My spouse and I have concerns about their parents’ finances. Their parents did everything “right” in terms of investments, 401Ks, and saving money for their retirement; they’ve been retired for about twenty years now and up until recently, we assumed they were sitting in a comfortable financial spot. Over the past year, however, they’ve made some choices that we found strange: One parent bought a brand new vehicle although they no longer drive; the other is a longtime online shopper, but has recently been buying things they don’t need (think parts to fix broken appliances that aren’t actually broken), items they cannot use (a deluxe cat tower—seriously, it covers about a quarter of their living room and they don’t have a cat or plan to get one), and a new kitchen set (dishwasher, oven, fridge) even though the ones they own function correctly and are still under warranty. While these purchases raised our eyebrows, we didn’t feel it was our place to pressure them since they’re financially independent.
Last weekend, spouse’s mom and I went shopping at a local department store. When we purchased our selections, her store credit card was declined, as was her debit card and a regular credit card. She brushed it all off, blaming the debit card as not working because she’d just gotten gas so there was probably a hold on the card, saying that she might have missed a payment on the store card, and finally that her regular credit card was old and always weird. I put her purchases on my card, and she gave me the cash for them when I dropped her back at home, but as she did so, mumbled that she hoped “spouse’s Sibling won’t miss the $200 this week.”
I relayed this to spouse when I got home, and they said that their parents frequently send money to their sibling to help cover their mortgage, fun things for the grandkids, home improvements, and misc. bills. I didn’t push the issue with my spouse because as the in-law, I’m very concerned about not crossing into business that isn’t mine. However, this past week, my spouse has gotten calls from multiple different bill collectors regarding several debts of their parents’. The “weird” credit card from our shopping trip is maxed out, and they’re nearly three months behind on payments. The same goes for the department store card, as well as for at least two other credit cards.
Today we met with spouse’s mom, and she made several statements about how she’s not sure how they’ll afford their property taxes (house is fully paid off), that she and her husband might have to downsize or move in with us (downsize, sure, but neither of us wants to add them to our household while they’re both able-bodied and don’t need medical care), and she shared that with the money she’s sending to spouse’s sibling that money is going out much faster than it’s coming in. It’s clear that we need to have a serious conversation with them about spending habits and to see if there’s any way to right their course if possible, but spouse and I are out of our depth here. We budget and don’t use credit cards unless we pay the balance immediately. I would very much appreciate any advice, organizations, or just a direction in general.
— Over-Spending In-Laws