Thursday, February 24, 2011

Notes on Being the "Go To" Person

Linda P. left a note on my last blog post about the money I expect to need in retirement. The part of her comment that really caught my attention was this: "We were also the go-to people for our extended family when life dealt them financial blows. . . A fragile family member depends on our financial stability, so we must provide not only for ourselves but provide some backup for that other family member."


I relate to Linda only too well.

I am the "Go-To" person in my family. I am not the only one with a job, but I am the only one with any financial savvy. (THAT speaks volumes! When Grace is considered financially savvy, the family in definitely in trouble!)

I have five adult children, all adopted as older children from foster care, most of whom have permanent organic or emotional disorders that get in the way of education, employment, and (sometimes) common sense.

I am the person they all turn to when they run into problems, especially money problems.

I, in turn, use my newly-retired sister as my "Go-To" person. But unlike my children, I hesitate to hit my sister up for cash unless it's an emergency. (My darling kids would tell you the same thing about themselves, but with them, it's ALWAYS an emergency!)

A close friend of mine with a n'er to well son has actually borrowed money to have it available for him. I have never done that nor can I see myself doing it. But I do understand where she's coming from.

I have learned over time to set certain limits. My kids have figured out that they are better off asking me to directly pay bills rather than give them cash--they get more that way. The two daughters with children discovered early on that asking me to pay for things for my grandchilren (books, clothes, pre-school, college) was a sure bet.

If all of this sounds like a whine, it's not intended to. I am a grown-up, and I can turn off the money spigot any time I want.

It's just different when it's family.

I have no better explanation.


Anonymous said...

You are not doing these kids any favors by giving them money or paying for stuff. Now is the time for them to "learn" common sense. You won't be around to bail them out their entire lives. How will they function after you are no longer there to be the financial back stop?

They are adults. Their job is to raise their kids. Your job is to maximize your retirement savings, as you have no one to fall back on. Are you going to rely on these dysfunctional adults when you are old and frail? Lots of luck with that.

Lisa @Cents To Save said...

When family is involved, I too will help out financially. My children are grown, and out of the three, there is one that does not always make the best choices. It is what it is... I am okay with that.

Dear Anonymous~~
It is easy to leave strong opinions such as yours, when you hide behind your anonymity. Tsk, Tsk.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

No, I'm with the 1st anonymous commenter. As excellent way to think about your need vs my need is that it's my job to take care of myself first. Thank you, I'm going to use that as my new mantra.

Grace. said...

I'm not sure I can buy that philosophy. When I took my children into my life, I promised to be there for them. And because I knew their backgrounds and their limitations, I also knew that I would have to be there for them well into adulthood. It would not help them if I impoverished myself to back them financially, but I'm not comfortable with only looking out for myself. We ARE a family.

Maureen said...

My Hubby and his Mum who lives with us are terrible with money, as I was.
Now that I am doing better with my money they seem to see me as the bank, and constantly borrow from me in fact last week it was a loan for my SIL who was moving house and couldent afford the removal van.
Certainly they pay me back as soon as they can, which leaves them short till the next payday, and round and round in circles we go.
Today my Hubby and I had the biggest row because I said no more, so now you could cut the atmosphere in our house with a knife, what on earth am I supposed to do ????

Grace. said...

That's a tough one, Maureen, especially when it's your spouse and his family. (At least they pay you back, which puts them ahead of my kids!) I do think it's fair to draw the line and say that after such and such a date, the Bank of Maureen is no longer open for business. But there are bound to be hard feelings, and when the hard feelings are shared by the folks you live with--well, I don't have advice for that--just lots of empathy!

lita1857 said...

Grace,Lisa and Maureen you all seem to have large hearts! just displaced good intentions.Maybe help family by example.Lead by example.Each situation has a teaching moment opportunity.We teach people how to treat us.Some adults use the approach of "let's brainstorm together" or "how do you see you solving this".Not always bad to let adults who make bad choices feel the consquences of their decisions.

lita1857 said...

Grace,Lisa and Maureen all sound like they have big hearts.We teach people how to treat us even family.Maybe instead of enabling adults assist in troubleshooting or solving the problem.By doing this you empower people.If I teach you to bake the bread theory.And if adult children make bad choices let them feel the consquences of their actions.Save the rescue mode for true emergencies beyond any control cause we all know there will be those.

Beth said...

I finally made the choice to stop being the go to for my brother who is 48 and just doesn't care to work full time. He has minimal expenses, a studio apartment, no car, and endless excuses. I realized that even though I wasn't borrowing money to give to him per se, I certainly was borrowing it from myself. I thought about my older self forced to work the same jobs my brother turns his nose up at now, and realized the foolishness of my own behavior. I turn 45 in April and I'm glad that he's only diminished my future savings by a couple thousand dollars. BUT I have denied myself small pleasures to provide for him including skipping family get togethers (that he could have attended but didn't) so I could work extra hours on a Saturday.

I'm not bitter, but I've sobered up and now realize that I could have more money saved for my fourteen-year-old's education and my retirement

tmbf57 said...

Grace, I so agree. I am also a social worker by profession and have 2 young adult kids and 3 young adult stepkids. DH and I are proud grandparents to our first grand (a boy 7 mos. old). My son lived moved in with us for about 1 1/2 yrs. after losing his job in NYC. He worked while living with us and moved out when he had saved enough and is now back on his feet and working in LA. My daughter is married, working almost FT, getting her Master's degree and her husband works FT as well. Although they don't ask for help, we do buy diapers and formula for the baby. DH's kids haven't needed help for awhile (although a great amount a few years ago) but if they did, we would also provide. I agree that it's important to be there for your family. As Suze Orman says "people first..." We are also paying down (very little) debt and saving for retirement. I'm with you on this.

Living Almost Large said...

DING DING DING! Right now we are supporting my BIL. Yes he's been living with us for a couple of months.

this is not the first time, nor will it likely be the last. he's well educated and looking for a job, but sometimes he is without direction.

In life it happens. And for my DH and I we are very stable. Sigh. I can't post this on my blog because it would anger my DH.

Grace. said...

You told your HUSBAND you have a blog???? I don't even have a facebook page, which my kids and grandkids are always on my back to get, so it would never occur to them to look for a blog. I much prefer it that way--it lets me say any darn thing I want to!

Living Almost Large said...

Of course he knows, I have nothing to hide. Sometimes he wants to rebut stuff I say. LOL. But seriously no criticism of his family about money.

Deb said...

I am an adult kid who had to borrow money from her mom but has yet to pay it all back. I had a long battle with cancer that required several surgeries, my paid time off ran out, my savings dwindled. My mom stepped in and gave me $20k, it really saved my sanity at a crucial time. Still, I wasn't happy about it - my mother is not a woman of means, and I should have been more diligent about saving.

My mom would like me to have the $20k as a gift, but she is on a fixed income. She's 67, had to retire early due to disability, and supplements her income by petsitting in her home.

I established a joint account, and I make a monthly deposit of $200. I do not touch the money, it is hers. I told her I'll do this every month for as long as she lives, which hopefully will be far into the future. It's comforting to her to know there's a financial cushion should she need it. And if she never needs it all, the balance is mine upon her passing. If I pass first, it's all hers plus some life insurance I have through work.

I can't fathom an adult using their parent as a bank. To me it's dishonorable. Then again, in truly dire circumstances, I think do think it's understandable. The world isn't always black and white.

Grace. said...

Deb--you are making my point exactly. There are no 'one size fits all' answers. I cut my kids slack because of their organic and emotional baggage which does interfere with their money-managing skills (not to mention many other aspects of their adult lives). Your mother came to your aid because Cancer is not something one 'plans for.' Be grateful that she could do it, and be grateful that you are in a position to start paying her back.

Janette said...

We supply lots of extras- vacations, diapers, funds for train rides, down payments for house. We have only been asked for COBRA money. We are the Go to people- who know the limits.
To each his own. I have no problem with it. We live frugally and enjoy them enjoying themselves. It is our retirement and they respect that.
My mother is my brothers go to person- but they abuse the privilege and have never learned to earn. There is a huge difference in my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Oh lord, yes. We are the go-tos for his family, even though we're young and only starting out, we're still doing better than any of them. It doesn't happen too often, but more than once is too much IMO.

Susan said...

Grace - I understand your position. As a professional in the field, I have seen more than my share of foster children "complete with baggage." Sometimes, they never learn because their brains will not let them comprehend or reach a point where "common sense" takes over. You are a dear to stand by your girls - I am thankful you understand that as long as they are living up to their potential - they are doing the best they can. They will not/can not learn from tough parenting - it just feels like abandonment. It takes time and repetition for lessons to sink in. I am grateful they recognize when to ask for help.

Grace. said...

Thanks, Susan--it really is different to parent children adopted as older children, and it affects all of the areas of one's life, including finances. But you are SO right about the abandonment issues.