"We are spending so much money on our kids," a friend tells me. "They need to be rescued every once in a while."
The kids in question are hers from her first marriage and his from his first marriage. One of her sons went through a painful and devastating divorce, including court battles over child custody and support. He lost his job. My friend, her husband, her other son, the father of her son and an uncle all pitched in to help the divorced son. It took several years before he was back on his feet. And now his eldest son--one of my friend's three grandchildren--was ready for college. He had to choose not the best school he got into but the least expensive one. My friend and her husband dipped into their retirement savings to pay tuition--her son couldn't afford it and neither the ex-wife nor her parents (the other grandparents) were willing to help out.
My friend could live with the choice of the lesser school. That's life. It made her angry that the other grandparents weren't willing to help. That's life, too, but more emotional, verging as it does on fairness.
Now, she's got another financial anxiety: Her stepson--a man in his late 40s--has always been self supporting and single. And has always been shy around women. So, when he started dating a woman his age and then announced he was getting married, everyone was thrilled. But the new wife came with old and huge debts from her life with a former boyfriend. The new husband is helping his wife pay off those I.O.U.s--the credit card debt keeps compounding like crazy--and now everyone's helping out. It's another drain on my friend's dwindling retirement resources.
"It never ends," she says. "It seems like one of our kids is always having a money crisis." A few years ago--just before he retired--my friend's husband paid off the mortgage on their house. "So we are lucky," she says. "What would we do--how could we help our kids--if we had a $2,000 a month mortgage payment to meet?" It also raises the question of how long you help out your grown kids. When does the rescue line end? And maybe even more to the point: How do you define crisis?
Does it help to know she--and by extension we--are not alone? The Brits are experiencing similar pressures. Here's a news story I just came across. In Great Britain, "millions of grandparents are cutting back their spending because they feel under pressure to fund their grandchildren." Research also found that the majority of grandparents regularly spent cash from their retirement savings on clothing, toys and other treats for their grandchildren. Others helped pay for essentials, such as shoes and school uniforms, to help their own children balance their finances.
Here was a key finding that hit home: "Although some children did ask their parents for financial help, much of the pressure to provide for grandchildren comes from the grandparents themselves."