A friend and i have this conversation almost every time we meet for coffee. We are both still working--me part time, she full time. We have other projects we'd like to attack but work pressures get in the way. We both admit that part of why we continue to toil away is the money. Not that we need the cash to survive or even live well: we've both got adequate retirement nest eggs and pensions. Rather, we like the extra money so we can spend it on our grown kids.
It is a luxury to be able to do things to help them out--she likes paying the daycare tab for her grandtwins to make sure they are going to the best possible facility. I like sensing a need and providing for it--be it summer camp for a grandchild or a cleaning lady. [My story on Great Gifts for Grown Kids is on nextave.org.] Our paycheck feels like a windfall that we're free to share--no questions asked by our spouses or household partners.
At least this is what we tell each other--and possibly ourselves. It is, of course, more complicated than that and we're hardly alone in staying on the job past the "normal" retirement year. In 2005, 20 percent of all middle-aged parents were the primary source of financial support for a grown child. Now, 27 percent of parents fit that description, according to a recent Pew Research report:
As I've noted in previous posts, the recession/sluggish recovery is part of the reason we are helping out our kids--it has taken a huge toll out of the earnings of young adults. In 2010, according to the U.S. Census, the share of young adults who were employed was the lowest it had been since the government started collecting these data in 1948. Moreover, from 2007 to 2011 those young adults who were employed full time experienced a greater drop in average weekly earnings than any other age group.
So we soldier on. But supporting our kids--whether as an indulgence or to carry them through hard time--is only part of the reason we're still on the job. A lot of us are in better health than our counterparts a couple of decades earlier--and we may live longer. In which case, we like the idea of piling up the resources--or letting the piled-up resources lie there untouched while we use the still-on-the-job earnings for spending sprees. We don't want to outlive our nest eggs and be a burden to those whose loads we've just helped lighten. Or is that part of the indulgence factor?