My boyfriend’s parents didn’t bother saving for retirement. How do I get him to stop bankrolling them? – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

My boyfriend’s parents didn’t bother saving for retirement. How do I get him to stop bankrolling them?

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For Love & Money is a biweekly column from Insider answering your relationship and money questions.This week, a reader’s boyfriend is financially supporting his retired parents.Our columnist says the reader shouldn’t assume they know the whole story.Got a question for our columnist? Write to For Love & Money using this Google form.

Dear For Love & Money,

My boyfriend financially provides for his parents. His dad had a decent job his whole life, but he got laid off a year ago, and because he’s so near retirement age, he’s had a hard time finding a new job in his field. Meanwhile, he’s taken on a few custodial gigs and works nights.

My boyfriend’s mom has always stayed home, and no matter how many side hustles her husband works, this remains unchanged. They’ve also made no effort to cut back. They still go on vacation with their friends and spoil my boyfriend’s children on holidays.

A few months ago, they had this big meeting with my husband, asking him for financial support. They cried and told him they were embarrassed to ask, and he felt really bad for them and has been giving them a large portion of his paycheck ever since.

I have tried talking to my boyfriend about how irresponsible it is that his parents don’t haven’t saved enough to retire at this age and how his mother is a capable adult who could drive for Uber if nothing else. But he always tells me this isn’t up for discussion. They are his parents, and it’s his money, and this is what he wants to do.

I can’t help but feel like this financial drain is keeping him and me from taking our relationship to the next level. We’re in our 30s, we’ve been together for two years, and we’re not even discussing marriage yet. This situation feels unfair to me. What do I do?

Sincerely,

Feeling Short-changed

Dear Feeling Short-changed,

The thing about other people’s money is that it’s other people’s money. This applies to your boyfriend’s decision to support his parents financially, and it applies to his parents’ choice to keep his mother out of the workforce, even in times of financial need. You can judge either of those choices all day long, and yet, it’s still their money.

Minding my own business is one of my most tightly held personal values. I wish I could claim this is because I’m so emotionally evolved, but I can’t. On the contrary, my inner gavel never stops banging. But two things will happen if I don’t keep my judgmental tendencies in check. One, I won’t have any friends. Because who wants to hang out with someone constantly criticizing their choices? And two, I would turn out to be wrong. A lot.

All judgments, no matter how snap, are always based on the assumption that the judge fully understands the situation and, therefore, knows exactly how it should be handled. This is why the maxim is to “mind your own business,” because the only situation we’ll ever fully understand is our own.

You think you understand your boyfriend and parents’ finances enough to find a litany of options better than borrowing cash from their son. But maybe your boyfriend’s mom isn’t working because of a private health issue or because her parents need full-time care.

You think your boyfriend’s parents should have saved enough for retirement, but maybe they did and lost most of it on a bad investment.

You think they aren’t cutting back because you see them go on vacations and give expensive birthday presents, but maybe their friends are covering those vacations, and they bought their grandkids gifts secondhand.

Who knows? Not you.

People are private. People regularly keep secrets. Your best bet is to assume that, as a partner to their son, you will never know the whole story.

Still, you feel it’s affecting you, and I understand the impulse to intervene. You say your boyfriend’s choice is unfair because it’s holding your relationship back. You should ask yourself, though, if you’re simply looking for a reason to have a stake in a situation that bothers you.

That said, if you know for a fact that your boyfriend’s financial choice is the reason you aren’t engaged yet, you need to ask yourself if this relationship is really something you want. Because right now, it isn’t headed towards marriage. So, if you really want to get married and begin that chapter of your life, this isn’t the guy for you. But if it’s the man you want, and marriage is simply your way of keeping him forever, I suggest you try being the best partner you can be and back your boyfriend’s play.

You said your boyfriend’s parents were so embarrassed to ask their son for money that they cried. It’s easy to be cynical and think they’re being insincere and manipulative, but best case scenario — you’re right, but everyone else involved will see you as a self-centered agitator determined to ruin the family dynamic. Worst case scenario — you’re wrong, and you’ve accused two people who have devoted the better part of their lives to raising the man you love of being liars.

Instead, follow your boyfriend’s example and take his parents’ desperation at face value. Here, the worst case is you spending a few more years together without a ring. Best case, your boyfriend and his family will see that you’ve always got his back.

Rooting for you,

For Love & Money

Looking for advice on how your savings, debt, or another financial challenge is affecting your relationships? Write to For Love & Money using this Google form.

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