Ask Carrie: Is there a tactful way to help your mom (or dad) financially?


Dear Carrie,

My mom brought us up in a home filled with love but not a lot of money. Now that I’m in my 30s and she’s retired, I want to help her out financially but in a way that protects her sense of pride and independence. What do you recommend?

—A Reader

Dear Reader,

Parents are used to giving kids a financial hand, but aren’t always comfortable being on the receiving end. So it sounds like your mother is one lucky lady, not only because you have the desire and means to help her, but also because you’re sensitive to her feelings. And I think there are a number of meaningful ways to tactfully help out.

You might start by sharing your financial know-how. Talk to your mom about your own finances—how you budget and save, and the choices you make. That way she’ll know you’re doing okay. Then bring up how she’s managing financially. What are her income sources? Can she easily cover essentials? Does she need to make trade-offs? By looking at her budget with her, perhaps you can suggest some changes so she doesn’t have to skimp in one area or another.

Helping your mother manage her money better should give her a greater sense of independence. At the same time, you’ll be able to see areas where she might need a little extra help.

For instance, is your mom denying herself something essential to her safety and well-being just to make ends meet? Does she have adequate insurance? What about a cell phone or Internet connection? You could offer to pay for something practical like regular housecleaning or service on her car. Focus on something that would improve the quality of your mother’s life and tell her you’d really like to cover it for her; that rather than being a burden, it would make you feel good to do it.

In the same spirit, you could offer to take your mom out to dinner on a regular basis, or treat her to a spa day or even a vacation together. By giving her a bit of luxury, you’ll spare her having to budget for it. And by doing something with her, you’ll be showing that it’s not just about money, but also about sharing quality time.

Your desire to help your mother is a valuable gift in itself. However you choose to do it, try to make sure it’s not a one-time event. Keep discussing your mutual finances and the choices you each have to make at different times in your lives. And don’t shy away from the difficult topics such as estate planning. For instance, make sure she at least has a basic will and an advance healthcare directive.

Having brought you up in a house full of love, your mom will recognize that your concerns for her financial security come out of love. That should give her a real sense of pride.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!


Looking for answers to your retirement questions? Check out Carrie’s new book, The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty: Answers to Your Most Important Money Questions (Crown Business, 2014), available in bookstores nationwide. Read more at

This column is no substitute for an individualized recommendation, tax, legal or personalized investment advice. COPYRIGHT 2014 CHARLES SCHWAB & CO., INC. MEMBER SIPC. (0414-2685) 

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