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My 78 Year Old Mother is Struggling Under Her Debt. – Dorothy

“Dear Steve,

My mother is 78 year old and has accumulated a significant amount of credit card debt (14,000). This debt is spread across nine different credit cards with varying interest rates which she attempts to keep current paying minimum payments. She has used balance transfer options when possible to reduce interest rates. However, she has had some trouble at times and had late payments causing added fees. Monthly average income @2272 and bills (not including food and gas) average about $1700). This also does not include her credit card minimum payments which average around 375 per month. She does own her own home which was paid for until she obtained another mortgage to pay off prior credit card debt a few years ago. Her mortgage balance is about $78,000 with an interest rate of 4.75%.

My mother’s health is not good and we do not feel she will be able to continue in her sales job for much longer. She feels she has to work to make ends meet and this accounts for about $1000 in income each month on average.

We are trying to determine the best approach to handling her financial situation. She has life insurance policies with a death benefit of approximately $70k. Her premiums amount to about $220 of her monthly bills. Her thinking is this money would help to pay off the mortgage in the event of her death.

She is attempting to keep my husband and I from inheriting debt since she has willed her house to us. At this point, I don’t know how to advise her. We have considered obtaining the cash value of the insurance policies and using it to pay off some of her higher interest credit card accounts.

However, that will leave my husband and I with significant debt on her home once we inherit it. I know this sounds selfish but we can’t afford that kind of debt since we are both around 50, planning for our retirement and still have 2 children to get through college. I told my sister recently that I felt cashing in the policies is a good option but could mean the house wil l have to be sold at mom’s death. Though we don’t want to do this as it is our family home, we really don’t have a lot of options.

My siblings and I are trying to help her when we can but it has been difficult. I have 2 children of which one will be attending college in just over 2 years from now. My husband I currently make a combined income of approximately $80K so we are not in a position to help out a lot financially.

My question is should we cash in the policies to pay off some of the credit card debt or try to work out some type of settlement options with the credit card companies? Any advise you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance!

Dorothy”

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The Answer

Dear Dorothy,

As I read your question I hear both guilt and concern. It is perfectly fine for you to be concerned and aware about your own personal situation. Putting your finances first is a logical and reasonable thing to do. You should absolutely not feel guilty about it. In fact I’d be more upset if you sacrificed your financial future over this situation.

Being totally pragmatic about the situation it appears to me that your mother has been living beyond her means for some time. This is evidenced by the fact that she took out a previous debt consolidation loan and is back in trouble again.

When needs exceed abilities to pay, what we are left with is debt. Debt is the byproduct of the financial imbalance.

Considering your mothers age and her ability to service this debt, and again being pragmatic, it would be an utter mistake to launch her into any sort of extended debt repayment program. What we actually need here is later stage life intervention so she can more easily coast into her final days.

I have no idea how much the house is actually worth or what state she lives in but if she was able to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy and discharge the remaining debt while protecting the house, that would be a good thing. In fact, you can click here to find a local bankruptcy attorney to talk to for free.

I would urge you and your mother to go in and personally sit down with the attorney together. Your mother will filter what the attorney says through emotional hearing and I need for you to clearly hear what the attorney has to say.

I do have a Plan B in mind but the bankruptcy discharge would be a good first step if possible since it will immediately put the debt behind her and not drag this out forever so she can concentrate on enjoying the remaining time ahead.

My absolute first stop here would be the consultation with the local bankruptcy attorney. Then come back and update me in the comments below.

Big Hug!

My 78 Year Old Mother is Struggling Under Her Debt.   Dorothy
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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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