Today’s post was unplanned. I was thinking of finishing up a series on remittances and black tax but something a friend said has been nagging me. I had written to ask if White Zimbabweans/Africans also deal with black tax. In her response, she shared that she and her siblings were starting to discuss post-retirement help for their aging parents and grandparents. Like most parents in Zimbabwe, they too have lost their retirement and their pension is no longer worth much. My friend shared that her parents were able to assist her and her siblings through college allowing her to graduate without any college debt.

Caring for parents is not black tax

While my mom did not pay for my college, she did invest a lot in my early education. I believe this set me up to get full scholarships for college which also allowed me to graduate without debt. My parents in law also did the same for their 5 boys. Perhaps it is that I will be spending a bit of time with my mom in the next few weeks or that I am seeing that my young girl is no longer so young and I would love to see her work less, travel more, do more fun things and relax. My mother as I have mentioned many times was a trader and has worked really hard her whole life. In fact, this month marks the first time that mom has been able to take a week off from work. Imagine that!

I am sure you have many feelings about your parents as well and perhaps like me you are also beginning to think of how you can support them towards retirement. I have been asking myself how I can financially include care for my mother in my financial planning. I am lucky that my mother lives in a country with some type of pension fund for the elderly, but that amount is very little. My mom and I have many open money conversations, so I feel confident knowing what she needs on a monthly basis.

The list of the ten best countries to  live for the elderly does not include any African countries.

So, for those of us with parents on the continent or other places with less secure pension funds we will need to start planning earlier in order to be able to support our parents. We really want to be in a place where we can provide care with a lot of love and very little strain. Most parents are also a little reluctant to discuss these issues because talking about money is hard and it is probably harder if we feel like the people, we love and cared for  think we have become a burden. So, do be gentle and kind, in your thoughts and in the conversation when you are ready to have it.

What are some things to think about as we plan to care for our parents?

  1. Food, utilities and other everyday expenses: Do your parents have enough finances to cover everyday finances? How much is their budget for food and utilities?
  2. Health Care: If your parents do not have health insurance through work or the state you want to make sure that you get on this ASAP
    1. Do they have any prescription medications that they need regularly? What is the cost for that? Is this something that they can afford without your help if not, have you included their care in your monthly budget?
    2. Those of us with parents who insist on working will need to very vigilant here. Our health care plan for mom in law includes good orthopedic shoes because she refuses to REST!!!!
  3. Life Policy/Insurance: You want to make sure that you have some life coverage policy that includes your parents if they do not already have one.


  1. Mortgage/living arrangements:
    1. Is their home paid off? If not, what is the monthly mortgage/rent payment is this something that they can afford without getting into debt or will you need to assist them?
      1. A dear friend dealing with this told me that it is really important not to abruptly move parents simply because we think place B will be cheaper. As people get older their community is really important, friends and a shared history go a long way in keeping a healthy mind and healthy heart. When I had this conversation with my mom, I realized the importance of her being near her church, volunteer centers, small jobs and friends. Mom’s weekly lunches with friends and singing in the choir keep her calendar somewhat full and this is critical.
    2. Do you need to make any modifications to their home? When my dear late grandmother was getting on, we had to change the bathroom and bedroom furniture to accommodate a supportive bed and wheel chair. Even in the U.K. which has public health care, this is something we had to pay for. My grandmother in law whom I adore is no longer as fit as she once was. She still loves to hike up the little Masvingo hills to do her farming – this gives her much pleasure but strains her back- we have been investigating walkers that can get her up and down. If you have any suggestions send them my way – PLEASE – we love that she loves farming, but we love her more than the yummy goodies she harvests.
  2. DEBTS – You will want to know if they have any outstanding debts that have to be taken care off. It will be awful for the parents to lose their home over small amounts that you could have helped cover
  3. TRAVEL- Parents and seeing their grandkids is a whole mission. While my husband and I do not yet have kids, I have 9 nephews and nieces and my mother would like to see all of them. Obviously, those with children will need to cover the cost of travel for the parents – if this is you then you will have to decide how often you will want parents to travel or to go and see them and the associated costs. If your parents live with you, they may still want to travel to see the other kids or go on social trips. In our case, we have tried to budget for travel to the US for both sets of parents over the next few years. DO NOT FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE!
    1. Do they have a will? This is not an easy conversation to have but it is important.
    2. Do they have an up-to-date durable power of attorney for finance?
    3. Do they have an up-to-date durable power of attorney for health care?
    4. Does their health care power of attorney contain a health-care directive that spells out their wishes for life-prolonging care?

Planning with siblings

If you have siblings, you may want to sit down as a team and discuss these issues. I know that this is not always possible because of family dynamics. In an ideal situation, you may want to divide the various responsibilities amongst yourselves.


Remember that this conversation (even when you have it with yourself) must come from a place of love and thoughtfulness. Tell your parents that you love them as often as you can.

DISCLAIMER: MoneyProfessor is my personal blog. I provide general information – not professional or financial advice. Opinions and representations on are my own. I am not providing financial advice or legal advice on my blog. I am only providing general information. You should consult a professional before making any financial or legal decisions.