IRAs, Home Theaters, and Sicilian Graveyards

by Team Dinks on April 26, 2010 · 5 comments

Are you like me? Do you experience night terrors about your parents moving in with you because they have failed to set up any kind of retirement plan? Does your spouse have to wake you in the middle of the night to assure you that your father-in-law is not in the kitchen scrambling eggs in his underwear at three in the morning? That it has all just been a bad dream? While they may be nightmares now, if I don’t get my parents hooked up with an IRA soon, these nightmares could easily become reality. I cannot bear the thought of living with my old, exasperating parents. Are you like me? Are you horrible like me?

But really, my parents are idiots. Hopeless imbeciles. How they have made it this far is beyond me. They recently purchased three brand new flat screen TV’s, and yet they have no retirement plan. My parents-in-law, however, are a different story. While they have a retirement plan in place, they’re Sicilian – tiny little Sicilians. They’re kind of cute really; but beneath – beneath they’re scary. Italian scary. They have crazy ideas about family. For Sicilians, family is FOREVER. They’re not only convinced that they’re moving in, but they’re plotting an area in our backyard for their burial. I’ve come to accept that I am powerless against their eventual take-over. Yet, if I can get MY parents to start an IRA, I can at least feel comfortable when I pack my bags and head for the hills once HER parents move in. Let HER bury them in the backyard. They’re not MY responsibility. Are you like me? Are you horrible and scared like me?

So I’ve been doing a lot of reading on IRA’s lately. Initially, I included two pages worth of basic, boring information on IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEPs and Simple IRAs. As a favor to the DINK audience, I chose “select all” and “delete.” I could not bear to bore the DINK audience with all the information that everyone but my parents, and myself included, already know. It appears that no “insider” or groundbreaking IRA information exists out there. It appears that putting away for retirement is all about discipline. It appears that I need help. I feel horrible and scared; and I can’t sleep.

My parents are in their late 60’s. They run their own business. They make about $80K/year. They have NO retirement plan in place, but they do have a great home theater system. Please, I need advice. How do I convince my parents to put their money towards an IRA, and where do I start? Am I really horrible for feeling this way, or should I just embrace the arrival of a new home theater system, and a Sicilian graveyard outside of my living room window?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous April 26, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Do your parents at least own their own home outright? Their only option might be a reverse mortgage (or if they moved in with you, sale of their house would provide some funds). I'm not sure how much they could actually save given that they are already in their late 60's. They may have considered you their retirement plan all along.

2 Amber April 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Both my husband's and my parents are woefully unprepared for retirement. I believe both sets think they will keep working until they drop dead. The beau and I joke that our house will be like Charlie Bucket's – everybody in the same bed and me slaving in the laundry all day to put food on the table.

We've also discussed possibly buying land in the country with two houses – one for *them* and one for us. This is a legitimate concern for us and has caused us to debate "spend our money now before we have to support four parents" vs. "save for our dreams which may never happen because our parents will need to rely on us before then."

We regularly curse the baby boomers and their irresponsibility. On the other hand, we feel duly obligated to take care of the people that birthed and raised us.

3 Anonymous April 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Not to be glib, but I dodged that bullet when I sold my house in the USA, moved to Hong Kong, and bought a 600 sq ft apartment. I seriously doubt they'll ask to move in.

4 Jeremy Heck April 28, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Thanks for all the feedback. Unfortunately, they do not own their home "outright." But who knows, maybe they can eventually make some extra money towards retirement by re-mortgaging the house.

It's a sad thing when you have to have that "we don't want you living with us" conversation. I like the idea of moving to Hong Kong–not bad my anonymous friend!

I also like the idea of buying a house in the country for "them." Not a bad idea. That may be the most realistic option out there.

But what I really want is for my parents to have financial security in their retirement. That's the most important thing to me. And I think that they would be happier for it. No one really likes to feel like they are solely relying on another for their existence (at least I don't think so). In the end, I do want them to be happy. And again, I think that having a sense of financial security would provide the greatest sense of security and happiness for them.

I am still going to start the IRA. I have to believe that it's not too late.

Thanks again for all the feedback.

5 Funny about Money May 10, 2010 at 10:13 am

The best thing my father ever did for me was to move himself into a life-care community. This is not a nursing home. Residents have their own apartments and maintain full independence, but there’s a central restaurant where one or two good meals are served each day, so if you don’t feel like being bothered to cook you can get an acceptable dinner instead of browsing the cupboards. There’s also a nursing home on the premises, plus a set of studio apartments where residents can convalesce from an injury or illness close enough to the nursing facility that nurses can check on you several times a day.

When my father had a heart attack and triple-bypass surgery at 80, he received outstanding care there. I would have had to take him into my home had these services not been available. Four years later, after he died, I discovered that the staff had done many other wonderful things for them, not least of which was balancing his checkbook when, as he became more confused, he would dork it up. They ran interference with the insurance, VA, and Medicare bureaucracies, cutting through red tape and seeing to it that benefits actually happened. They drove him and his wife to doctors’ appointments.

Recently I fell and dislocated my shoulder…nothing life-threatening, but for a week I couldn’t do much for myself because my arm was strapped into a sling. Since I couldn’t get into the thing by myself, my son had to come over here twice a day to get me into it after showers and to readjust it on so it didn’t hurt before I went to bed. It was a real nuisance for him. So I’ve quietly begun to consider moving into a life-care community myself. I love my home and don’t want to leave it, but on the other hand, I sure don’t want to be a burden to my son.

Speaking of burdens, Semi-Demi-Exboyfriend built a cottage behind the house he and his wife purchased, to accommodate his mother and his Parkinson’s-stricken father. They were impoverished–the old man had worked in a dry-cleaning plant in the Upper Peninsula (which is why he developed acute early-onset Parkinson’s) and had earned almost nothing. Among the working poor, “retirement savings” is not an operative term. It took 16 years for the father to die. Sixteen extremely stressful years, so horrible that at one point the mother threw a bunch of clothes in the car and drove off, planning to run away, she knew not where. SDXB’s marriage ultimately did not survive the strains that were put on the family. Having ill parents living in the backyard isn’t a lot better than having them in the basement or in a spare bedroom.

As a baby boomer who is fully prepared for an independent retirement with a paid-off home and a decent retirement fund, BTW, I kinda resent the ageism implicit in a blanket condemnation of your parents’ entire generation. The elderly, it appears, are the new ni**ers. You, too, will be old someday, and you will find this attitude more tedious the nearer you draw to the grave.

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