Joann should also become well versed with elder care issues and programs of assistance available to her mother now, before she becomes desperate.

I cannot imagine the emotional issues facing Joann and her husband but I want to encourage them to remain steadfast and strong. They must be resolute and together on the reasons that they are taking a firm stand on this issue of securing their own future and retirement: So that they will not become a burden to their children.

Important Lesson

So where are you when it comes to having your retirement secure? No matter your age, you can use the benchmarks above to figure out if you are on track.

Until you are well positioned, you need to say no to cosigning for student loans or taking on PLUS loans. How can you assist others in this way if your “mask is not secure”? And you need to not feel obligated to offer financial help to elderly parents, either.

Once you feel secure for your retirement, then you will be in a position to use excess funds to assist others—if you are certain that assistance will be of benefit and that it will be short-lived.

The distance between being of true help and enabling others to remain helpless is a very thin line. It takes maturity and wisdom to stay on the side of authentic assistance while not slipping into the murky waters of enabling.

This article appeared originally in the Debt-Proof Living Newsletter in March 2013.

"Debt-Proof Living" was founded in 1992 by Mary Hunt. What began as a newsletter to encourage and empower people to break free from the bondage of consumer debt has grown into a huge community of ordinary people who have achieved remarkable success in their quest to effectively manage their money and stay out of debt. Today, "The Cheapskate Monthly" is read by close to 100,000 Cheapskates. Click here to subscribe.

Publication date: April 29, 2013