Everyday Economy

When your parents need help

For millions of Americans at or near retirement age, the financial crisis carries a sharpened sense of urgency. What's happening in their retirement accounts affects their lives right now -- and some of them need help navigating the situation.

Which often falls to their children. Smart Money is running a series of stories by writer Beverly Goodman about the travails of dealing with her own mother's financial crisis. It's a detailed, engaging account of one specific case that illustrates a larger condition.

Suddenly, adult children everywhere are facing problems they never thought they’d have: helping their parents through a housing crisis, assisting with health care costs and, of course, finding a retirement strategy that works. “It often makes parent-child relationships very fraught with resentment and rebellion on both sides,” says Olivia Mellan, a therapist and money coach who trains financial planners. “That role reversal can be very tough.”

Read the first post here. The stories are set to run all week.

Goodman's mother is at retirement age and coming off big losses in her retirement account. The volatility of her investments -- which also suffered in 2001's dot-com bust -- has left her spooked, afraid to make changes, and unsure of what to do.

I am left to step in—to spend weekends at the kitchen table in her ranch home on Long Island, poring over financial statements, grilling her about decisions she’s made, researching each of her mutual funds and, ultimately, meeting with a financial planner or two. Or three. In the back of my mind, I can’t help but wonder: Am I really helping?

Sound familar? Have you had to step in to help an older parent negotiate the financial crisis? How has it affected the relationship?

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Shawn Vestal
Shawn Vestal writes a news column three times a week.

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