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Some background info first:

-My parents are divorced (since 2008)
-Dad pays mom 2.5K/mo alimony, plus she has an $11 per hour full time job. Other than these details, I'm not sure what her total income is.
-Mom lives in a 2 bedroom house which she owns and has a mortgage for with my 14 yo sister.
-As far as I know, before now my mother's credit report was squeaky clean and she had never carried a balance on a credit card in her life.

Recently, out of the blue my mom called me while I was at work. She was in a panic and asked if she could borrow $3500 because the heating system in her house broke and needed to be replaced. She only had 5K in her savings and didn't want to use it because she wasn't sure if she would then be able to pay her other bills. I thought about it for a second, and about how I wouldn't even be here without my mother, I told her yes, of course I would let her borrow the money. I wasn't worried about her paying me back, I knew she would, she is my mother. Anyway this got me concerned about her financial situation, so I immediately asked her to dinner.

At dinner, I pried for more details about her financial situation. She told me the following:
- She only has $250,000 saved for retirement (She is 54)
- She has $7,000 in credit card debt
- She was recently unable to pay some of her CC bills on time, even though in the past she had been paying over the minimum
- There was an incident where her mortgage company claimed she didn't make her mortgage payment, and yet she did. She was apparently able to resolve this with the mortgage company, but it is still possibly on her credit report.
- After the missed CC payment and mortgage payment fiasco, her credit cards all found out and reduced her credit lines
- Her credit has taken a dive to about ~640 from the above. I think it was primarily the mortgage payment.
- My biggest concern is that she didn't seem all that worried about carrying the CC balances. She said "It's fine since I'm only paying the minimums".
- Her phone bill is about $300 per month because she and my sister have multiple ipads/phones/etcs. She also is often late on this bill, though I'm not sure if this is affecting her credit.

I tried to give her the following advice: Get your free annual credit report, and see if the mortgage thing is still on it. If so, dispute it with the CRBs. Hopefully this will restore your credit to the point where you can move that 7K of debt over to a personal loan with maybe 10% interest, as opposed to the 25% interest rates of the CCs. She seemed lukewarm to the idea, and though she said she would be interested, I doubt she is going to do anything without me pushing heavily.

TL;DR, my mom is starting on a slippery slope, doesn't seem too worried about it and I want to help her. Any advice?

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That sucks man, I'd be worried this will turn in to a situation where you are giving her money all the time. If she is spending $300 a month she doesn't have on ipads and phones this looks like it is going to get worse before it gets better.

With a younger sibling or kid I wouldn't give them money so they learn the lesson the hard way. You don't want to be an enabler of bad behavior. But I'm not sure if you can teach a lesson like that to your mom.

She's not going to want to fix it. In her mind, the fix is to call the responsible offspring anytime she needs $3500.

You're not going to get your mother to change. Just accept her as is.

wateristasty said:   You're not going to get your mother to change. Just accept her as is.

The thing is, before this my mother was always extremely financially responsible. While they were still married, she never once carried a CC balance, and instilled this concept in me. I think this is just a recent change.

Start small. A $300 monthly phone bill is ridiculous, and beyond outrageous for someone making $11 an hour. Find other things like this where she's literally flushing money down the toilet and apply those savings toward the cc balances.

What you need to do is create a note and schedule of payments for the $3,500, and make it clear that no additional funds will be forthcoming. Then push hard on budgeting and try and cease the really irrational spending, like the $300 phone bills with her not being able to pay her CCs.

Tell her to trim the fat. Get rid of the iPads and stuff on the phone bill. Remove the 14 year old. Commit $XXX to savings. How long does alimony last? She needs to become solvent where she can pay off exactly what she spends per month and have some left over for savings.

Do not help! This may come across rude but she has $250K saved in retirement. Let her learn the hard way. I am all for helping parents and siblings but $300 Phone bill is not something I will turn a blind eye to.

Doesn't she get child support for the 14 yo?

StevenColorado said:   Doesn't she get child support for the 14 yo?LOL. Third line of the original post.

Al3xK said:   Tell her to trim the fat. Get rid of the iPads and stuff on the phone bill. Remove the 14 year old. Commit $XXX to savings. How long does alimony last? She needs to become solvent where she can pay off exactly what she spends per month and have some left over for savings.

What do you mean by remove the 14y/o? She's living with my mom because the school system is much better than my father's.

I think I'm going to call her tonight and see if she's willing to go over her finances completely then push her to trim the fat.

As for alimony I'm not sure but I know my dad just tried to offer her 80K to settle alimony forever, so I assume at least another 3 years. I think it might be forever, knowing my state.

neglecting alimony, she is spending 16% of her gross earning on phones and mobile data and that doesn't include the internet bill. This is absurd.

Something else absurd is the heater broke and it cost $3500 to fix. That sounds like replacement cost to me. Fixing would be less.

Hey, kid. Mind your business.

Seriously, how old are you.

If my kid ever called me to "go over my finances and trim the fat", I would tell him to pound sand.

biglittle said:   Hey, kid. Mind your business.

Seriously, how old are you.

If my kid ever called me to "go over my finances and trim the fat", I would tell him to pound sand.


I'm 22.

So your advice is to just let my mom jump off her own personal fiscal cliff?

Edit: I think I earned the right when she asked me for a loan.

RedCelicaGT said:   neglecting alimony, she is spending 16% of her gross earning on phones and mobile data and that doesn't include the internet bill. This is absurd.

Something else absurd is the heater broke and it cost $3500 to fix. That sounds like replacement cost to me. Fixing would be less.


Regarding the heater, I agree. I'll ask her about it tonight.

protomenace said:   biglittle said:   Hey, kid. Mind your business.

Seriously, how old are you.

If my kid ever called me to "go over my finances and trim the fat", I would tell him to pound sand.


I'm 22.

So your advice is to just let my mom jump off her own personal fiscal cliff?

Edit: I think I earned the right when she asked me for a loan.


I think if you want to help, you loan her money and/or give her money. Otherwise, she's an adult and you mind your usiness. In the grand scheme of life, $7K in CC debt isn't much.

protomenace said:   Al3xK said:   Tell her to trim the fat. Get rid of the iPads and stuff on the phone bill. Remove the 14 year old. Commit $XXX to savings. How long does alimony last? She needs to become solvent where she can pay off exactly what she spends per month and have some left over for savings.

What do you mean by remove the 14y/o? She's living with my mom because the school system is much better than my father's.

I think I'm going to call her tonight and see if she's willing to go over her finances completely then push her to trim the fat.

As for alimony I'm not sure but I know my dad just tried to offer her 80K to settle alimony forever, so I assume at least another 3 years. I think it might be forever, knowing my state.


I was j/k about removing the 14 y/o, I didn't think anybody would catch it.

Do you think she is any less likely to listen to you as an adult since you're 22 and she might still feel like the "parent"?

$300/month phone bill is rediculous. When you try and get a loan for a house, they look at what you can afford as a monthly payment, not the total or anything, and a $300/month payment is equivalent to about a $65k mortgage.

How much is her monthly payment on the mortgage?

biglittle said:   Hey, kid. Mind your business.

Seriously, how old are you.

If my kid ever called me to "go over my finances and trim the fat", I would tell him to pound sand.


In the OP's scenario you would have first called him with your hand out for $3500. When you're reaching into someone else's wallet they have the right to ask you what got your in the situation your in where you need to do that.

Advise, but don't pressure her to do anything, she is a grown up and it's her money. The loan might intitle you to pry but it doesn't entitle you to make demands.

Alternative: If you are an adult child of a parent who will be impoverished during "retirement" years, you may consider putting a bit of money each month into a savings account which will be your "help my broke mama" fund. Once that money's gone, mama's outta luck.

donotdrinkPBR said:   StevenColorado said:   Doesn't she get child support for the 14 yo?LOL. Third line of the original post.alimony is not child support and is usually award for a few years.
Some people can't be helped and some just need some education. It's worthwhile for OP to get a handle on this, spent a weekend to work through all the bill with her and figure out exactly what the cash flow situation is. Of course, all these assume she does want to get helped.

ZenNUTS said:   donotdrinkPBR said:   StevenColorado said:   Doesn't she get child support for the 14 yo?LOL. Third line of the original post.alimony is not child support and is usually award for a few years.
Some people can't be helped and some just need some education. It's worthwhile for OP to get a handle on this, spent a weekend to work through all the bill with her and figure out exactly what the cash flow situation is. Of course, all these assume she does want to get helped.


Wrong! Alimony is for life if you have been married for 10 years or more in MOST states. If married less than 10 years almond is required for h
F the number of years you have been married.

Alimony is such a rip off wtf. You just have to pay them money to survive? What is the reasoning behind it?? If I'm not still 100% in love at year 9, I should get a divorce right?

biglittle said:   protomenace said:   biglittle said:   Hey, kid. Mind your business.

Seriously, how old are you.

If my kid ever called me to "go over my finances and trim the fat", I would tell him to pound sand.


I'm 22.

So your advice is to just let my mom jump off her own personal fiscal cliff?

Edit: I think I earned the right when she asked me for a loan.


I think if you want to help, you loan her money and/or give her money. Otherwise, she's an adult and you mind your usiness. In the grand scheme of life, $7K in CC debt isn't much.
Agreed, it's not much money to a lot of people. However, $7k represents roughly 1/3 of her yearly pay, before taxes, assuming she works 40 hours a week. He's seeing warning signs that she's having difficulty with her finances. What's wrong with a son offering to help his mother avoid financial ruin?

PS you sound so old and bitter.

She has a gambling problem.

Al3xK said:   Alimony is such a rip off wtf. You just have to pay them money to survive? What is the reasoning behind it?? If I'm not still 100% in love at year 9, I should get a divorce right?
Typically when people get married, one person becomes the breadwinner and the other stays home and takes care of the house and kids. The one who becomes a home caretaker frequently gives up education opportunity, and always gives up work experience. So after the divorce when they have to re-enter the workforce, they command a lower salary than if they'd never gotten married. The other partner is not disadvantaged in this way since he (it's usually he) finished school and has been working the entire time.

Alimony is partly an attempt to compensate for this. It has its problems too, but that's the reasoning behind it.

Replacing the heater might have been the only thing she could do. (Last week the heater of my relatives broke. They panicked beyond any reasonable expectation about this - maybe because it's still the dead of winter, but they did have enough portable heaters to get them through a couple of days. The part of the furnace that broke was quite expensive on its own, plus the heater was already 30 years old, so the engineers said the whole thing needed to be replaced for about $2500. I had a few different companies go to the house to inspect it and provide quotes.)

At 22, it's nice that you can be there for your family and are concerned for them. You are pretty on-the-ball for a 22-year-old, being on FW and so forth.

I agree that your mom's financial situation has become your business to a certain extent since you were asked for a loan, but it's still your mom's life for her generally to run as she sees fit. If she's open to help and advice, that's great, but she may not be.

Of course, your mom's financial behavior and attitudes affect your little sister too, because she has at least 4 more years of living with your mom. So you will have her interests at heart, as well as your mom's.

Maybe they don't realize there are cheaper ways for them to manage their phones/ipads/whatever.

If your mom gets 2,500 a month plus works an $11/hour full time job, how did she miss the minimum payment of a $7,000 cc bill? Is she ignoring the statements when they come, out of denial or fear? Is she disorganized? Maybe you could help her set up autopayments from her checking account for the minimums on all her bills.

You can't change her or boss her, but you can teach her and give her advice gently. Keep your antennae up about stuff, just in case this really is some kind of slippery slope (tv shopping channel addiction, or something).

I think you have the right idea about everything. Good luck.

I wouldn't loan her any money unless you were certain of 2 things:

1) She has the means to pay you back.
2) She has the will to pay you back.

I've loaned my mother money over the years, but I knew that she would pay me back. I've also loaned my brother money ($2200) and 3 years later, he's still only paid $400 and the last payment was over 2 years ago.

Your mother doesn't seem to be thinking responsibly about her financial responsibilities and, while she might not mean it, she can easily pull you down with her.

But, if you do want to loan her the money, then you have every right, imo, to get information about her financial situation and what she plans on doing to fix it (because she HAS) to fix it.

My mother and I talk regularly about her finances, my finances and my brother's finances. She knows how much I make, I know how much she makes. I know approx. what her bills are, how her job search is going (she's always changing jobs and that kind of bit her in the behind last year), etc.

Solandri said:   Al3xK said:   Alimony is such a rip off wtf. You just have to pay them money to survive? What is the reasoning behind it?? If I'm not still 100% in love at year 9, I should get a divorce right?
Typically when people get married, one person becomes the breadwinner and the other stays home and takes care of the house and kids. The one who becomes a home caretaker frequently gives up education opportunity, and always gives up work experience. So after the divorce when they have to re-enter the workforce, they command a lower salary than if they'd never gotten married. The other partner is not disadvantaged in this way since he (it's usually he) finished school and has been working the entire time.

Alimony is partly an attempt to compensate for this. It has its problems too, but that's the reasoning behind it.


So is alimony for when she's a stay-at-home mom? For example, say she makes $40k and I make 100k. Do I just have to pay her money if there are no kids? What about spousal support? I hear that people have to pay that because the other person is used to having a nice lifestyle or something?

protomenace said:   Some background info first:
- She has $7,000 in credit card debt
my mom is starting on a slippery slope, doesn't seem too worried about it and I want to help her. Any advice?


Here's my advice: don't be greedy and pay all her debts. She gave up on a lot of opportunities to raise you, you'd be nothing without her. And now has to enter the workforce disadvantaged, so you owe her big time. Seriously, don't be like Hitler, give her everything she asks for.

$250k in retirement account, $5k in savings, $2,500/mo alimony, employeed full time, $7k in CC debt.
Honestly, she is doing much better than most americans.

OP - you are right on track to be "wondering" about your mother's finances.
The only reason she asked you for the $3,500 is because her CC are maxed out due to the limit reduction. She basically was forced to come to you for the $$$$.
Don't be surprised if there are other money issues/drains she has not told you about yet.
Maybe she was so good with her money while married because you didn't see all the help/direction your dad gave her, but now on her own she is slowly drowning.
Good luck.

Your 14 year old sister may be old enough to get a job and pay for her own cell phone, ipods, internet, etc. Info on Texas law is here: http://www.twc.state.tx.us/ui/lablaw/cllsum.html

donotdrinkPBR said:   StevenColorado said:   Doesn't she get child support for the 14 yo?LOL. Third line of the original post.

That's not how I read it. The third line says she lives with OP's 14 yo sister.

When he listed her known sources of income, he listed $2500/month alimony, but no child support.

lonestarguy said:   Your 14 year old sister may be old enough to get a job and pay for her own cell phone, ipods, internet, etc. Info on Texas law is here: http://www.twc.state.tx.us/ui/lablaw/cllsum.html

Old enough and able to are different things. Most places other than farms refuse to hire anyone under 16 no matter what the law is. At 14 one can also not drive so there may not be transporation, etc. (not every place has good mass transit).

My biggest concern is that she didn't seem all that worried about carrying the CC balances. She said "It's fine since I'm only paying the minimums".

It's not fine if her income can't meet the minimums. If she doesn't want to risk default, then she'll need to address her income and expenses. Where's the retirement fund? IRA? Tell her to withdraw 11K, buy a heater and pay off the credit card debt. Alternatively, if you can afford it, you can supplement her income every month.

Al3xK said:   Solandri said:   Al3xK said:   Alimony is such a rip off wtf. You just have to pay them money to survive? What is the reasoning behind it?? If I'm not still 100% in love at year 9, I should get a divorce right?
Typically when people get married, one person becomes the breadwinner and the other stays home and takes care of the house and kids. The one who becomes a home caretaker frequently gives up education opportunity, and always gives up work experience. So after the divorce when they have to re-enter the workforce, they command a lower salary than if they'd never gotten married. The other partner is not disadvantaged in this way since he (it's usually he) finished school and has been working the entire time.

Alimony is partly an attempt to compensate for this. It has its problems too, but that's the reasoning behind it.


So is alimony for when she's a stay-at-home mom? For example, say she makes $40k and I make 100k. Do I just have to pay her money if there are no kids? What about spousal support? I hear that people have to pay that because the other person is used to having a nice lifestyle or something?


The courts will try to equalize the incomes of both. In the instance you mentioned, $40k vs 100k both parties should end up with close to $70k each. There are other considerations such as medical condition, but as a general rule courts do try to equalize the income. Note: alimony will end if the spouse receiving alimony gets married again or in some states lives with a person of the opposite sex.

Update:

Ok so I got involved with the "repair process", a.k.a. a repairman convincing my mother that she needed a replacement unit. The guy was completely ripping her off. We were able to get the gas company to come repair the unit for under $200. So now she doesn't need to borrow any money from me.

Skipping 29 Messages...
protomenace said:   wateristasty said:   You're not going to get your mother to change. Just accept her as is.

The thing is, before this my mother was always extremely financially responsible. While they were still married, she never once carried a CC balance, and instilled this concept in me. I think this is just a recent change.


Or your dad was the financial head of household because your mom couldn't control her spending or was just not a smart money manager and dad kept her on that straight and narrow.

Her outlook on CC's and overpaying on phones is not what a person with a lifelong understanding or concern of money does.

Attempting to think you have an intimate understanding of your parents relationship shows how little you understand relationships.



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