Helping parents save

Helping parents save
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My mom is 43 and has no savings. I’ve told her I’d match contributions to a savings account of some sort, partially because she needs it and partially because I know I’m going to have to help her more in the future so her saving now benefits us both. Is their some sort of account that I can set up where she is the owner of the money but I have control of it? My concern is that she will dip into the account whenever she feels like things are a bit tight and I do not want that. I know she can handle her living expenses if she put away a small amount each month but she’s very much the “Use anything left over” type of person, at least that’s the impression I get from her. If she every had a true emergency I would have no issue with her withdrawing money, but I’d prefer to be able to decide so she doesn’t just waste money on unnecessary things and then go and withdraw money to pay her bills. Any help will be appreciated


Hi, @dannymgme, and welcome to the forum!

Matching funds can be an extremely effective way to teach children the savings habit. And there is some evidence it can help adults as well. I wrote about some of the research here:

Given family dynamics, however, I’m not sure you should be the one trying to teach her this lesson. Trying to control what she does with money will likely only cause conflict between you.

What you could do is help hook her up with an individual development account offered by a financial institution or charity in your area. You can start your search here:

Hope that helps and please let us know if you have any additional questions!


@dannymgme, I don’t know of any account that would allow your mother access but require your approval for withdrawals.

I’ve not had to worry about a parent, but I’ve watched others head down a similar path. Some things I’m pretty sure of:

  • You can control only what you do.
  • You can’t make your mother want what you want.
  • Your idea of an emergency is almost never the same as anyone else’s.

I’ve helped a couple of relatives find their footing (one now has a credit score higher than mine), but not before they made their own missteps and decided enough was enough. And others have nodded and then continued on their chaotic path. Periodically they lament about their finances – but they don’t ask for help. That’s a sign.

It’s completely within your discretion to decide what kind of safety net you want to offer and how large. You want to be there when they genuinely need help; plan and save for that day.

Until then, wait for an invitation and let yourself off the hook.