A friend tells me this story: His friends--a couple who retired last year--have a son living in Florida. He was in the construction business but Florida's economy--and particularly the home building business--is in the tank right now. Long story short: The son lost his job. The parents, who had done well during their working years--have been paying his mortgage so he won't lose his home. But their 401k took quite a hit in the Great Recession. Their investment income is down. And now they are talking to their son about how he might have to let his house go.
It's a painful conversation to have. Many of us who built up comfortable nest eggs during our working years are feeling pressed to have the kind of retirement we thought we'd have. But this takes that worry up a notch: What happens when our children run into trouble? Many of us have always assumed--not necessarily articulated but it was there in the back of our minds--that we'd be able to help our kids through tough times. But now the tough times are prolonged and the foreclosure problem deep. For many of us and for many of our kids, there's no relief in sight yet. At what point do we say, 'Sorry. We can't help anymore.' And not be crushed by it.