DEAR DAVE: My parents are close to retiring and very heavily leveraged. Do you have any advice on how I can help motivate them to succeed financially?
DEAR JACK: I appreciate your concern for your mom and dad, but I'm not sure you can motivate anyone to do something. Sometimes people don't have motivation because they've lost hope. In turn, it's that sense of hopelessness that keeps them from moving forward. I think in these situations the best you can do is to show them hope. And one of the best ways to do that is to share your own story. You can also examine the numbers with them to show that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't always an oncoming train.
I do this a lot with callers on my radio show. After we look at the pieces of the puzzle together, I might show them how they can pay off $50,000 of debt in a year's time. Most of these people aren't bankrupt; they're just plain scared. So there's a lot of power in that little word “hope.”
Sit down with your parents and let them know how much you love them and want them to enjoy their retirement. See if you can find out how much income they have versus the amount of debt they've piled up, then begin to formulate a step-by-step plan. Show them how they can begin to get traction and free up their money by living on a budget and getting out of debt. You can even offer to be their counselor or accountability partner.
You want them to be safe and secure in their retirement, and they deserve some dignity after working hard all their lives. So, in my mind, hope is the best thing you can offer. Motivation is a different story. That has to come from within. You can't really motivate the unmotivated.
DEAR DAVE: What do you think about rent-to-own housing? I'm not sure we're financially ready to buy yet, but we don't like giving money to landlords. Is rent-to-own a wise compromise?
DEAR MIKE: I wouldn't recommend getting mixed up in a rent-to-own situation. I don't think it's a wise compromise, and it's also the kind of deal that works out well for the landlord, not the buyer.
If you're not financially ready to purchase a house, then you need to get your life in order before you take on a major commitment like becoming a homeowner. Get your debts paid off, get an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses in place, and save up for a down payment of 20 percent. I know it'll take some time and it might be difficult, but that's what I'd recommend.
Buying a home when you're broke, or trying to trick the system with a rent-to-own deal, usually doesn't work. I spent a lot of time in the real estate business.
I don't do these deals because statistically the majority of people who rent to own never end up owning the property.
Take my advice and go slow, Mike. When you buy a home, you want it to be a blessing, not a burden.