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Can You Support Your Parents?

Lenten thanks, Day 18

Thank God for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

So the Republicans are getting ready to go after Social Security and Medicare. Some of their followers don’t even seem to be rational. Here’s one who remarks that if Social Security goes, “no one is going to be hurt by it.”

Yeah. No one but the kids.

You know, if it were not for Social Security, I could not stay in my home. I wouldn’t be able to pay the property taxes, and pretty soon the County would come and evict me. I would be living on the streets right now, today. The house my son is living in would have been foreclosed by now, since without my salary and Social Security, we wouldn’t have a hope of making payments on the upside-down mortgage. And that is with a retirement nest egg that’s 3.3 times larger than the average 50- to 60-year-old’s.

In a culture where families fly apart as the kids reach adulthood, where the elderly are objects of disdain and discrimination, where you’ll have a tough time getting a job if you’re laid off at 45 and no chance at all if you’re in your 60s, where a man is considered not a man if his mother lives with him, where the elderly are expected to live on their own until they’re sent off to a nursing home, who exactly is going to take care of the old folks when they can no longer work?

Without Social Security and Medicare, my choices would be to depend on my son to house me, feed me, and cover my healthcare costs or to live on the street until I die, which would happen in short order. Ours is not a culture like Revanche’s, where young people expect to care for their parents no matter how much strain it puts on their own lives. Most Americans would expect their parents and troublesome siblings to fend for themselves.

This is true for a large portion of the elderly in our country. Get rid of the so-called “entitlement” programs—into which we have paid all our lives—and you’ll end up consigning huge numbers of older Americans to dire poverty. Responsibility for supporting them will fall to their adult children, who don’t have the resources to care for elderly, unemployable parents.

Will you be willing to take your parents in after they can no longer work? Oh, you say you don’t want Mom and Dad living in your spare bedroom? You don’t want them in your face all day, every day, telling you how to raise your kids and how to live your life. Well, then, are you prepared to pay their rent? Can you cover the property taxes on their paid-off home?

And when you discover the cat food in the pantry (they don’t have a cat, interestingly enough), will you shell out a couple hundred a month to buy groceries for them? When you find out that they’re too frail to get groceries for themselves, will you run to the grocery store once or twice a week and stock up on microwavable food for them?

Are you willing to pay for your parents’ healthcare? Sure you are. But can you? Can you afford to buy insurance for an elderly person who already has chronic health problems? And if they can’t get insurance at all (which they can’t, because of the chronic health issues), are you in a position to pay for their health care out of pocket? You do know, no doubt, how much treatment for a heart condition costs?

How many of you who are younger and midlife adults see yourselves, seriously, as willing and able to care for your parents when they get too old work? Take a look at these excellent young people who are coming up behind you…see any of them planning to support Mom and Dad in old age?

In the post linked above, Revanche asks readers if they have a plan for taking care of their parents when the old folks can no longer care for themselves. Do you? If you’re under about 35 or 40, you’d better get one.

And by the way, who’s going to support you when you get too old or sick to work, and the stock market crashes right at the moment when you can no longer hold down a job?

Image: Elephant near Ndutu Lodge. nickandmel2006. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

6 thoughts on “Can You Support Your Parents?”

  1. I am not the grassy knoll type but I think it is Wall Street putting pressure on the politicians they own to get at the money in Social Security. This is sort of the same dynamic that is slowly bringing about the death of defined-benefit pension plans. Where does the money go in all the 401k (defined-contribution) plans go? Let me answer that for you: The stock market.

    And where, when SS is privatized will all that money go? Let me answer that for you: The stock market!

    The problem with that is two-fold, no, three: The actual average annual return of the stock market is 1.4% (this according to MSN Money); two, there have been three twenty-year periods in the last 100 years when the average market return was only 0.7 percent (less than one percent, in other words); and three, people, in general are terrible money managers — 77% of us live paycheck to paycheck, for cryin’ out loud!

    Here is the usual intersection of human nature and investing by the typical middle-class investor: Buy high and sell low. Like you did with your your “investment” property, for example.

    And that model is the exact opposite of the investment model that actually produces returns that will track any market as a whole.

    The privatization of Social Security is coming and it will be the last nail in the coffin of the middle-class in America. Want to see what we will look like as a nation with no middle-class? Look south to Mexico and get ready for the drug wars at home and taco stands on every corner.

  2. Sing it sista! I also don’t know a single adult child who wants to take care of their parents in any way, shape or form.

    Anybody counting on that is not in the same zip code as reality.

  3. @ E. Murphy: LOL! Haven’t met many fellow old bats who want to move in with the kids, either. Truth is, though, the sheep following the demagogues who want to get rid of Social Security need to think about consequences, one of which is that Mom and Dad may become Boomerang Boomers (yes, moving in with the adult kids is already happening enough to have earned a sobriquet), and that they themselves may have to depend on their own children to help them through old age.

    @ tmgbooks: Ohhhh, look on the bright side. After the middle class goes away, none of us will be able to afford to buy dope, so the drug warlords will go out of business. They’ll be pushing taco wagons around the neighborhood along with the rest of us.

  4. I would absolutely take care of my parents (and my in-laws) if need be, but I wish I could choose to opt out of Social Security. Would you be in the same position if you kept your ~6.X% the past 30 or so years? What if your employer were forced to give you that 6% in a qualified account rather than the gov’t ponzi scheme that is SS?

    I am all for Medicaid since the assets requirements are low.

  5. I did take care of my mother. She didn’t need the money, but she needed everything else – the driver to medical appointments and church, the grocery runs, the physical updates to the house so that she could stay there. I was also her primary caregiver for the six weeks she spent in Hospice care.

    She always said ‘I hate that I’m a burden’, but for me it was a way to pay back just a little for the care and support that she gave me for nearly two decades. How many meals did she cook or otherwise provide for ME? 3 x 7 x 52 x 18 plus the occasional sack of groceries in college and young married life. If you look at it that way, yes, you DO owe your parents those microwave meals…….. and more

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