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Your Finance: Saving parents from costly dating mistakes

It can be challenging to tell your teenager

It can be challenging to tell your teenager that you aren't happy with the person he or she is dating. Try having that same conversation with Mom or Dad. Credit: iStock

It can be challenging to tell your teenager that you aren't happy with the person he or she is dating. Try having that same conversation with Mom or Dad.

Yet, sometimes the tough talk is necessary because money is involved. Seniors are particularly susceptible to scams that prey on their vulnerabilities.

From those spending recklessly on a romantic partner to those being scammed by a professional, dating the wrong person can be financially catastrophic.

Here are five tips on how to handle the situation if you think a loved one is being taken advantage of for their money:

Talk about your concern. Start the conversation by telling your parent you're happy she's met someone -- before gently stating your worries. But know the limits on what you can do.

If your parent is making questionable financial choices, like going on a cruise he can't really afford, but he's healthy and mentally competent, you need to accept it. He has the right to spend his money as he sees fit.

The new condo your mom is buying or the jewelry your father is giving a girlfriend might be something they would have spent money on anyway, if your other parent was still around.

Show, don't tell. If your mom or dad doesn't believe the new partner is bad news, offer proof. If you can't find what you're looking for on your own, you might hire a detective agency to do some sleuthing, even if it seems like a big intrusion. If you hire a detective agency, plan on spending a few hundred dollars initially, and possibly much more.

Get help if your parent is putting him- or herself at risk. You can call the local Adult Protective Services agency, and it will send a caseworker to evaluate your parent's mental capacity (napsa-now .com). Clearly, this should be a last resort. But if you're at that point, you may also want to get a conservatorship.

Visit often. The most effective way to keep a romantically inclined financial sponge away is to be around. Chances are, he or she will leave if they know they're being watched. If you live far away and there is nobody to look out for your parent, hire a professional caregiver to drop by for semiregular visits.

You can find one through the national Family Caregiver Alliance (caregiver .org).

Get along. It may just be that your parent simply isn't dating who you would pick for him, just as he may have not always liked your choices in relationships when you were younger.

The main objection that 47-year-old Sheridan Becker has about her 67-year-old father's girlfriends is that they are often younger than she is, and she questions their motives.

But while Becker wishes her father would fall in love with a woman his own age, she says she has accepted her father's choices in who he spends his time and money on. "At the end of the day," she says, "if my dad is happy, that's what counts."

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