Parents on a fixed income...

pesky1March 8, 2006

My in-laws are on a very fixed income, and FIL is not in good health. Fortunately they have excellent health insurance, so their medical costs are controlled. But their other costs (car payment, taxes, space rent, etc) are not. MIL will not be able to survive on the income she'll get when FIL passes, so we're trying dilligently, to get them to a point where they have more money put back and she can make ends meet without moving in with us.

We've checked with Senior Services and found that they could qualify for food stamps, and a whole bunch of other benefits for low income seniors. But we cannot get her to sign up for any of these services. We can't get her to change her home/auto insurance to one that would result in a lower cost; there is a litany of ways they can cut their spending on 'essentials' but MIL won't have any part of it.

Has anyone else been in a situation where they have to look out for their parents in a manner like this? It's really frustrating for us because if(when) FIL dies, MIL will be stuck with a mobile home in a rented park, and we'll have to pay her space rent until(if) the mobile ever sells.

I guess I'm just feeling overwhelmed, part of the "sandwich" leaving the nest and having aging parents. I'm open to advice from others who are/have been in this position.

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I'm not quite there, but I am stepping in more and more as a financial advisor of sorts to my mother. My sympathies -- it's a tough place to be -- for all of you.

I can understand why your in-laws don't want to sign up for food stamps and other things they perceive as "charity". But I'm baffled why your MIL won't take some fairly simple steps to reduce costs. I'm sure you've asked, but can your MIL identify why she's not willing to do this? Maybe we can think of some counterpoints for you to use.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2006 at 9:59PM
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My in-laws were retired,FIL passed away so MIL had only Social Security to live on. The house was paid for, her annual income was about $7000, no money in savings. She applied to Social Services. She didn't qualify for cash. But she got free transportation for doctors appointnments,low-cost prescriptions, high-schoolers came and raked her leaves, the town gave her a new roof and gutters. This help is there for the asking. She didn't have to "beg for charity.Look in the phone book under "Senior Citizens".

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 9:58AM
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My dad didn't want to change insurance to pay less because he liked his agent. Agent died. Dad didn't like new agent. Got cheaper insurance. Many elderly people have gotten comfortable with a familiar name of a company or a particular person in the company and do not like change. Same goes for a store. My dad will not drive a block for a better deal because he has always shopped at Kroger. It's very frustrating and hard to get them to look at things that may better their life as you see it.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 2:27PM
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MIL is very much like lizql's dad. The biggest problem seems to be that MIL thinks she's stupid and believes her husband will freak out if she does anything different. Yet, he defers to's like this vicious cycle with them.

I think a lot of their problem comes from their fear that if they change anything it will cost them more money. They listen to others advice, but not ours. And that is costing them money!! They just refuse to believe things. It is so weird because they watch TV, read the paper, keep up on current events, but for some reason they don't believe it pertains to them. Getting charity isn't the issue, it's that they believe, really believe, what 'authorities' tell them. Authorities being salesmen, clerks in stores, etc.

We can't get it through their heads that WE are looking out for their best interest, not the company or agent they're dealing with. If they do manage to make a call and get one no, they quit. Then they close their minds to any other options. They got a no, so that means no.

It is so frustrating!!

One time they bought a new washer & dryer. The dryer cord did not fit the plug, and the delivery person told them they'd need to hire an electrician to rewire the plug. So, they did this. The electrician also told them that their faucet leaked and they needed to put 3/4" marine grade plywood on the floor under the washer. So they hired a plumber to replace the faucet and a carpenter to put in the flooring.

DH hit the roof...we offered to buy a new cord for the dryer, one that would fit the plug; we even had the manager from Sears CALL them to tell them the dryer just needed a different cord. Oh no. That $7/hr deliveryman was the expert, and why else would the ELECTRICIAN do the rewiring? The faucet...turned out it needed a washer. But the plumber put in a new faucet. The floor? DH had a piece of plywood that would have worked but they went and bought a $35 sheet and used a 2'x4' section. But all these 'experts' knew more than DH and I did.

THIS is what we deal with!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 3:23PM
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pesky 1,

It is tough to deal with such issues.

And it builds a higher head of steam in your boiler - as it does in theirs.

When it's me - it's "determined": when it's you - it's "stubborn".

Good wishes for being able to achieve some of the savings/efficiencies.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 10, 2006 at 4:38PM
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Wow, pesky1, you do seem to have your work cut out for you. My mom at least acknowledges there's a lot she does not know. My biggest "fight" with her is the willingness to replace outright something that just needs a little repair.

You would think people on fixed incomes would be more receptive to ideas to save money. *shakes head*

Is there an area of their lives in which you or DH are "subject matter experts" and can advise in an official "see-someone-else-pays-me-to-say-these-things-so-I-must-be-an-expert-too" mode?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2006 at 9:38AM
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I'm just wondering if it's time to consider getting rid of the car. No car payment, no gas, oil changes, insurance, etc. Are they getting to the point they're a hazard? Even if they're not a hazard on the road, often there's things like "Rainbow Rider", "The Traveler", "Metro Mobility", etc (different names for the same thing), that will take seniors most anywhere they need to go for $1 or two. They can have things delivered, take the senior transport or a cab for medical appointments and save quite a chunk of change.

There's also certain programs in various areas with the overstock food distribution (including, but not limited to the often joked-about "government cheese"). Someone else is able to pick it up for them too.

Don't forget to check with utilities. Many have low-income discounts.

Also a good idea to take a look at their spending habits for alternatives.

Perhaps you could get all the paperwork filled out and just get them to sign it. Sometimes a little push is all that is needed. Maybe they're afraid of the hassle of filling out paperwork to get it? Do they have any friends receiving the aid already? Sometimes a little talk and a friendly nudge from them could help. Or just finding someone they respect more to make the move to convince them.

Also, is something like an assisted-living place an option? They are great for many people.

I agree that trying to find out some of the rationale for not wanting to change is important. Then you can start dealing with it more easily. If it's overly irrational reasoning, it could be a sign that the time is approaching to get a financial conservator appointed.

Tough situation. My best wishes to you and yours!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2006 at 2:24PM
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Stevo...the ironic thing in this is that they call me their 'advisor' and 'the professor' (in a loving way) because they think I'm the smartest person they know.

They KNOW DH and I know what we're talking about...but they just can't seem to put that abstract thought that we are "experts" when it comes to them. When MIL had cancer, they relied heavily on DH and I to manage their household and run as intermediary with doctors, but then as soon as the crisis was over, it was as if they'd gotten amnesia.

MIL is just 61...still very young and in good health. FIL is 72, diabetic, and proclaims he's ready to die (tho we've often predicted that he'll outlive us all). He doesn't drive, but she does. She also works for a n'bor doing housework and chores for a small stipend. So it's not really that SHE is going to be a burden, but she's 100% dependent upon her husbands income (SSI and Navy Pension) so we worry about how she'll get along when he dies. Also, she thinks it's HIS money, so she won't do anything he doesn't agree to.

Thanks for letting me vent my frustrations here. I've had fantasies of sending FIL to live with his daughter for a few months, so DH and I can get things straightened out for them.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2006 at 3:42PM
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Is there no survivor benefit ongoing in your Soc. Sec. system?

Most spouses or SOs here continue to receive about 60% of the member's benefit rate from Can. Pens. Plan (a compulsory contributory system that started in 1966) after (usually "his") demise.

Every person here (with certain years of residence after age 18 required) get what we call our Old Age Security (a non-contributory system), which housewives who "never worked" appreciate, as for many of them, it's the only income that they've ever had that they could call their own.

Some aged people have chortled and said that they never had it so good during their lifetime.

Usually I suggest that they have a good look at what financial position they'll be in after one is gone - which is usually the one who "worked" and accumulated the credits.

For many, their private pension goes to about 60% (if it's the actual member of the plan who survives, it stays at 100%). Canada Pension Plan benefit system usually goes to about 60% following the death of the one who contributed. Of the two Old Age Security benefits that they had, one is gone.

So the surviving spouse who was the non-employed one has to get by on about 55% of their earlier income.

When some have a look at that scenario, they decide to invest some of the current income in order to maintain the survivor.

Some have thanked me for drawing that scenario to their attention.

However, I recently heard a case made for many retiree families being able to get by comfortably on much less than the 70% or so of pre-retirement income that quite a few financial advisors recommend - and I agree, in the current Canadian context.

Good wishes in your project, pesky - I hope it works out more successfully, and more easily, than you anticipated.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 15, 2006 at 4:05PM
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Do they own a house? Maybe a reverse Mortgage?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2006 at 8:38PM
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Judy, the live in a 1972 mobile home in a senior park. We've convinced them to put the place up for sale and move into an apartment (no maintenence costs, no property taxes, insurance, etc) and for purely selfish reasons...we won't be stuck paying the space rent on the place until it sells should one or the other die.

They've had 3 interested parties, and every time they've blown the sale by saying stupid things. One woman who came to look at the place was on the tall side. MIL mentioned to her that a ceiling fan hung particularly low and next thing you know, the woman has withdrawn her offer. Sigh.

Last person asked why they were selling and FIL said it's because there is too much yard work. (there is a tree in the common area that drops pine needles and they occasionally blow onto their patio. He hates that tree and wants it cut down). They said this to a woman looking to buy the place for her 83 year old mother. "thanks, if we're interested well make you an offer" they say as the back out the driveway. SIGH.

We've TOLD them to be gone when the place is being shown, and if they can't leave, then to KEEP THEIR MOUTHS SHUT! Tell them you're moving because you want to be closer to your children (not a lie, they want to move down the street from us). Can't tell them a thing.

Currently FIL's son is staying with them. He's got no plans to leave any time soon. He does have a job and is trying to find a house in another city, but until then he's staying with them. He pays nothing to them. Has not bought one single grocery item or even taken them out to eat. MIL has been complaining about how he eats 3x more than they do, so she's cooking and doing laundry all day long. But they won't ask him to pitch in a dime.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 3:29PM
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Dad used to say that you could wean a calf easily when it was a few weeks or a couple of months old - but if it were still sucking on its mother when it got to be a year old, it would tear down fences, kick through walls or whatever was needed to get to its mother.

To continue sucking.

Man is part of the animal kingdom, I've heard.

Think there may be anything to it?

ole joyful

P.S. I've said somewhere else, with regard to environmental consciousness, that pigs're smarter than cows - and we have more in common with cows than we do with pigs, it seems to me.

For those who haven't heard that story - it's available, if you ask.

o j (not orange juice; not milk, either)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2006 at 6:34PM
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