How to Get Retired Parents to Spend Money on Themselves

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

Related Articles

Keeping Elderly Parents Safe

A Tool to Determine the Best Time to Take Social Security Benefits

How to Get Retired Parents to Spend Money on Themselves

My parents worked hard and saved all their lives. Now that they're retired, I think that they should feel free to spend some money on themselves. Take vacations. Hire some help around the house. When I encourage them, they say that they'd rather pass it along to my sister and me. But we'd like to see them enjoy their retirement. Can anyone suggest an argument that would get my parents to spend at least a few dollars on their own enjoyment?

Take Them at Their Word

How do you know your parents aren't already spending their money the way they want? Maybe they don't actually like to travel and prefer to do their own cleaning rather than have strangers in the house. If all you want to do is reassure them that they don't need to save the money for you and your sister, just say to them, "We hope you aren't depriving yourself of anything just because you want to leave more money to us. We would so much rather see you enjoy it." But if they say they are already doing everything they want to enjoy themselves, perhaps you should take them at their word. Not all folks enjoy themselves in the same way, and if your parents' idea of a good time is sitting at home and relaxing, isn't that their choice to make?

Take a Slightly Different Approach

Perhaps if you can't get your parents to spend money on themselves, maybe they'd be willing to fund a family vacation. Someone once told me that kids will continue to come on family vacation as long as parents are paying! I'm not trying to be flippant, but I totally enjoy a vacation with my children and grandchildren, and if providing a house with a pool near a beach is a way to do it, I enjoy that!

A friend's dad turned 90 years old and was living in a retirement home, but he was spry and active. He decided to take his kids on a European tour. I think they saw seven countries in two weeks and really enjoyed the trip. It was an organized trip, and they all enjoyed it. I think his kids especially enjoyed sharing Normandy beach with their dad, who was part of the WWII forces there on that fateful day. He never thought he would get to see it again.

My parents didn't like to spend money on themselves either, and when they needed a new sofa (the old one was 35 years old and ugly), I took them to a reputable furniture store and had them sit on sofas. It was a little easier to get them to buy a sofa once they saw one they liked and felt how comfortable it was.

Sometimes, I bought some new clothes for my mother, had her try them on, and told her how much they were. She didn't have to buy them, but if she found something she liked, it was easier to get her to spend the money on herself. If something was the wrong size, I could get her to go try on more. I left her in the dressing room and kept running back and forth getting things for her to try on (much easier than her getting dressed and going out to find things for herself).

These people who grew up during the Depression or post-Depression era have a hard time "treating" themselves, even if the treating is simply replacing old and worn items.

My daddy did comment on how I loved to help him spend his money! Seriously, I was only getting him to spend it on himself. He would have never done it without the nudging.

What Most Parents Really Want

If you really want to enhance your parents' retirement years, find ways to share more time with them. What we miss most is your presence on a regular basis. We enjoy picnics, backyard BBQs, chats over lunch, and overnights with grandchildren. Nothing in this world is more fun than you.
Bonnie in Arkansas

Pitch a Family Trip

You might consider suggesting that your parents spend some of their money on hosting a special family trip, perhaps a cruise. They would get to treat their children, grandchildren, etc. to something memorable, while getting to participate and enjoy it themselves as well. Plus, they might just have such a wonderful time that they'll want to do it again sometime on their own!

Get Them to Loosen Purse Strings

My mother had this problem with her parents and she began to pay for yard work and other little extras. When they protested, she told them they can spend their money to enjoy life now or she would have to do it for them out of her own pocket. They loosened up the purse strings a bit and found that they enjoyed it, especially after both their children told them how badly they felt about their parents scrimping for their inheritance.
R. Steele

Are They Worried About Being a Burden?

Perhaps your parents are worried about long-term care when they become incapacitated down the road and really don't want to spend money that they think you will need to look after them. Suggest they purchase long-term care insurance, so they can freely spend and enjoy what money they have and not have to worry about the future or being a burden on their kids.

Will you leave
thousands of dollars on the table
by taking Social Security
at the wrong time? Find out.

Saving Time, Money and Aggravation

My father thought the same thing. Please explain to your parents that they are saving you money, time, and aggravation if they spend some on themselves now. A good portion of what they leave you will go to the lawyers and be eaten up in taxes and fees. They often don't realize that about a third of what they are trying to save for you will go to someone else. What they spend and you don't have to is 100% in your pocket right now! If they pay for some help instead of needing you to help clean or do work on their home, it will save you time and money.

Taking a vacation together now, even a short one, will be a nice gift so you can relax and create memories. Even if they vacation themselves, it gives you time to spend with your family.

Take the Next Step:

  • Subscribe to After 50 Finances. You've learned how to work smarter, not harder. This weekly newsletter is dedicated to people just like you. Subscribers get a FREE copy of our After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist, a list of everything you need to do to be ready for retirement.
  • Determine if debt could derail your retirement and what you can do about it now. Our checklist can help you. Afterall, one of the most important ingredients for a comfortable retirement is to be debt free when you retire.
  • Find tools and resources geared specifically for the 50+ crowd in The Dollar Stretcher section dedicated to your financial issues. If you're over 50, your financial needs are different. And so are your questions.

Share your thoughts about this article with the editor.

Stay Connected with TDS


It's tough raising kids today!

Dollar Stretcher for Parents is a weekly newsletter designed just for parents that will help save your family both time and money.

Little Luxuries

And get a copy
of our ebook
Little Luxuries:
130 Ways to Live Better...For Less
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Debt Book