

Ah yes, I've heard him talk about that syndrome. I'm hoping that if I leave the car issue alone and just keep leading by example, in a few months they'll see how much progress I've made in such a short time and hopefully that will spark more interest. Right now they sort of want to get out of debt, but they really aren't "mad at it" like Dave says, so when I suggest radical things like "buy a used car" it doesn't come off well.

Online sales are going really well! Check out the sidebar - $235 and counting! I've also got 2 bidders on one of my Ebay auctions. That item usually goes for about $200-250 and mine's already at $102.50 with 5 days left.

$235 + $102.50 + $200 (work bonus coming next week) = $537.50 and I still have 26 days left!! Woohoo!!!

FrugalWannabe said...

Sounds like one of your mom's priorities is a new car -- if that's what does it for her, more power to her. See if you can figure out for her how much she could put away in that savings account to buy a car free and clear if she had that 'emergency'.

Also ask her once she retires if she wants to spend her money on servicing her debt or using it for fun things like vacations or whatever else floats her boat. If you could help her see how getting out of debt now would increase her quality of life when she does retire, it might help her understand where you're coming from.