The financial picture when your parents move in
There's a lot of talk of boomerang kids who come back to live with mom and dad after graduating from college, but sometimes parents can boomerang, too. Sometimes, it can make sense for a mother or father to move in with an adult child.
Heck, it might even be fun, if you and your parent have a good relationship. But naturally, as with all living arrangements, you could find the financial part of having your parents living with you could get messy, if you don't think through all of the issues first. There are so many considerations, but as you think it through, here are a few items you should mull over:
Moving costs. It's an easy point to miss if you're focused on how your life will change once mom moves in, but you'll avoid some financial horror if you consider what needs to happen to get her through the door. That is, if she has a bed, a TV and maybe a lifetime of belongings coming with, somebody will have to pay for the moving costs.
"It would be awkward to be in the middle of this and then have tensions flare due to assumptions being made," says Kanesha Baynard, a life coach in San Francisco who specializes in transitions and multigenerational living.
Having done some multigenerational living herself, she speaks from experience, though she was lucky enough to avoid facing any ugly moving expense issues when her 69-year-old mother-in-law took up residence in her four-person family home from 2007 to 2012.
"We were in the financial position to help my mother-in-law with her move, but that's not the case with all families, and when it isn't, it isn't easy to have those conversations," Baynard says.
You may also discover issues beyond moving costs. For example, your parent may have more belongings than your house can handle. Annette Reyman, a professional organizer in Philadelphia, welcomed her 88-year-old mother into her house last February. Accommodating Reyman's mother, Florence, wasn't a problem. Reyman and her husband had purchased the house the year before with a mother-in-law suite, knowing that this day was probably coming. But for the last nine years, ever since she moved out of her own house and into an apartment over her son's garage, Florence had been renting a storage unit for about $200 a month, to stow more of her belongings.
"It's not what I would have done," Reyman says, adding that in total, her mother paid more than $21,000 for storage.
Reyman had the contents of the unit moved to her basement, where she's in the process of donating items to charity, family and friends and bringing some items to her mother. In other words, she's doing what she does professionally – organizing a big pile of stuff. You may have to do the same.
Bill paying. Unless your parent or parents are completely without any real money, and truly need your financial support, you'll probably split some of the bills, which may work out well for both of you. Terrilynne Porst, who runs a nonprofit for victims of military-based sexual assault, in Parma, Ohio, has both of her parents living with her. In her case, it's a rather unusual situation. Her parents never married.
"They never even dated each other," she says. "I was conceived from one night while they were in the Navy."
But now they all live together. Her father moved in five years ago. He had divorced Porst's stepmother and doesn't like to live alone, so she invited him to move in. "After all, he helped me purchase my four-bedroom house," Porst says. "When he moved in, we agreed that he would pay the utilities while I paid the mortgage."
Last spring, Porst's mother moved in, too. "She was having a rough time by herself in Wisconsin. All of her sisters are in Ohio," Porst says. "When she moved in, we decided to add all house-related bills, like the utilities and mortgage, and split them equally among us. So far, everything has worked out fine. Bill-wise, anyway."
Whatever you do, you'll want to discuss everything beforehand and try to devise a system that works for you. For instance, Baynard says that she and her husband applied for another credit card, which they just used for household expenses. Baynard's mother-in-law often took that with her while driving the grandkids around, so that if she needed to buy something for the kids, she didn't have to be in the uncomfortable position of asking her son and daughter-in-law if they could pay her back.
Taxes, insurance and other paperwork. If your parents are pretty young, then they're probably on their own here. But if your parents are getting up there and need help, you'd be wise to ensure they're keeping up with their financial paperwork, Reyman says.
"During that first month or so, after my mother moved in, I wasn't really focusing on her papers, and then I quickly realized she wasn't either," Reyman says.
You also may want to call your insurance agent if your parent is bringing any valuables to your home that you would hate to lose in a burglary or fire. Your taxes may also be affected by your live-in parent or parents, since you may be able to declare them as dependents, if you are personally shouldering more than 50 percent of the financial costs of having them live with you. But if you're spending your own money and also using your parent's Social Security check to cover his or her living costs, that may not fly with the IRS.
And this is the sentence where we advise you, before making any radical changes to your taxes (like adding your dad as a dependent) to consult a tax professional.
The time factor. If your parents are having health issues, or appear poised to be, it's no secret that you may be in for a lot of chauffeuring, which could impact everything from your career to your gas budget. On the other hand, while there are plenty of ways a live-in parent can negatively impact your life, it may go the other way. You may find that having your parents around helps your finances, not to mention your quality of life.
For Baynard, she used her mother-in-law – who used to own her own day care – as a live-in nanny for her two children. She did pay her mother-in-law for some of her time, since she was operating beyond the normal scope of grandparenting duties. But Baynard liked knowing her kids were with someone who would have done all of this for free.
And more than having financial assistance with the bills, Porst, who served in the Navy, says that because she has post-traumatic stress disorder, having her parents living with her has meant having a built-in support system.
"Granted, everything is not peaches and cream," Porst acknowledges. "That's why I put a plaque on the door that says, 'Around here, normal is just the setting on the clothes dryer.'"
And Reyman admits she was quite wary about having her mother move in with her and her husband. In fact, she says, "I did not ever want to do this. But quite honestly, it really has been great having her here ... We all eat dinner together, and it's been a lot of fun so far."
Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report
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