After I turned 30, strange things began to happen in my life. One day, I looked up from my computer and realised the job I initially saw as my “dream job” was not allowing me to meet my career and financial goals. So, I hustled for a year and thankfully landed a better job at almost double my previous salary. Then, I noticed that time spent with a particular group of girl friends left me feeling icky and drained. I ditched those women and began to prioritise friendships where my values were in sync. I stopped going to church if I didn’t feel like it; I pushed myself to save 25% of my take-home pay and educate myself on investing, so that I handled that money well.
As I began to fix things in my life and meet my financial goals, I suddenly began to worry about my parents and their retirement. Like many in their generation, my parents prioritised their children’s education, tithing to church, and giving to extended family – instead of saving for retirement. Our culture has historically dictated that children take care of parents in their old age.
I am in full support of this, and have been sending money over since I pushed past an income that was subsistence level. However, no one tells you that taking responsibility for your parents or for other members of your family increases your stress and affects the dynamic of the relationship.
When you start financially supporting family, something definitely changes in the relationship. An innocent conversation about the hot weather in Lagos can turn into a complaint about how their car is so old and needs to be replaced with a new one.
If you don’t have the money to buy them a car, (please, who has that kind of money?) you feel guilt, anxiety, and irritation. I finally understand why, as children, my mother was so angry when we broke things in the house by mistake. She was calculating how much it would cost to replace the item.
I’ve become more sensitive to discussions touching on finance, because I now feel responsible for my parents, and have limited resources to give them. If I really had 10 million Naira to spare, that money would preferably go towards my retirement savings, not towards buying a brand new Honda.
I would argue that in today’s global economy, it is no longer possible for adult children to support 100% the financial needs of parents with a middle class lifestyle. Yet, we don’t talk about what this means for our parents’ well-being in their old age. The few times I’ve had a conversation with someone about supporting our respective parents, we discuss it as a point of pride, but barely acknowledge the difficulties that arise.
What happens when mummy thinks you should throw a bash for daddy’s 70th birthday when you are trying to buy property? Are your siblings pulling their weight, or is it all on you?
How do you handle it when members of the extended family start asking for help? Are you hiding certain milestones in your life, such as a new flat or a dream vacation, out of fear that someone in your extended family will think you have money to blow?
How do you balance helping your family against meeting your own long-term financial needs? And finally, are you saving for retirement?
Photo Credit: Rmarmion | Dreamstime