Parents, Money Goals, and Bon Jovi

This week I took my mom to a Bon Jovi concert.  We walked around the Arts District downtown, then had a delicious meal that my mom has not stopped talking about since. The concert was fun. My mom was incredibly excited, and I got to watch her eyes light up all night.

I’ve mentioned that my parents don’t have a lot of money. They make more now than ever, and are doing fine covering their typical bills. I still have vivid memories of my childhood when that was not the case, though. They also still don’t have a budget, retirement savings, or an emergency fund. They remain one major financial calamity from having nothing again. Case in point, my dad recently had a dental problem that I would consider, in our household, an emergency. Because it was largely cosmetic, however, they waited nearly six months to have it fixed because they needed to save up the cash.

Taking my mom to this concert made one of her dreams come true. She has wanted to see Bon Jovi since the 1980s. Our two tickets ran about $150. Not an astronomical sum, but one she certainly would not have paid, instead applying it towards other routine expenses. Being able to buy her those tickets and truly not have it be a problem was definitely the most exciting thing I’ve done with money recently.

Our Parents Are Our Exciting Money Goals

For a personal finance blogger, I’m not good about making specific goals. Sure, we always have a goal that we’re working toward, and it’s always a goal that’s measurable and obtainable. So, perhaps I should say I’m bad about making money goals that excite me. Our goals are the next logical money step to help us reach the nebulous concept of financial security. Perhaps once we reach the point where we can invest heavily enough to truly consider ourselves pursuing early retirement, I’ll be excited. It feels too soon now.

I’ll tell you the only money dreams that do excite me lately: money goals that involve our parents. The few specific things that I want to do, and think I would regret not doing, all involve them. I wanted to take my mom to see Bon Jovi someday (check!). I also want to take her to Ireland. She has never left the U.S. We want to spend a nice vacation with Mr. Steward’s parents and brothers all together.

And then there’s this crazy scheme I barely even dare to put into print, because it’s so completely not thought through: I’d love to buy a couple of houses here in town, use the rent to pay the mortgages., then allow our parents to move into them for free at retirement (if they want, of course). My parents can’t afford real estate here, and Mr. Steward’s live in a parsonage, so they’re homeless when his dad retires. It’d be really nice to say “Hey, just come here and live by us!” and have housing not be a burden for them.

Is Wanting to Do So Much For Our Parents a Problem?

I’ve thought a long time about why my money goals and philosophy are so tied to my parents. (To be fair, I think everyone’s money views are bound, in some way, to their parents.) But my very specific ones have to do with growing up poor. For a long time, I resented that they could not pay for certain things, as big as college tuition and as small as McDonald’s on a basketball trip. As I’ve grown older and more financially secure, that resentment has segued into worry about their retirement, health, and so on. I’m an only child, so as I watch my mom and her sisters handle the affairs of my aging great-grandparents, I am very aware that, for my parents, it’s all on me.

Most of their big stuff, like retirement and health, I can’t fix. We’re trying to afford all of that stuff for our nuclear family. For us, providing for ourselves and our children must come first. Moreover, I feel like any efforts to step in would end in resentment on both sides of the equation. Perhaps I will be forced to engage more in those affairs as I get older, but for now they remain my parents’ responsibility.

What I can do, however, is make sure that they get to enjoy our small piece of the family and see and do some fun things. Providing those experiences is fun for me in general, and doubly fun when I get to simultaneously enjoy it through my parents’ eyes. It’s the way I can add joy to our parents’ lives without causing harm, awkward feelings, or break boundaries.

How have your parents molded your financial outlook? Do you have any big money dreams that involve your parents?

2 Replies to “Parents, Money Goals, and Bon Jovi”

  1. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    Oh my goodness. Taking care of my parents has been the entire theme of my life from age 17 til now. It’s been a roller coaster journey, going from your aspirations very early on which I don’t think are crazy at all, having had them, to some pretty low lows, now, because the dependence on me has turned my dad into someone who I don’t recognize. Posts on the latter are here:

    I don’t think my desires to provide for them as I did were wrong, I just didn’t have the foresight to understand that my personality and desires might not mesh with theirs. Mom was pretty great about working with me, but she couldn’t get past her worry and anxiety for me, and that was a problem with her failing health. Dad has been absolutely terrible about working with me and our relationship has suffered greatly as a result.

    I hope that your approach works better – I think it will because you’re not taking over their money to the degree that I had to when they both lost their incomes at the same time.

    • Ms. Steward

      Part of this post has actually been me reflecting on some things I heard you say on a podcast–I forget which. I appreciate the link to the archive because I definitely want to read more of the saga.

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