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Helping a parent out of debt

Helping a parent out of debt

I've been on the forums for a little over a year and truly value the wealth of info I've received on here.  With that I've been trying to help my mom out of her credit situation since March '17-ish.  At that time she was $34,000 in credit card debt (16 cards ranging from Fingerhut and QVC to Chase  Slate and Cap1 that I finally convinced her to PC to QS to get cashback) all so applied for a personal loan with Lending Club and received $18,000.  She had provided me a spreadsheet with her cards and balances, etc.  so after waving my magic wand, I sent it back to her showing her where she should apply payments.  Welp, she used maybe $3000 of that loan towards her credit cards, instead using that money towards fixing her POS PT Cruiser (it would have been cheaper to buy another used car and I told her that) and other stuffs that were not credit related.  I know that she did kick me down $4000 which saved my butt since I was unemployed at that time. To add insult to injury she has since applied for three more credit cards (Walmart, Kohls, and a BOA Premium) which, other than Kohls, are all nearly maxed out I'm sure.  She tends to do cash advances on her cards so she can pay other bills essentially stealing from Peter to pay Paul.  While she hasn't given me a number, I'm fairly certain she's pushing $60k in debt.  She also just took out a reverse auto loan on her car.

 

As much as I try to tell her to stop(!), told her about this forum, offered her a spreadsheet to help calculate payoffs, I tend to get a "I'm a grown up, don't tell me what to do" while in the same breath as "I'm drowning and I want to retire but I owe so much".   She's 68, retired once, hated being home with my dad, so returned to her old job that she hates with the passion of a thousand suns.  

 

I have yet to throw out the dreaded "B-word" but at this point I don't know what else to tell her.  Financially speaking there shouldn't be a reason why they can't get out of debt.  She and my dad both get SS checks as well as her pay from her job (I think she said for 2017 they brought home nearly $56k between the three incomes).  Their car is paid for, their mobile home is paid for, even with that they have no real assets to speak of other than a crap ton of books and sports memoribilia that aren't worth even remotely what she thinks they're worth (trust me, I've looked).  I work with much less and am able to keep up with everything.  It's also a catch-22 because finances stress her out, so she either shops or gambles to get "high" then is back to where she started and it becomes this vicious cycle.  And yes, she does have depression that is not treated, in case you couldn't tell.   Her master plan at this point is to win the lottery rather than to stop and try to fix things herself.  She's a stubborn ol' lady and is the epitome of lead a horse to water.  

 

Thoughts?  Should I tell her just to file Ch 13 and be done with it?  They had filed about 15+ years ago (that time was medical bill related after my dad's heart attack) so I can see that mental hit of doing it again.  But all I can think of, is at this point in your life, why stress yourself out?  You are over your head at this point in the game, you made mistakes, press the reset button so you can retire and relax.  I'd rather her file than have something happen...  I'll leave it at that.  

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Message 1 of 6
5 REPLIES
Established Contributor

Re: Helping a parent out of debt

Unfortunately, the best thing I think you can do now is nothing. The profile you describe is textbook addiction - spending, gambling, collecting, all to ease the pain. She sounds defiant still, so she’s not even to step 1.

It sucks to hear, but she needs to crash and burn to the point she changes her behavior. Assisting prior to that point isn’t helping, it’s enabling.

Step back, be there emotionally (especially for your father as she’s likely to take him down with her), but do not try to solve her problem for her. I’m not even sure bankruptcy will help as she may just think it’s an easy out and start right back up borrowing again in a year.
Message 2 of 6
Established Contributor

Re: Helping a parent out of debt

 My wife's mother has basically the same problem... Not $60K, but they were forced to do a BK13 a few years ago because of her out of control spending on QVC/HSN, etc.  Like your mother, she had underlying issues... In her case, she has some medical problems which prevent her from working, so to combat the boredom/depression, she goes overboard on her hobbies and buying gifts for people and decorations for the house.

 

 After the BK13, my wife tried to help reign in the spending and get her father involved in watching the finances, but ultimately all help was rebuffed because "they can take care of things themselves."  Trying to help them was causing more arguments and hard feelings than it was worth, so my wife finally decided to let them manage themselves, and if they let themselves totally crash, then they'd be forced to make a change.  If they do crash and burn, we've got a game plan in mind to make sure they aren't homeless on the streets at least.

 

 Its hard to see people you love doing something that is destructive to their best interests, but sometimes its what you have to do.

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Message 3 of 6
Established Contributor

Re: Helping a parent out of debt


Dalmus wrote:

 My wife's mother has basically the same problem... Not $60K, but they were forced to do a BK13 a few years ago because of her out of control spending on QVC/HSN, etc.  Like your mother, she had underlying issues... In her case, she has some medical problems which prevent her from working, so to combat the boredom/depression, she goes overboard on her hobbies and buying gifts for people and decorations for the house.

 

 After the BK13, my wife tried to help reign in the spending and get her father involved in watching the finances, but ultimately all help was rebuffed because "they can take care of things themselves."  Trying to help them was causing more arguments and hard feelings than it was worth, so my wife finally decided to let them manage themselves, and if they let themselves totally crash, then they'd be forced to make a change.  If they do crash and burn, we've got a game plan in mind to make sure they aren't homeless on the streets at least.

 

 Its hard to see people you love doing something that is destructive to their best interests, but sometimes its what you have to do.


Not finances, but I have a master's of education, and it is amazing how the older generation refuse to listen to me about education related subjects. I've always meant to ask my physician if her relatives refuse to listen her her about medical stuff.  Just because we wore diapers 30 years ago, shouldn't invalidate our knowledge.

Message 4 of 6
Valued Contributor

Re: Helping a parent out of debt

All I can say is best of luck with everything. If anything, at least try to get her to stop getting CA's... As others have said, she'll likely need to crash and burn to finally learn.

 

Is she comfortable with the internet? Perhaps you could encourage her to start listing the memorabilia on eBay. Hopefully it'll keep her from gambling and shopping as much while bringing in a few bucks as well.


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Message 5 of 6
Established Contributor

Re: Helping a parent out of debt

Mom has wanted to shop and spend money on things that she doesn't need... So far I'm always able to talk her out of it but medical stuff that's another story I wish you the best of luck.

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Message 6 of 6