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Managing a parent's finances and healthcare

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Kathleen S., 57
St. Paul, Minnesota
Retired, then went back to work
Two grown children
"I used to speak in absolute terms, but now I know things change and I have to adapt."

Kathleen's Tips

  • Don't become emotionally attached to stocks; if it's time to sell, then sell.
  • Address the financial burdens of family members early to avoid inheriting them yourself.
  • Have a plan for retirement, but be flexible if things change.


  • Retired early with investments in tech; went back to work when stocks declined.
  • Mother has health issues and lives with her; Kathleen is thinking ahead about her care.

Kathleen was a saver and an investor. She did well enough to retire early, but when the tech bubble burst in 2000, she needed to switch gears.

I worked in technology, invested heavily to tech stocks and did well. I retired in 1995. I didn't think those stocks would fall; by the time I realized they would not come back, it was too late to get out. I realized it was necessary to go back to work.

Her mother's late financial planning and medical bills took a toll on Kathleen's savings.

My mother has no financial resources. When she was 50, I sat her down to discuss her retirement plan. She started saving then—and that was late. Her Alzheimer's has gotten to the point where she can't be alone, so she is living with me. When I can't take care of her anymore, we'll turn to Medicaid. Priority #1 is to pay off bills associated with her care; then I will contribute to my IRA again. I might retire again at 59½—maybe at 62, when I can take Social Security. Or I could keep working. There are unknowns; I used to speak in absolute terms about my plans, but now I know things change and I have to adapt.

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