Most of my family spends every last penny of their paycheck. This goes on every single month, without a care.  Do I owe them financially security later in life?   

Full disclosure, I’m ready for early retirement now. Heck, the numbers say I could have pulled the trigger years ago. We’ve worked our asses off in our careers, watched what we’ve spent and hit FI. We can pull the trigger tomorrow and march off into the sunset with mai tais and cabanas if we want.  So why haven’t we?  Financial uncertainty.

When most people think about retirement, they think of vacations, sleeping in, doing whatever they want without any obligations. 

I always do what I want.

While that may be true for a select few, the rest of us still need structure in our lives, have families and spouses to answer to and can’t afford to be on a permanent vacation.  Plus, there’s no place like home and sleeping in hotels and eating out at restaurants 24/7 does get tiresome.

Regarding the uncertainty…the big three expenses that impact our finances the most, we can control those: 

  • Housing – if it gets too expensive, we move.
  • Food – more sales, more coupons, less meat, less alcohol, and fewer restaurants.
  • Transportation – Downsize our car, take public transportation, walk, get a bike, go out less. 

We’ve got those covered.  

Then there’s a few other less certain items that are still pretty major, but we feel like we’ve got a decent handle on.

  • Medical issues – High dollar deductible plan, enough money to pay our max out of pocket for multiple years in a row, huge focus on preventative care.  And if all that fails, well, I can’t say we’ve never talked about our final escape plan. 
  • Stock market – Spend less during the lows, not adjust up during the highs.  Explore a side-gig if it gets tight, or at the very worst, head back into a full time gig.

What about the fun spending on entertainment, vacations, grabbing a coffee in the morning or even a gym membership? If it gets really bad, all those things go and we have complete control. 

So where’s the terrible uncertainty?

One word:  Family.

The greatest wild-card of all.  You can’t control your family.  You can’t control their spending, their saving, or their earning power.  You can’t control their tolerance for risk or the choices they make.  More importantly, you may not be able to control your desire, need or duty to make up their financial gap if something goes terribly wrong.

What happens when you’re about to (or have already) pulled the ER trigger and now your parents, siblings or cousins need money? What do you do?  Help them?  Turn away? Go back to work?  What if they’ve squandered their savings and made poor choices in life?  Do they deserve your help?  I say no, they don’t. 

Stop the music, what?  I know what you’re thinking and if I were reading this article, my first thought would be. “You ungrateful *expletive*, how dare you think about not supporting or helping your family.”

Know this, before you finally pull the RE trigger, you’ll have to go down this dark road yourself. Be honest, because you only get one shot at leaving your high-paying job.

Deciding which family (if any) to help

Should I help my ungrateful cousins that never come to family gatherings, steal money from their mother every chance they get and throw fits when they don’t get their way?

Should I help my mother who has squandered her money on frivolous toys for her dog, weird supplements to “extend her life” or making the decision to pull her money out of the market when it crashed in 2008 and never putting it back?

Should I help my father, whom I’ve seen once or twice a year for the last 20 years?  A father who had a worse spending problem than my mom and spends more time with his new family than his old?  The same dad that has a corvette, a motorcycle, and a brand new truck to pull his 40’ travel trailer? What about the day he called me to say he quit his job and would be traveling the country in said travel trailer? And no, he had not reached FI, not even close.

Should I help my siblings who frivolously spend their money on boats, cars, concerts, parties, worthless consumer goods and will need to work until social security kicks in or they get fired and go on welfare?

Should I give “loans” for medical issues or send payments to get people through rough patches, knowing that thousands were squandered on purchases that gave them the illusion of fake happiness?

Would you?

What does it mean to help your family?

I already know which “undeserving” family members I plan on financially supporting should the need arise.  It may be more than you’re thinking or maybe more than you would consider after reading about my family.  

For me, helping my family may not mean just sending a check every month. It might mean helping out around the house, giving advice, taking care of errands or doing paperwork.  It might mean sending a grocery delivery every other week or taking care of electricity bills or paying for caregivers.  

Every family and every situation will be different.  The bigger question is how will I afford it?   

Why my family is my biggest liability and fear for early retirement

I have a good handle on the amount of money I need to be happy, along with a safe cushion of OMFG accidents and things I never dreamed about happening.  Like maxing out my medical deductibles every year for 10 years in a row, or riding out a dip in the stock market.  I have contingency plans for when to go to back to work or how to decrease my monthly grocery bill to get back within a reasonable amount of spending, but I can’t plan for my family. I have zero control over them and that scares the hell out of me.  

What I will do.

My mom is very important to me.  Regardless of what I may think about her spending habits, I would do anything I could for her.  I’ve already done the math on her spending habits, needs, and how much longer I would need to spend to save enough to make sure she’s comfortable well past 100. 

A number of things could happen before that need ever arises.  The stock market could continue to provide modest returns (not the crazy gains in the last 10 years).  In other words, let’s not have another 2008 crash in the next 10 years. She could work a few extra years.  She could cut back on spending $200 a month.  Yep, that’s it, only $200 a month and it will take approximately 3-5 years off my working career.  A big thank you to compounding if that comes to pass. 

My worst case financial plan needs to include being able to help her if everything falls apart. 

My loved ones will have all the cheese they need.

And what about the rest of my family?  They all have their special financial situations, medical issues, retirement funds (or lack thereof), insurance plans etc.  I’ve ran through the worst case scenarios I can imagine for every single one of them. I’ve come up with an approximate amount I think I would need to send to my parents, my husband’s parents, our siblings, or extended families. 

We’ve had long talks about who we would delay retirement for, when we would step in and how much we could even support.  It’s an ugly dark conversation that brings out thoughts of our own limited time on this planet, how we want to spend it, and what it means to be a good person.

When it comes down to it, we all need to make our own decisions and I cannot and will not work the rest of my life to MAYBE need to take care of every single family member.  After all, they are most certainly not thinking or agonizing right now about how they would take care of us. Well, our parents might be. Love you guys!

So, should you plan to financially support family members that have squandered and ruined their financial future? 

I plan to, begrudgingly and selectively.   

What about you?  Has the thought crossed your mind? Will you choose to delay your retirement to help out your family? 

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