Protecting myself and my kids financially from MIL's financial woes
My husband's mom is 69 years old and extremely low income. That's not hyperbole...that's actually the income bracket that she is in on the social services eligibility charts (the lowest bracket). Over the past 2 months she has mentioned several times that she is down to her last $1K in her savings account, and that her monthly SS check (I believe approx $1100/month) is not enough to cover her monthly expenses including $800+ rent. For 7 years, I have been trying to encourage her to get on waiting lists for subsidized low income housing, but she does not want to live in a County or nonprofit-run building, so would only use a housing subsidy if she could get a Section 8 housing choice voucher. The waitlist for Section 8 vouchers in her County is closed because the wait list is too long, and has not been open to new applicants in years. The only way she can cover her expenses is to work part time as a caregiver for some of her senior neighbors. She broke her hip about a year ago and while recovering was unable to work for a short time. My husband and I and my own parents helped buy her groceries, etc. After that, I tried to sign her up for food stamps and for low income housing, but she never followed through with the final paperwork. She lives near us and is great with our 2 young kids who love her. We see her often, and when we do we always pay for her meals or pay her way when we go on vacations together. All this is fine, but what worries me is that she has a structural deficit in her finances, and if anything happens so that she cannot work (or even if she gets too old to work which seems likely to happen while she's in her 70s), she will not be able to afford her monthly expenses. I have asked her repeatedly what her plans are, and have gently prodded her and encouraged her to take advantage of the generous social safety net that she qualifies for. She brushes this off and says she just takes life as it comes. She is currently on a month long vacation driving across country to her hometown. She is traveling with friends and family who presumably will cover her costs. She says she will sign up for food stamps when she returns but not housing. When she returns I am prepared to tell her that I am not going to give her anymore financial assistance until she is living in (or on the waiting list for) subsidized low income housing. But I know that my husband is unable to make that same commitment. In the past she has used emotional manipulation (tearing up cards from him, threats of suicide) to make him feel as if he cannot say no to her, lest she might feel unloved by him. I think the best way to protect my kids and myself financially is to formally separate my finances from my husband's, so that he can give money to the mother he loves if he feels he needs to, but I can say "absolutely not, you cannot touch these pots of money that I have control over". We are moderate income ourselves and live paycheck to paycheck with only very small retirement saved so far. We do not own a house. I'd like to save so that I am not a burden on my own kids. I don't want to be cruel, but want to protect myself. The question is, what is the best way to do this logistically. we have always had joint accounts, so separating seem sounds logistically difficult to impossible. Anyone have advice on how to do this? Thank you!