Please help me keep grandma in L.A.
May 29, 2012 4:05 PM   Subscribe

My mother is 60, has 40k cash on hand, but she has no income. Can you help me brainstorm businesses that she could buy or launch for about 30K (so she can live on the remaining 10K)?

My mom has spent the past 30 years or so as a real estate agent, but the market has not been kind to her. She happens to have a fairly decent amount of cash on hand leftover from the sale of her home, and I'm trying to help her come up with ideas for what she can do next in her life. This feels rather urgent because she estimates that she will only have 20K left by November, at which point she believes she will have to move to Israel where she has a better support system (in the form of siblings and gov't aid).

That would be really fucking awful because my first baby is due in November, and I really need her around for emotional support. And baby will need grandma because grandma's super awesome.

Okay, so here are her skills: great with people; fluent in English, Spanish, French & Hebrew; fantastic cook; she lives in Los Angeles and has a lot of very loyal friends (one of whom is letting her live in an extra home rent free); she is a few credits shy of a degree, but I think she'd make a terrific teacher.

However: she is 60 and her knee really aches sometimes, so I can't see her really able to do all the labor required for launching a catering business, for example. She is divorced so she doesn't have spousal support...

Anyway, this whole situation is making me feel like a shitty daughter for not having enough money to be able to take care of her. I figured the least I could do was come up with some ideas. And yet I'm stuck!

Are there franchises she could purchase with that much money? That's an idea my sister and I have started looking into, but it seems like the best ones (i.e. Subway) cost around 100K.
posted by ohyouknow to Work & Money (49 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In-home day care.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:10 PM on May 29, 2012

Best answer: great with people; fluent in English, Spanish, French & Hebrew;

Is she fluent enough to be a medical interpreter, court interpreter, or translator of some kind? Could she use some of the 40k to get the appropriate credentials to do that kind of work?
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:13 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

Are there franchises she could purchase with that much money?

Not recommended for someone her age; the franchiser would just take her money, slap her on the back and wish her good luck. Franchise opportunities are for people that can put in sweat equity and really make it work, or people that can offload the work to others (e.g. a doctor with cash but not time that hires people to run a business on the side for him).

I second the notion that she should try to put her language fluency to work.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:19 PM on May 29, 2012 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm loving these ideas. Please keep them coming.

Given that my mom is staying at a friend's home, I think it would be difficult for her to get the appropriate insurance and permission from her friends to host daycare at their home, but she could use her money to start renting her own place maybe.

And I think she looked into interpreting once before and gave up on it for some reason. I'll see what I can do to find out what prompted her to stall.
posted by ohyouknow at 4:20 PM on May 29, 2012

Yeah, leveraging the multilingual thing seems like it might be the most lucrative, but I had the same thought as Ironmouth that day care or something else involving children or child-related services might enable the maximum interaction with your son or daughter if that's the whole point of her staying in Los Angeles, rather than her becoming a round-the-clock entrepreneur. Maybe scour the mommy blogs to see what sort of things are in demand and/or could be lucrative?
posted by XMLicious at 4:24 PM on May 29, 2012

Best answer: She will have to pass an exam for court interpretation, but they pay $$$$. medical interpretation will require some anatomy but it's not too hard specially since she sounds like a smart lady. she can do interpretation over the phone from home by enrolling in the major interpreter providers. she just has to send them their documents and choose her hours. memail me for more info.
posted by Tarumba at 4:25 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]

In-home daycare is super-expensive to set up due to insurance and liability. Being a nanny (and therefore employed by someone) would be much better.

I'd really caution against risking 75% of her money on a new business at retirement age, and instead suggest she bank it and look for employment.
posted by Joh at 4:27 PM on May 29, 2012 [24 favorites]

Maybe have her get in touch with language instruction at a Montessori school? You don't need an education degree necessarily - though she may need the Montessori training.
posted by Tchad at 4:28 PM on May 29, 2012

I agree that she should look for employment (even temp or contract work) instead of trying to own her own business. I would definitely work the multilingual angle. She could do interpreting work as Tarumba suggests, or perhaps customer service would also be an option.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:29 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

(not a business idea but) could she look into teaching classes about real estate at a local community college or 'learning annex' type thing? I don't think you really need a degree for that.
posted by Kololo at 4:29 PM on May 29, 2012

Response by poster: I kind of feel like my mom's too old to be someone's nanny. Or maybe I've read too many articles about 20somethings in NYC who have affairs with baby daddys.

I love the court interpreter and the Montessori ideas. Hopefully she will too!
posted by ohyouknow at 4:32 PM on May 29, 2012

Also: she just spent 30 years as a sales person. Would she be interested in becoming a commissioned sales person of some kind? Lots of car dealerships are looking for female salespeople (because women customers prefer them, not in some kind of sexy-salesgirl kind of way), and being a boomer could help her - she'd come across as more credible to other boomer customers.
posted by Kololo at 4:33 PM on May 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

She could look into teaching at a Jewish Day School, or she could find a gig doing childcare at a synagogue. Hebrew would be a big plus there, and if she finishes up her degree, she would have even more options.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:33 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding sales. If she was a good real estate agent, then she's going to be gold for places where salespeople need sellers of different types. A senior, female car salesperson is something that a lot of dealerships would adore, especially if she's used to talking to clients and brokering deals.
posted by xingcat at 4:38 PM on May 29, 2012

Response by poster: Do car salespeople earn base salaries, with commission on top? Because while my mom is used to living on commission and she's a fantastic salesperson, she gets seriously (and understandably) freaked out when she doesn't have a steady income.
posted by ohyouknow at 4:38 PM on May 29, 2012

Lots of car dealerships are looking for female salespeople

Came here to say this. She has big ticket sales experience, is multi-lingual and good with people. Sounds like she could make a mint in car sales.
posted by Cosine at 4:39 PM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Do car salespeople earn base salaries, with commission on top?

Different dealers do different things, when I sold stuff it was 100% commission unless your commission wasn't minimum wage (and in that case....).
posted by Cosine at 4:41 PM on May 29, 2012

She could be a foster parent and she can choose an age group she would be comfortable caring for. My friend preferred older children from unstable homes (as opposed to disabled, emotionally disturbed kids because she had other children). These were mostly kids that needed a safe, kind place to live. She made sure they graduated from high school, had parttime jobs and learned basic life skills. There is a shortage of good foster parents.

Edible Arrangements, the last time I checked, was a pretty reasonable franchise that required $25K to start. Starting any business is a risk.

Tour guide might work depending on where you live. Also, look at bilingual customer service reps. With a good company she would also get benefits like health insurance.
posted by shoesietart at 4:46 PM on May 29, 2012

How about school tutoring in French or Hebrew? Negligible start up costs.
posted by dontjumplarry at 4:49 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think that staying in real estate would be more lucrative than buying a franchise. Those so-called "business opportunities" are notorious rip-offs. Be very wary.

A better plan is to move her in with you and have her take on childcare you would otherwise have to pay for. After that, sadly, moving to a country with sensible social welfare is not a bad idea.
posted by yarly at 4:50 PM on May 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Just realized that she's in LA. The bus tour thing would definitely work. She could have foster kids and still work, as long as she isn't caring for little ones.

Tutoring doesn't sound like it would provide a living wage.
posted by shoesietart at 4:52 PM on May 29, 2012

I would be more likely to buy a car from a nice, smart lady than from an average car salesman.

She could do this in the short term and then transition to a professional translator role after she has the proper certification.
posted by helloworlditsme at 4:55 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, she can teach English online. I'm assuming she is a native English speaker.

She can setup a site offering 1:1 English classes (via Skype) for Latin American executives/business people. Her business skills (real estate) and language skills (Spanish) would make her a perfect English tutor.
posted by helloworlditsme at 5:02 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

She could be a foster parent and she can choose an age group she would be comfortable caring for.
Not if her house can't pass the inspection--in LA, this is just not worth the hoops she'd have to jump through. And not to be Ms Downer, but no one is going to hire a 60 year old woman on a tour bus--not when there are 19 year olds who'll work for minimum wage.

I think her best bet is to stay in what she knows--maybe helping people pack up their stuff for downsizing, or working for a firm that does estate sales, or yard sales.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:02 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

$40,000 isn't substantial at all. It's woefully inadequate, and the $10,000 that you hoped she could live off off is... vapor. Tell her to get a job at a grocery store or some other retail outlet, to stay with you (you could take care of you and she could take care of your kid), and put even MORE money away.
posted by brownrd at 5:11 PM on May 29, 2012 [12 favorites]

Friends who are former teachers charge more than $100/hour for tutoring, and have no shortage of clients-- I think it could certainly be worth checking out.
posted by instamatic at 5:12 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

What about high-end retail related to food? A gourmet food store, or high-end cooking supply store might be a good place to look for part-time employment while she figures out something more long-term.
posted by psycheslamp at 5:17 PM on May 29, 2012

Response by poster: I'm definitely not opposed to having her move in with us, but I don't think there's enough (at this point anyway) to take care of her on top of baby.

Also, I'm very aware that 40k isn't that much money, especially since (as I've just learned, YIKES!) she liquidated her 401k a while back to get herself out of debt. So I think the idea of getting a job, any job, is really her best option.

I'm just doing what I can to convince her that it's possible, and that yes, someone will want to hire a 60 year old.
posted by ohyouknow at 5:17 PM on May 29, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, and French is actually her first language.
posted by ohyouknow at 5:19 PM on May 29, 2012

You need to focus on skills where she has demonstrated success. She's good at sales, so perhaps buying and selling online? Importing stuff from Israel to sell in the States? Vice versa? Exporting stuff from Mexico or some other Spanish-speaking country to Israel?

Honestly, you really need to think about what's best for your mother. Going to Israel and living on the government dole there might be the best way for her to preserve her small nest egg.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:31 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Have you thought about what it's going to cost you to get childcare for your baby, and what would be involved? For quality care, from someone you trust? I bet it'd cost a lot more than room and board and some modest pay for your mom would.

I have a friend who's built a real business doing tutoring (just humanities, not even math!) - Rates are far higher than I would have expected. Possibly your mom's network can help her find opportunities to leverage her language skills for this kind of work, to provide her with a supplemental income while she lives with you. But if you go to work all day and she's got baby that whole time -- that IS full time work, and it's going to cost you quite a bit to get it from anywhere else, so you might want to just have her do it.

Also: court interpreting is a good gig and LA seems like the perfect place, with such a big busy court. so do give that a serious look.

Good luck to both of you! It's nice to read about someone who wants to keep their mom close.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:32 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, so here are her skills: great with people; fluent in English, Spanish, French & Hebrew; fantastic cook; she lives in Los Angeles and has a lot of very loyal friends (one of whom is letting her live in an extra home rent free); she is a few credits shy of a degree, but I think she'd make a terrific teacher. However: she is 60 and her knee really aches sometimes, so I can't see her really able to do all the labor required for launching a catering business, for example. She is divorced so she doesn't have spousal support...

If she has a bad knee, wouldnt a nanny job be equally exhausting?

Also think the translation (incourt) or tutoring is a good idea. On a side note, I have one or two friends who have each setup those wedding cupcake / specialist cake businesses, more from word of mouth initially, and now make insane profits from very little startup input. Also not nearly as much work required as a full catering company. I guess it depends on the market saturation of other companies doing that in your area. But one friend has just added kids birthday cakes and she charges about $650 a cake. Ridiculous.
posted by Under the Sea at 5:33 PM on May 29, 2012

You could, of course, invite your mother to live with you.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:34 PM on May 29, 2012

I don't know what the education system is like in California, but in Minnesota, with second language proficiency, and 2 years of college, you can get a job as an ESL/ELL paraprofessional in many public schools. Given your mom's age and physical constraints, this sounds doable to me or at least certainly something worth looking into. No investment necessary. She won't be well off, but she could make a living wage.
posted by marsha56 at 5:41 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

My husband just transitioned back into car sales from being a full time realtor...I caution you it is very long hours and he is on his feet for most of it.

Can she manage rental homes? That is what the realtors I know who are eating are doing on the side....or she could possibly work in a rental department for a real estate company?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:43 PM on May 29, 2012

Just chiming into say, my first thought when reading your question was also translation or tutoring. I'm leaning more towards the tutoring because it is probably easier to get started and she would be her own boss. As a realtor, I'm guessing she is used to making her own schedule and at her age with a grandchild in the mix, she would probably want the flexibility. There is a huge population of students (children and adults) in LA who could use a good tutor, and you can make some very decent money tutoring. Have a successful semester with a few kids and the word will spread like wildfire. The Hebrew would also be great for all those kids who are preparing for their Bar & Bat Mitzvahs. Again, have a few successful experiences and she'll have plenty of clients.

She may also want to look into teaching adult learning education classes at community centers or possibly even a community college. If she can demonstrate fluency, I don't think being a few credits shy of a degree would be a barrier to working in those environments. She could even agree to acquire those credits at that institution while teaching. She could also teach cooking classes or help people prep for their real estate exams. Your Mom has a ton to offer, and I'm sure she can find a way to bring in some income without burning through the savings she has left. Congrats on the baby & best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 6:18 PM on May 29, 2012

How is she spending $20,000 every 6 months if she doesn't pay rent? In addition to finding her a new occupation, consider reviewing her budget and looking for hemorrhages.
posted by foursentences at 6:20 PM on May 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Is she a French citizen, if it's her first language? If so, maybe she could get into politics. I just recently learned that there is a French representative governmental body, the Assembly of French Citizens Abroad, that represents overseas French nationals living outside of French territory. It looks like the West Coast U.S. zone contains four seats and the elections are this year. No idea if it pays a salary.

Or, she could get into U.S. politics too.
posted by XMLicious at 6:30 PM on May 29, 2012

Wait, am I comprehending her financial situation correctly? It sounds like she is 60 years old, has $3300/mo expenses, no job, no spousal support, no homeownership assets because she just sold for $40k net proceeds (and presumably didn't buy a replacement since she's planning to move to Israel shortly), no family support system other than a daughter who is distracted by big life issues herself and is unable to offer housing or financial assistance, and no 401k even though she's just years from retirement age. Other than the $40k from the house sale, does she have other significant assets?

If this is an approximately accurate picture of her total finances -- rather than having $40k spare "mad money" , which is what I initially took this to be -- opening a business or seeking a job are distractions from a bigger picture looming here.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 7:01 PM on May 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

If you could start a business reliably that would generate an immediate double digit return on a small amount of cash, this would be a different country than it is. Employment and bank the rest, it's barely enough to cover a minor emergency. Does she own a car? Medical translation for at hone hospice hospice or other in home care might be her best bet.

If you need her here to help with your baby in a few months, can you not support (house and feed) her in the meantime? She's your mom! She's running on fumes with only 40k to her name at her age. Or let her go settle in Israel but come back for a long visit at your expense when baby is born.
posted by spitbull at 7:09 PM on May 29, 2012

I don't know what government pensions are like in the US, but if you could house and feed her for a bit, you could help her buy some tiny house in a tumbleweed area with the $40k; would owning a home outright leave her in decent straits on a gov't pension...?

Q: does Grandma want to remarry? Would Grandma prefer a spouse who lives in the US or a spouse who lives in Israel?
posted by kmennie at 7:26 PM on May 29, 2012

I hesitate to mention this as it's a bad idea compared to trying to get more work years in, and there has been some spectacularly bad planning here already* -- but your mother will run out of options sooner than you think.

At 60, she's eligible to take early Social Security benefits. The catch is that the monthly benefit will be reduced by 25% (for a 1952 birth).

* It's likely your mom's best available choice may have been to do a reverse mortgage on her house -- unless this was to satisfy the divorce, in which case hoo boy.
posted by dhartung at 8:12 PM on May 29, 2012

Response by poster: I live in a 2 bedroom and have repeatedly invited mom to live with me. She absolutely refuses to do that because, in her own words, she wants her own life and finding a place for her to live isn't the issue (she is currently living in a large furnished home in a very nice neighborhood).

Also, my mom has no desire to remarry. At least from what she has demonstrated in the 20 years since divorcing my dad.

I believe her biggest expenses are health insurance and car insurance. I'm not really sure what else she spends money on. Frankly, I'm afraid to ask. I know I should sit down with her and go over these details, but I just learned about all this on Sunday so I'm trying to keep a level head about this. Asking her details about her finances just feels too intrusive for me right now.

As for just letting her go to Israel where she has much more of a safety net--that's just not an option I'm willing to truly consider. Maybe it's crazy selfish of me, but I grew up in LA with a grandma in Israel and I had almost no relationship with my grandma. That is just such a horrible loss for my baby who isn't even here yet, it feels like a death. If there's anything I can do to keep her in the U.S. I will do it.
posted by ohyouknow at 9:12 PM on May 29, 2012

Honestly, I think the best option is to stick with real estate. Yes, the market's taken a beating, but it will turn around--eventually. But as an agent, she knows that the commission comes in from sellers even under poor market conditions. So, I'd suggest biting the bullet and staying with real estate, exploring the following options:
-Obtaining a brokers license and using the 40K to hang out her own shingle.
-Relocating to a part of the country with (comparatively) better market conditions.
-Specializing in property management, as mentioned upthread.
-Relocating to an area with an active and lucrative foreclosure market.
-Specializing in commercial real estate (rental properties of five or more units).
-Becoming a mortgage broker.
-Relocating to a part of Israel with an active real estate market, and setting up shop there.

Note that all of these opportunities are lucrative even in markets with declining prices, because they're either commission-based, or, as is the case with property management, they bring in a monthly fee.

She's not in a bind. She's at the crossroads of a magnificent opportunity. Her 30 years of experience will bring in the money and security, and her age and wisdom will impress clients. That's the best way to sell it to her.
posted by Gordion Knott at 2:52 AM on May 30, 2012

(I know you don't want to ask her about her finances, but finding out whether this $40k is all the money she has seems pretty important. If she would be homeless if it weren't for the free housing from a friend, that might be the case. A 60 year old with no savings should be really scared about being able to feed and house herself, not about her ideal job and home.)

As someone else suggested, it's pretty much impossible to immediately earn a living wage off a newly founded business, so all of the business options suggested will become moot, because in 6 months your mother will be destitute. Use the $40k as the beginning of a nest egg. Or to buy another home, somewhere less expensive, once she has a job. Not being homeless in her senior years seems like it should be her first concern.

She may need to get a job. She may need to save all the money she has. You both may need to accept that her options are much narrower than you'd like them to be.
posted by Kololo at 4:17 AM on May 30, 2012

Honestly, it sounds like your mother is going to do whatever she wants, and your concerns about having a grandma nearby for your child won't sway her from that.

She refuses to live with you, you aren't comfortable talking with her about her financial situation, yet you're posting on Metafilter trying to shape her retirement plan. This is irrational. You need to let go and realize that her life choices have not and will not be made to answer your emotional needs. Maybe you can make a deal with her: stay in LA through the birth and for X months after the birth, then move to Israel. But if that means she runs through her savings, that might not be a wise deal for you or she to make.

This is a digital world, and your child can know its grandmother from a distance. Get comfortable with that. It can be as fulfilling as you both make it.

You are very lucky that she has a plan for living out her days with social and personal support in another country. The alternative is not pretty.

Also: franchises are bad, bad news.
posted by Scram at 4:58 AM on May 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

Definitely think starting a business at 60 years old with almost no savings is not a good idea. If running a franchise was that easy, we would all own Subways.

If there is anything you will do to keep her in the US, it sounds like both of you will need to accept that she will eventually be dependant on you. Even if she has a safety net of cash now, if she has no 401(k) left, she will not have a lot of time to save for retirement--even if she gets a great job. She might want to live her own life, but instead of being dependant on you right now, she's dependant on friends.

Court translator is an excellent idea. Were you or your partner planning on staying home, or do were you thinking of paying for infantcare? Would she be willing to provide childcare for you in exchange for a place to live, at least in the short term? It sounds like she might be more open to that if you phrased it as you needing her support with the new baby (not to mention the how expensive childcare is), instead of her needed your financial support.
posted by inertia at 6:38 AM on May 30, 2012

Franchise. Terrible Idea.

How about temping? If she has Spanish, she can probably get a job tomorrow.

I'm closing in on 50 and my dream is to have a little job-ette where I show up all glamorous and answer phones, go to lunch and read catalogues. The other job I like the idea of is dealing blackjack.

What about being the property manager of a mini-storage place?

Or showing propterties at an apartment complex.

I find it difficult to believe that your mom is so stubborn that she's been living off of her meger savings and not seeing reality.

You really do need to sit with her and understand her finances. Living rent-free is an amazing gift, but if she has no income and is spending like a sailor on shore-leave, it can't last forever.

This is only ancillarily your problem, and you shouldn't be too stressed by it, but the fact that your Mom isn't looking for jobs, you are, tells me there's more to the story than what you are telling.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:04 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi Ruthless Bunny. Yeah, there's of course loads more to the story than what I've shared here, but for the sake of this AskMe, I wanted to focus on generating some ideas so that my mom, who has been feeling pretty depressed and stuck, could start to feel the possibilities of her life again and unstuck (or at least see lots of possibilities beyond simply being beholden to her siblings, which I know she isn't thrilled about either).

I have been sharing these ideas with her and she has been incredibly moved and, even better, really excited about the possibilities of some of them. She is currently looking into getting credentialed as an interpreter and is thrilled with the idea. I'd also like to publicly thank all of you who have me-mailed lots of detailed advice for my mom. I've shared it all with her and she is genuinely beside herself excited. It's great to see this side of her again.

If I could hug all of you I would. So consider yourselves hugged through whatever screen you're looking at.

Obviously the road ahead will still be really challenging, but helping her to see all the possible roads before her was really all I wanted to achieve at this point. Metafilter rocks.
posted by ohyouknow at 10:13 AM on May 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

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