Should You Financially Support your Parents and Siblings as an Adult?

Are you really obliged to financially support your parents and siblings when you get a job?

This is a very sensitive topic that I’m sure would touch a lot of nerves.

Most Filipinos have made it our “social responsibility” to give back to our families as payment for all the sacrifices they made just to put food on the table and send us to school. Many of us would work double shifts or hustle three to four jobs just to support not just our parents, but also extended families who are depending on us.

In a very typical situation in the country, once children graduate and get a job, they are expected to give their first salary to their parents and almost leave nothing for themselves. Saving for an emergency fund and retirement would be put on the back burner. Some don’t even marry and have families on their own because of the existing burden of having to pay the bills, rent, groceries, and their siblings’ tuition fees.

While giving back to our parents is a fulfilling thing to do, most of us end up feeling trapped, miserable, and helpless doing this filial responsibility. There are some who have resented their families when things have turned toxic and expectations become unattainable.

It’s sad to think when the situation becomes toxic. It’s even sadder when all you’ve given is deemed not enough… and that you should give more. I’ve seen a lot of relationships go under because of this “obligation”.

Do parents expect something in return for raising their children? Are children really expected to always give financial support?

The answer depends on the situation, but it’s actually a CHOICE.

We are expected to provide for our parents, but that is only what the Filipino tradition and society expect of us.

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There’s no law anywhere that mandates we should! Therefore, it’s not an obligation for you to do it.

I, for one, don’t practice this.

It should be noted that I am not obliged by anyone from my family to give back. While I’m grateful to my parents and extended families for raising me and helping me through school, I choose the time when to give financial support.

We are not rich. I didn’t come from a comfortable background either. I know what poor looks like. Been there, done that.

My mom had to claw her way just so I could finish my education from a good university. I had to maintain excellent grades at school so I would not lose my academic scholarship.

So why did I choose not to “give back”, you may ask?

Well, it’s not that I don’t, it’s just I choose when.

I do give financial support to my parents, but only when it’s mostly necessary e.g. medical emergencies and the likes. I am also generous on special occasions, especially during birthdays, Christmas, when I feel like giving, or when I have something extra to share.

My parents are still young, able-bodied, and have the ability to support themselves. I don’t really see a reason to give financial support every month as what society guilt trips me to do. Nevertheless, I really don’t mind helping out once in a while.

Also, I have my own family to support now, and I’m sure my parents understand my current situation.

However, I do also understand that when one of them falls ill or frail due to old age, it’s my primary duty to support them emotionally, logistically and quite possibly, financially.

For me, parental sacrifice for children should be paid forward, not backward. It makes me actually sad that a lot of parents expect anything in return for raising their child, especially when they are still capable of supporting themselves. And by capable, I mean they are physically and mentally strong enough to do so.

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Sometimes, it breeds and tolerates laziness of other family members who don’t want to stand on their own. If you work hard for your money, you would be irked to see it being given as a handout to a parent or sibling who refuses to leave the couch and make something good out of their lives. I strongly don’t want to end up supporting this kind of people.

It’s true. It seems unfair when you have parents who feel ‘entitled’ to be taken care of financially by their adult children. After all, the child didn’t choose to be born and brought up in this world. Hence, the obligation solely should fall on the parents’ shoulders.

It’s also true that there are toxic parents out there who manipulate and guilt trip their children into giving. I’m not saying all, but there are a few who exist. If you have an entitled middle-aged or older parent capable of working, demanding funds for luxuries, then it is up to you to set appropriate boundaries. If you don’t, it will become a vicious cycle and you will be the one left to suffer.

You can also teach your family how to be responsible with their money and help them come up with a solution for their retirement. That means you have to talk to them about the money before you give it to them. Help them develop or revise a budget. It would be awkward at first, but that awkwardness will be worth it.

If you choose to break free from this Filipino practice, you will notice that you will have more money to save for your retirement. Thus, you will be self-reliant when you get old. Your children will not have to worry whether or not you are walking aimlessly barefoot from neighbor to neighbor begging for scraps. You can even pass on this positive trait of saving for your retirement to your children. Imagine how comfortable everyone’s life would be.

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If you think my condition on how I give financial support to my parents is selfish, I don’t really care at this point. People will always have negative things to say whether or not I give something back. Once a person overcomes what the majority of the society negatively thinks, there’s nothing much anyone can do.

As a parent, the reward for me is the experience of having and raising a child itself. It completely changed me for the better as a human. I’ve learned so many things that I didn’t expect to learn in my mid-twenties.

I expect nothing in return from my children except for lifelong honor and respect. It would be a shame if I become a burden to them. I won’t raise them as an investment, but I will strive to give them the life that I wanted for myself growing up. I won’t guilt trip them into believing that raising them is a debt they must pay someday.

If I do a good job of raising them they will continue to be loving family members to us. But I don’t expect them to give back financially if that’s what you think a loving family member should do. However, should they choose to help their parents financially voluntarily, that would be very kind of them.

If we, as a society, really cares a lot for the elderly, then lawmakers should give priority to bolster our social safety nets (e.g. SSS, GSIS, PhilHealth) and provide more benefits and facilities to our senior citizens.

As I said, giving support to your parents depends on the situation. And it’s up to you to find the balance in between. If you are dealing with old parents who are incapable of supporting themselves, helping them is something you might not regret. At least when a parent passes away, there’s no guilt.

Meanwhile, cut off toxic people or teach them to become responsible with themselves and their finances. If giving was borne out of love and you are happy and fulfilled by it, then do so. To each his own, they say.

Page Thrifty
Nikkah of Get Financed Lab is a caffeine-fueled work-at-home ninja, hustling her way to financial independence before she turns 40. Like most millennial, she dabs on blogging, starting side-hustles, freelancing, and slaying the mommy life. This blog is her personal finance journey peppered with her words of wisdom, which should always be taken with a grain of salt.