Is Family Support a Part of Your FIRE Plans?

Last week I listened to Sylvia’s story on the FIRE Drill Podcast.  Sylvia is a lawyer who has already hit her financial independence number, but is working for a few more years so that she has the flexibility to provide financial support to family members after she retires.

I’ve seen plenty of discussion in the personal finance world about parents providing economic aid to their grown children. But the opposite scenario – wanting to help parents or siblings – is not something I’ve seen covered much in the FIRE community.  Is Sylvia somewhat unique, or are there others who want to have the flexibility to do the same?

This episode hit home for me.  I do not worry about my husband’s parents’ financial situation; his dad is living comfortably on a railroad retirement pension, and I believe his mom’s husband will have a pension when he retires in the next couple of years as well.  But my family is a different story.

My Family Story

I grew up in a rural area.  My dad was a farmer and my mom stayed at home.  When I was ten my mom, a nurse, went back to work part-time.  There aren’t a lot of job opportunities in the immediate area.  She could have chosen to commute an hour to a larger city where she could work 12-hour shifts and earn more money.  But it was important to her to have the flexibility to be close to home for our after-school activities.

At some point my mom went back to work full time, while my dad continued to farm.  In addition to farming, my dad also took on side jobs, including selling seed and appraising and selling real estate.  My parents always worked hard, but the hard work did not result in lucrative financial gains.

Twelve years ago, my dad died unexpectedly.  He had life insurance and his affairs were kept in good order.  But there was still a financial impact.  My mom sold off some of the farm equipment, but there were loans against the farm from the lean years that needed to be paid down.

I am thankful that my mom had been working for many years by this point so she didn’t have to worry about finding a job.  But despite being at the same employer for coming up on 30 years, she still does not get paid a high wage.  Though she manages her money well, there just isn’t a lot of it to go around.  And maintaining a home and farm occasionally requires significant outlays of cash.

My Philosophy on Family Support

Honestly, I do worry about my mom’s financial situation.  So when I have an opportunity to help in small ways, I do so.  My brother and I both went to college, then moved to large cities and got jobs that pay substantially more than any jobs in the area where we grew up.  So we have the luxury of being able to pay for things that are a small burden to us but a much larger burden for her.  For example, we bought her a new washer and dryer two years ago for Christmas.

There has never been an expectation that we provide things for my mom.  And my mom is not the kind of person who would ever take advantage of us for financial gain, either.  But she has always been a great mom, and a role model for hard work and sacrifice.  Why wouldn’t we share our financial abundance when it makes sense to do so?

While providing family support is not an explicit part of our FI journey, having extra money to help my mom whenever it’s needed is definitely a consideration in our long-term financial decision making.


I do think there are some rules to abide by when it comes to sharing your financial resources with family, whether it is a child or a parent or another family member:

  • Take care of yourself first.  Sylvia referred to this as the airplane method: you can’t help someone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.  Make sure your own financial house is in order before you offer to help family.
  • Only provide money or resources willingly, not out of forced obligation.  My mom would never have an expectation that we “give” her things, but others may have a different family dynamic.  Providing money without creating a cycle of dependence can be tricky.
  • Be cautious in loaning money.  I have never loaned money, but if I were in that situation, I would treat it as a gift so as not to create resentment should the money not be paid back.
  • Consider non-monetary gifts.  Sylvia mentioned that she shares frequent flier miles with her family.  I think this is a great idea!  My mom said Hawaii is the one place she really wants to visit, so in the next few years we are planning to do a trip there – and I plan for us to pay for most, if not all, of the trip on her behalf.

I’m really curious to get feedback from others on this topic.  Do you have family support as part of your FIRE plan?  If so, how do you plan to do so?  

Liebster Awards!

What is a Liebster Award, you may ask?  It is a way to recognize and discover new bloggers.  I want to give a shout out to Sarah at Ditching Your Desk for nominating FIREDup for a Liebster Award recently!  From one new blogger to another, it means a lot to know there are others out there who are on a similar journey.

To get to know the Leibster nominees a little more, Ditching Your Desk put together a list of questions for us to answer…

Why did you start your blog? 

I’ve gotten more interested in the FIRE/personal finance community in the past couple of years and wanted a way to get more involved in it.  Also, I love finance and writing, so it made sense to finally have a space of my own where I could share my family’s journey.  It also keeps me accountable to my goals.

What gets you up in the morning?

Coffee!! 🙂  Seriously though, in addition to the thought of breakfast and coffee (I’m always thinking about food), I get excited to spend time with my daughter and husband (and my pug dog).

Describe your perfect day.

My perfect day would involve most (or all) of the following:  a good night’s sleep, coffee, delicious food, quality time with my family (and friends), outdoor time/exercise, and some time to read.  Bonus points if the day involves an adventure, whether locally (like a visit to the zoo) or on a vacation.  If the evening involved a date with my husband and a glass of wine or a cocktail, that’d be pretty great, too.

What have you found to be the best thing about starting a blog?

The personal finance community in general is very positive and welcoming.  I feel like a bigger part of it now that I have my own blog.  It has also been a great way to get more writing under my belt, which is something I enjoy doing.

What have you found to be the worst thing?

Despite the fact that I created the blog as a creative outlet and not a business venture, I sometimes feel guilty that I don’t spend enough time on it.  That kind of takes the fun out of it.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I am late to being a mom and for many years actually didn’t think motherhood was in my life plan.  In fact, I was a little scared that I would be one of those moms you read about on the Internet who says she hates being a parent.

I’ve actually found the opposite to be true.  I am so crazy about my daughter!  I was pretty satisfied with my pre-kid life.  But now that I’ve experienced being a mom, I can’t imagine not having her in my life.

Where is the best place you’ve visited?

In the summer of 2013 I went on an epic trip with my best friend, who at the time was in the Air Force and stationed in Germany.  I flew to Germany to meet up with her, then we traveled to Istanbul, Turkey and a few different cities in Italy.  It was fantastic!

Where do you dream of traveling?

It might be easier to list where I don’t want to travel!  I imagine there are more places I’d like to see than I’ll ever get a chance to visit in my lifetime.  Australia/New Zealand, an African safari, Thailand, and Bora Bora are just a few fun ideas.  There are also many amazing places within the United States to explore.  I would like to visit some of the best National Parks when my daughter is a little older.

What is your favorite book?

I enjoy reading.  I don’t have a specific favorite book, but I’ve read some good ones this year, including The Bear and the Nightingale, What Alice Forgot, Heartburn, and At Home in the World.  They are all very different books but I enjoyed each of them.

What do you want to be in your next life (figuratively speaking)?

I’ve worked long enough in cubicle land to say it would probably not involve staring at beige walls all day while hunched over a computer.  Writer?  Teacher or professor?  Librarian?  Financial planner?  Personal trainer? Yoga guru?  Entrepreneur?  Who knows.  But in my next life I’d also like to be a wife and mom and daughter and friend.

Who is your favorite musician or band?

The Avett Brothers!

A Few Suggestions…

Go check out Ditching Your Desk if you’re looking for new blogs to follow!

A few other newer blogs I suggest checking out as well:

Lean Fire ATL – LeanfireATL is a GenX early 50’s chick’s blog about the journey to FIRE through spending, saving and investing.

Women Who MoneyWomen who Money is a collaborative blog created to provide trustworthy personal finance information for women.

Birds of a FIREOlivia is a 25 year old FIRE blogger living in New York City.

Financial Pilgrimage – A St. Louis family who is on a journey to pay off nearly $200,000 in debt since 2011.

Readers – any suggestions of other new blogs everyone should check out?

Friday’s Frugal Five!

Happy Friday!  Here’s a peek into five money-related moments from my past week.

  1.  Last Friday I texted my friend to wish her a happy 40th!  She had won free tickets to a concert that night, and plans with another friend fell through, so she offered me her extra ticket.  Normally I would have found excuses not to go, but the last minute nature of the invite worked in our favor this time.  As a plus I got to spend quality time catching up with a friend I haven’t seen much since my daughter was born.
  2. I changed the way I’m handling dependent care flex reimbursements this year.  Our current daycare sends monthly invoices, which I submit for reimbursement as soon as they are received.  The daycare cost is significantly(!) more than what’s being deposited in my flex account each month, so our claims submission process is smart enough to know to cut me a check after each paycheck, when the new deduction has been placed in my flex account.  It doesn’t change the amount I receive back from my flex account, but it does ensure consistent cash flow every two weeks.
  3. Due to an unfortunate incident my trusty old Kindle died on Monday.  It wasn’t ‘frugal’ to buy a new one, but I love to read, and use Overdrive through our local library to check out e-books all the time.  Since I borrow almost all books I read instead of buying them, I should recoup the cost of the Kindle before the end of the year.  
  4. We spent at least $25 less than average on our grocery store trip last weekend.  I’m not sure what we did that made it so efficient, but I need to try to recreate it!  I think we did have some efficiencies from meal components that overlapped.  For example, I made homemade meatballs on Sunday, then we used them for two separate meals (spaghetti and meatball subs).
  5. Our tax refunds have already been squirreled away!  None of it is being spent at this time; there are things going on behind the scenes here that suggest this is the most prudent option at this time (more on this in an upcoming post).  Part of it went to beef up our online savings account (the 1st tier, super liquid emergency fund) and part of it went into the brokerage account (the 2nd tier emergency fund).

What were your big money moments from the past week?

%d bloggers like this: