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Mother Figures

Posted by Théda Page | May 28, 2021 | 0 Comments

Mother's Day

Mother's Day has come and gone, but relax. Another one will swing around on May 8, 2022, as it has done every second Sunday in May since its invention in 1907. If you missed a natural opportunity to talk to your mother about her finances, don't wait a year to help her. The loving help you bring Mom may be worth your weight in gold.

Fact and Figures

Mom may need help with finances because of circumstances beyond her control. She may be mired in unsecured debt (medical bills, credit card bills), burdened with first and second mortgages, or facing an unexpectedly early retirement with no prospect of income to address growing debt.

Remember, Mom may not be comfortable dealing with “The Internets.” Present yourself as a dispassionate dispenser of facts and figures easily obtainable by you, her internet-savvy son or daughter.

Help her to see she may not be entirely responsible for a financial maelstrom affecting nearly all senior citizens. For example, the National Council on Aging offers these facts, using the most recently available figures:

  • In 2001, only 24.2 percent of senior households held credit card balances; by 2016, 34.2 percent did
  • The median credit card balance held by these households increased from $1,150 in 2001 to $2,300 in 2016, in 2016 dollars
  • In 2016, about one or every 33 senior households (or three percent) had negative net worth
  • According to the Survey of Consumer Finances, 29.2 percent of senior households owed on a mortgage, home equity line of credit (HELOC), or both
  • Of those seniors with mortgages, HELOCs, or both, the median debt was $68,500 in 2016

Go Figure

Mom may use defense strategies to keep you at bay as you try to talk about her finances. First, she'll always be your parent, so your push into her finances turns the tables, an unsettling feeling.

Second, if she knows something's amiss, she may try to distract you with behaviors like these:

  • Being passive-aggressive
  • Acting wounded or insulted
  • Becoming angry or weepy
  • Triangulating a sibling against you

Instead of spending time figuring out her financial picture and then helping her, you waste time dealing with her defenses, or (worse) fighting with an adult sibling.

Healthline suggests these defenses against a parent trying to manipulate you:

  • Ignore your mother's attempts to bait or control you
  • Refuse to let yourself be drawn into competitions with siblings
  • Be wary of her attempts to distract you with false praise or fawning comparisons to your siblings
  • Avoid sharing your own personal details with her; keep the conversation focused on her financial picture

Figure It Out

Mom may be reluctant to dive head-long into her finances. The financial picture may be a mess, and all of us tend to avoid getting into messy issues. Still, for the woman who gave you the gift of life, maybe the perfect gift is helping her figure out her finances and bringing some order to them.

Mom may be terrified not only of outliving money and keeping away creditors, but also terrified of you finding out the full depth of her distress. That's because her entire job of mother has been to protect you, not the other way around.

Admitting her financial weakness makes Mom vulnerable. Think about it: would you want to readily admit you were facing financial ruin? Would you want to admit your financial foibles to those you love the most?

Figure on Bankruptcy

That “B” word can be scary, especially for senior citizens. But bankruptcy in Texas carries with it special protections that can actually secure Mom's financial future, rather than imperil it.

To make the prospect of personal bankruptcy more palatable, share these facts with Mom:

  • Bankruptcy can discharge many debts, including credit card charges and their overdue and late fees, collection agency accounts, medical bills, some types of personal loans, past-due utility bills, business debt, and much more
  • Bankruptcy puts tax-exempt retirement accounts (401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing, and defined-benefit plans) beyond the reach of creditors
  • Roth IRAs and IRAs are likewise protected to specific limits

No creditor in Texas can take things like Social Security income, essentials for life, and specific items up to a value of $100,000 (as head of household) or $50,000 (as a single adult):

  • Family heirlooms
  • Religious books
  • All her home furnishings
  • Family burial plots
  • Her animals and their food
  • Her clothing and food

Help Mom by enlisting trained professionals who can help her see the total financial picture. If you think your mother could benefit from declaring bankruptcy, please contact a Frisco, Texas, bankruptcy lawyer at The Page Law Firm. A complimentary 40 minute strategy session is a telephone call away, at (214) 618-2101. You may also email us on Mom's behalf at [email protected].

About the Author

Théda Page

Théda Page's practice of law is motivated by the desire to help people through difficult circumstances. She spends time with her clients in order to understand their needs so that she can provide them with comprehensive and quality representation.


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