What You Can Do for Parents Who Need Financial Help

Once your parents approach their 60s or 70s, it’s normal to start worrying about their finances. Do they have enough saved for a long-lasting retirement? Can they afford essential costs, medical care or even the cost of a nursing home in the future?  These concerns weigh even more heavily if your parents have few assets to begin with.

“It can be stressful to figure out what to do with aging parents who don’t have enough money,” said Jing Lee, Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Advisor based in San Jose, CA. “I recommend starting by getting together with your brothers and sisters and talking with your parents about their finances and their goals. From there you can work towards planning and making decisions as a family.”

Here are a few tips for helping parents with limited resources.


Even if you and your siblings are able and willing to help your parents financially, the first step should be to research income- and age-based programs that may be able to help cover some of their essential costs.

The most well-known programs are Medicare, which helps cover some medical costs primarily for those over 65, and Medicaid, which provides medical coverage for people of any age with low income — but that’s certainly not all.  There are often additional county, state and other programs that may help provide food, housing assistance, health care, supplemental income, and even transportation to bring elderly residents to places like the grocery store. You might be surprised by how many options your parents may be eligible for.


Most government programs are designed to help those who demonstrate financial need, so if you’re considering helping your parents out, make sure you’re not hurting their chances for aid — agencies will look at your parents’ income and assets to determine eligibility.

For example, depositing money directly into their bank account would be counted as part of their assets, which might put them over the financial need qualification cutoff for some programs. Direct cash gifts can pose the same problem.

If you want to help cover their living expenses it might be wiser to take on some of your parents’ living expenses directly. Covering prescription copays, groceries and other costs can preserve your parents’ eligibility for need-based programs since cash doesn’t exchange hands.


If you’re willing and able to provide financial support to your parents and are not concerned about eligibility for government aid, then you may want to look into financial solutions that can help provide regular cash flow quickly. One option is an immediate income annuity: you pay an insurance company a lump sum up front, with a parent as the beneficiary. They would then receive a pre-determined amount of money, typically for the rest of their lives.

“It can give your parents peace of mind knowing they have a predictable amount of money coming in every month, and that they don’t need to come to you every time they need to buy something,” said Lee.

If your parents have permanent life insurance policies, they might also consider tapping the cash value as a source of funds for retirement. Doing so will lower the policy’s death benefit, but depending on their situation, that tradeoff may make sense. If they own their home and are unable to make ends meet, a reverse mortgage may also be a solution.

The best option for your parents will depend on your family’s situation, and a financial advisor or representative can help make personalized recommendations and help plan for future needs like long-term care. What’s most important is to coordinate with your family members and create a plan — one that best suits your parents’ needs and takes advantage of the best options available to you.


About Northwestern Mutual

Northwestern Mutual has been helping people and businesses achieve financial security for morethan 160 years. Through a holistic planning approach, Northwestern Mutual combines the expertise of its financial professionals with a personalized digital experience and industry-leading products to help its clients plan for what’s most important. With $308.8 billion in total assets, $31.1 billion in revenues, and $2 trillion worth of life insurance protection in force, Northwestern Mutual delivers financial security to more than 4.75 million people with life, disability income and long-term care insurance, annuities, and brokerage and advisory services. The company manages more than $200 billion of investments owned by its clients and held or managed through its wealth management and investment services businesses. Northwestern Mutual ranks 90 on the 2021 FORTUNE 500 and is recognized by FORTUNE® as one of the “World’s Most Admired” life insurance companies in 2021.

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NM), Milwaukee, WI (life and disability insurance, annuities, and life insurance with long-term care benefits) and its subsidiaries. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC (NMIS) (investment brokerage services), broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company® (NMWMC) (investment advisory and services), federal savings bank; and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company (NLTC) (long-term care insurance).

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