A Twitter post on this incident impacted me so deeply that I had to write this column. A septuagenarian couple was persuaded by their US-based sons to move in with them overseas, as they were getting old and due to Covid.
The sons came to India and convinced the parents to sell off their house and all belongings including jewellery and convert the proceeds into US dollars for future use. On the pretext of completing formalities, the parents were left waiting at the airport, while the sons boarded their flight. It was after a couple of hours that the couple realized something amiss and last heard have taken shelter in an old age home. Penniless, homeless, and emotionally scarred by their children’s behaviour.
There are numerous stories of old people being duped of their money by their family. Money is so often the root cause of family problems and that’s why even parents need to be clear about how much information they want to share with adult children.
It may sound strange but as long as the parents are able and healthy, they should keep details of their finances to themselves. I have come across cases where children have got their parents to exit investments, just so that they can have a better lifestyle. And cases where children have taken for granted that the parents will support their financial goals. One couple had to sell their 2nd property to fund their granddaughter’s overseas education, even though their main source was income was rent from the property. In such cases, the children don’t even work towards providing for their own financial goals. God forbid, if one parent had a serious health issue and needed money, how would this get funded?
Generally, the generation of parents who are in the 60s or 70s is still bound by their Indian values of being there for children and want to leave behind maximum wealth for them. Adult children, as well, are happy to rely on retired parents for their financial needs. After all mom and dad bank is so easy to access. No parent likes to see the child struggle, but parents need to be selfish about their financial needs and need to stop feeling guilty about not helping their children financially.
In fact, I would recommend the older generation to use their money to make life convenient for themselves or do what they have always wanted to. I see some senior citizens living as their grandchildren’s caretakers, thus making life convenient for their children, but at the cost of their own needs or aspirations.
Here is a 5-point plan for retired senior citizens:
Keep financial records in order and share it with your spouse. Inform children only at an appropriate time.
Be clear with children about the extent of financial support, if any, you can give. Don’t be too eager to part with your wealth. You are doing a favour to them as enabling dependency only prevents them from being self-reliant.
Get a will written by a lawyer.
With healthcare costs skyrocketing, ensure you have enough money/ insurance for this. There are many cases of parents in India and children abroad. As you get older, figure out if senior living communities are a better option, as they take care of all your basic, social and medical needs.
You have worked hard your whole life, spend your golden years having fun and not at the mercy of others.
Be mindful and careful about your finances. When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying “NO” to yourself.