Hi everyone,

I'm in a predicament and am hoping someone can shed some light on it.

My mother who is 64 has about $200,000 in debt, is living off credit cards, has her mother in a nursing home back in Europe, just finished fixing the foundation of the house because water was leaking into the basement for $10,000 which she had to borrow from the bank (they only gave her $5K) , remortgaged her house twice to pay for bills and now her work just shut its doors for the month due to covid. She will be getting about 55% of her salary (which wasn't huge to begin with) but regardless, she was never able to pay for her debt and expenses with a full salary either, clearly. Bank advisors and family members have suggested to her that she sell her house so she can pay off her debt and finally live comfortably, but she refuses to sell the house because she wants to leave it for her kids and both my brother and I have expressed that we have no interest in living there or having the house. We just want her to be debt free and to life a worry-free life which she can totally have if she just sold the house, she is being so stubborn about it I don't even know what to do. My first reaction when I heard that her worked closed and that she was only going to get 55% of her salary was that I was going to go live with her instead of paying rent for my apartment and help her with some cash. However, I thought about this for a good while and realized that helping her would only keep her in this crazy situation that she seems to be comfortable in. She keeps on telling me that she has faith that some miracle will happen and everything will work out and to trust God, but this is beyond God's help now. I feel sad because I want to help her but why would I have to sacrifice my life for her bad decisions? Am I being insensitive? What would you do?

Thank you so much in advance for your advice.

Kind regards,


You're not being insensitive, and you can't help someone who won't help themselves. You say you make your position clear to her, so time to take a step back and let the inevitable happen.

I'd highly advise against moving in with her, or having her move in with you as that would likely just reinforce/further enable her poor financial decisions.
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to ZippyZee
NeedHelpWithMom Oct 13, 2020
Wise advice.
There is a chance that your mother can never pay off this debt. It may depend on the value of the house. Many creditors will compromise to take less of a debt which is virtually unrecoverable, which might make it add up. A financial advisor will help to consolidate credit card debt, but ask carefully as some of them do NOT give good advice.

If not, then your mother will eventually be made bankrupt. The house will be sold but she will be able to keep most of her personal possessions – look up bankruptcy rules in your state to find out what. Bankruptcy gives a fresh start, and even for older people it takes away a huge burden of worry. Financial counselors rarely recommend bankruptcy because they don’t make any money out of it themselves, but it can be the best option.

Stop paddling mother’s canoe, it isn’t going anywhere – it’s sinking.
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Reply to MargaretMcKen
Hummer Oct 19, 2020
I love that line: "Stop paddling your mother's canoe." It's applicable to so many situations & circumstances.
It would tell her that it isn’t God’s responsibility to bail her out. She must take action. She may need to file for bankruptcy.

I admire her faith but I hope that she doesn’t belong to a “prosperity gospel” church where she is “sewing a seed” in other words, making a pastor rich while she is getting poorer because the church teaches that she will get her money back ten fold.

These types of preachers are all over television too! They prey on the vulnerability of others. It’s good to be charitable but not to people who take advantage of others.

You have said your piece. What else can you do? She knows what is necessary but it is hard for her to let go of her material belongings.

It’s a very sad dilemma. I am so sorry that you are struggling with this awful situation.
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Reply to NeedHelpWithMom

By the way, it isn't beyond God's help, but she is being presumptious. Hope she doesn't lose her faith when He doesn't pay it all off because it wasn't His idea....
Helpful Answer (10)
Reply to mally1
sunshine1986 Oct 13, 2020
Hi mally1, thank you for your response.
I see where you are coming from, I believe God/the universe always has a plan for us and to trust, but as I said in my response to Beatty: I think God can only do so much, he also gives us family members to advise us because they have our best interest and logic to help us in life. I.e. he gives us legs but we need to learn how to walk.
IMO, she needs to sell the house and settle the debts. Leaving the house to her kids would mean they are saddled with an asset against which there are debts, and perhaps little value beyond that (the basement repair for which she could not get full bank financing tells me she's a bad credit risk, the house is not worth that much, and that there has been significant deferred maintenance which most often leads to a cascade of expensive repairs.)

I'd go with her to a bankruptcy attorney for a free initial consultation to get some information on her best options.
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Reply to BBS2019
igloo572 Oct 19, 2020
Your spot on..... 200k in debt, 2 mortgages + no job & no savings.
Bankruptcy is the option.

200K in unsecured not mortgage / car debt is huge debt unless it’s like 180k in medical bills and the rest is usual CC / Visa spending. Or she was making big $ like over 400k - 500k a yr.
I’m guessing that was neither of the 2 are the moms backstory but it’s more she’s been layering CC and racking them up to the max and then getting new CC.
The mom has few options to get out from her debt and killer interest that’s topping it off each month. Bankruptcy is it.

If the mom is lucky, she might, just might be able to get those mortgage holders to do a “validation of debt” so that she can keep the home. She’d need to be totally current on her mortgages, if not she’d need to bring it up to current. Ditto for any car loans. The securitized debtors can opt to allow a revalidation on the debt for bankruptcy.
But lenders don’t have to do it (validation of debt).
You kinda have to make yourself “attractive” to them, like being current and able to show full insurance on the house / car that has the securitized lending.
I would kindly explain that it will take courage to face the situation she is in, but you will walk beside her.

If she can grown to accept her situation, then she can make a roadmap out. This may well be downsizing to clear debt.

"..that some miracle will happen and everything will work out". She does not have to lose faith or hope, but I think more useful to have ACTIVE HOPE. Where she can actively take steps towards a new hopeful phase in her life.

I think her thoughts surrounding "leave it for her kids" speak volumes.

She may be thinking to leave you the house = will ensure you are left financially stable? Or shows how much she loves you? Ask her. The reality is you both have homes already so the house would become a business (or even burden) to rent out. You don't have to mention that... You could acknowledge her generousity in wanting to leave you the house. Tell her how proud you are she bought it. You will be even more proud & happy if she can accept change in these very tough times, work together & change direction as required.
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Reply to Beatty

My mother was in a similar situation. At first I tried to help In several ways, but that was a disaster many times over. It was throwing good money after bad, and good energy and time wasted. She was very disorganized in her thinking but still competent. She made bad decisions throughout her life, so when dementia was setting in, no one noticed except me - and then I was the bad guy. I had to let the situation get to a crisis. I even called APS and they told me she was just fine. She ended up selling her house on her own at a loss. My mother would never listen to me and really was abusive.

if you have a good relationship with her then take her to a good elder care attorney. The reality is she doesn’t want to deal with the mess she’s made, so she’s waiting for God to help. My grandmother always told me that “there will be no miracles because God gave me common sense.” You will not inherit her house anyway because of her debt.

Do not enable this behavior. Do not move in. You can help by sticking to sound advice and a realistic plan and not being swayed by guilt or what “others might think.”
Helpful Answer (9)
Reply to Mepowers
NurseRatched Oct 19, 2020
Agreed. And when the time comes that she will require residential facility care, she will most likely lose the house in the process.
Since your mother is mentally competent, she can do as she pleases - and obviously is. Unfortunately, most people do not change their ways until they are forced to. Do NOT help her with this debt except to help her list her home for sale. She needs to learn to live within her means and if you help her, she will not.
She can talk to her bank about consolidation of her debts and creating a plan to pay them off. If she does sell her home and you let her live with you, make sure the sale of the house covers her debt before she moves in.

As her adult child, you are responsible to respect your mother... not to follow her into debt. If she needs help, make sure she buys essentials - food, medications, etc. Lend her a hand if she needs help getting her home ready to sell: cut grass, paint the house (with paint she buys), pack up boxes...
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Reply to Taarna

There is not a whole lot you can do. I am assuming your mother-in-law is a competent adult. She is entitled to f*** her life if she wants to. Be sure that you and her son don't co-sign on any of her foolishness. because unless you are a co-signer on a loan, you will not be responsible for any of her debts. Don't pay her bills. Don't rescue her.

If you suspect that she may be incompetent, than you need to struggle with how to get her evaluated medically
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Reply to MsRandall

I do believe that God has a plan for all of us, however I also believe that old adage that God helps those who help themselves. She will never win with this house thing. You moving there would probably only delay the inevitable and if there happens to be another house catastrophe, you'll both be sunk.

Maybe she needs to see the big picture. Make a list of all the debt she owes and compare it to the income that is available to her. Covid could prevent her from getting full time work again for a long, long time. Explain that if she continues to live as she has, there isn't going to be a house to give to you and your brother anyway. Not to mention, and a big one to drive home to her, she cannot just give you her house because it might prevent her from nursing home care if something happened to her health and she needed a nursing home. Tell her to make a list of every single bill she has that is not a priority (cable TV, internet, big car payment versus cheaper car, hair/nail salon, etc) and ask if she'd like to give all those things up just to break even. Bill paying is all about priorities and hers seem to be out of whack if she has consistently used credit cards to make ends meet.

If there is any equity, at all, to salvage from the sale of the home - she needs to take it now. That would be another thing to show her - equity she 'might' make from sale of house versus debt against the house. It's very possible she has already spent her equity with loans and has actually already lost it. Even selling a house that has not had regular maintenance will eat up more of the equity my making repairs to get it ready for sale.

Once you have the financial details ironed out, you may be able to work with a credit counseling company to make one payment to them and they distribute among creditors. She will have to close all of the accounts while they are making the payments. The credit cards are going to put her so far underwater (if they haven't already).

She can reduce her own stress and create a happier life if she gets in to something more affordable now. You aren't being selfish. You are being realistic and she needs to do so as well. At 64, she has the possibility of living another 20-30 years and her current situation would have her under a bridge somewhere if her children happened to pass before her. Ask her to make these changes for her children so they don't have to try and clean up a bigger mess than there is right now. She has no inheritance to pass down. She already spent it. Now you have to figure out her future.

Ask her what her plan is when her debt exceeds any equity she might have left in the house, cannot pay the mortgage/loan payments, and the house is foreclosed? She would be walking away without a red cent to her name. She may or may not have secured full time work again. She would still owe money on credit cards - maxed out and unable to use those to live on. The miracle she is waiting for will come when she changes her habits.
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Reply to my2cents
NobodyGetsIt Oct 19, 2020

I definitely think sitting down and writing all the financial debts alongside a list of available income is a good place to start. Seeing things on paper as they really are and not relying on what may or may not be remembered in our minds is very helpful when trying to get a handle on the "true" situation. Then they can go to the next step and get some professional advice to help create a plan to get out of this big mess that will only continue unless some action is taking asap.

Well said and thought out!
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