Dad gives mom an allowance but it’s not enough. What now?


Q. My parents are separated and not yet getting a divorce and my mother doesn’t work. My dad is giving her an allowance but she still has to use credit cards to pay her bills. She’s only 58 so she can’t get Social Security, but she needs more to pay the bills. What can she do?
— Trying to help

A. Your mom has several options.

Her first step depends on the income and assets that your parents have jointly accumulated during their marriage.

If your parents have the income and assets to cover her bills, then she should try to come to a better agreement with your father, said Amber Leach, a certified divorce financial analyst with AXA Advisors/R.I.C.H. Planning Group in Morristown.

If they have trouble communicating directly, they could consider using a third-party mediator, Leach said. A mediator can help them identify their interests and guide them through the process of reaching an amicable agreement.

However, if your father is steadfast in providing an insufficient allowance then she should consult a lawyer.

Leach said a lawyer can explain her options, which may include gaining the temporary support she needs to cover her expenses during this period.

“The fact that she is taking on debt while they are technically still married should be a worry for your father as well,” she said. “She is accumulating marital debt that will be added to their joint marital property when they divorce.”

But if the reality for your parents is that the income and assets they have accumulated is not sufficient to cover her bills, the other option for her is to increase her cash flow, Leach said. To increase her cash flow, she needs to find ways to either create more income or to reduce her expenses.

You mom may need to take a part-time or full-time job to increase her income.

She can also look to decrease her expenses.

“She will need to first create a budget that will show her where her money is going and where she needs to cut back,” Leach said. “With a budget outlined, she can identify her overhead budget and then try to chip away at her discretionary spending.”

Leach said your mother is not alone in this predicament. Separation or divorce at any stage in life can put a strain on their finances but it is especially hard on older couples if they do not have the assets to cover their retirement.

In the end, she needs to get a clearer picture of her financial situation, Leach said. Talking with a professional financial professional can help her with that.

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This story was originally published on Oct. 16, 2019. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.