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Parents' finances can be a touchy topic

02 April 2010
Bonnie Sandler S.W, The Senior Times - April 2010

I am contacted by a daughter whose mother is considering a move to a senior residence.

The daughter gives me details of the parent’s mental and physical functioning and I begin to think about a suitable residence, but I have one more question: What is your mother’s budget?

“I have no idea,” the daughter says. It seems her mother has been very secretive about her finances.

I ask probing questions but get no further information. Perhaps the brother might know more? The daughter laughs and tells me her brother knows less than she does. I am stuck. Without an idea of budget, how can I suggest residences?


I organize a family meeting. The mother is very open in all areas of discussion. I describe different types of residences and explain that I need to have some idea of her monthly budget in order to proceed. The mood in the room shifts.

The mother is vague in her answers and the children are getting upset. I end the meeting and schedule to meet with the mother alone. There is still secrecy, but a number is thrown at me. It is very low and will not cover the type of residence she is interested in. We continue the dance without any resolution.

I work with the children and we guess at monthly expenses, coming up with a reasonable monthly budget we think fits. I arrange a couple of visits to appropriate residences for the family.

The mother really likes one residence, so we sit down with the leasing agent and go over pricing. The mother insists that it is too expensive and that she cannot afford the move.

People often underestimate their monthly budgets. Food, entertainment, heat and electricity are often part of the package at a residence.

When seniors hear the cost of the monthly rent, it sounds very expensive, but families need to realistically look at all expenses to know whether the residence is affordable.

I advise seniors not to max out their income with a move to a residence. There should be a cushion for unforeseen expenses such as future care needs. Children are often willing to help out financially to allow their parent to move into a residence. What parents don’t understand is that many children would prefer their parents live in a safe and comfortable place that allows for socialization. Helping out financially is not just for the parent, but for the peace of mind of the children. It’s a win-win situation.

So before you think that a residence is not affordable, look at the dollars and use common sense.

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Bonnie Sandler

Residential Real Estate Broker, Housing Consultant for Seniors

514 497-3775