Some of us practice tough love when it comes to money and our grown kids: Once they're adults, they stand on their own two feet. They live within their means. If they're cash poor, it's because they've made unwise financial decisions. Let them live and learn.
Does the same rule apply when our grown kids are time-poor? That is, they don't have enough time to take care of all their responsibilities. Over at grandparenting.com, Susan Adcox posed an interesting question: If we don't believe in bailing out our children when they run out of money--on the theory that they should learn to make better spending decisions--should we bail them out when they run out of time?
Following tough-love logic, the answer would run something like this: if they're time-poor, they need to learn to manage their time better. Let them live and learn.
Being time-poor afflicts many of our grown children, particularly working adults between the ages of 30 and 49, according to a 2011 Gallup poll, and more particularly mothers in that age group. Gallup also reports that those with higher incomes and more education are more likely to suffer from being time-poor.
Helping them out by giving them the gift of time assumes that, like a gift of money, we have some to spare. We have time to run errands for our children--say, getting their car inspected or picking up clothes at the cleaner or waiting at their home for the washing machine repairman to come.
Carl Richards, a financial adviser who writes for the New York Times, has gotten into the time = money trade off. "When and how we exchange time for money, or money for time, is incredibly personal," he wrote recently. "The decision doesn’t fit neatly into some formula. Instead of assuming there’s a right or a wrong answer, we need to put the exchange in the context of what’s right for us right now. Some days, money will matter more. But other days, we’ll consider the money well spent for the time it buys us. That’s the way it should be."
So if we're at a time in our lives when we have time, why not spend it on our grown children and their needs?
For Susan Adcox, helping out with time is worthwhile "if it enables our children to spend more quality time with their families." But if our time is used to afford them the time to, say, binge-watch a television show, would we be less likely to help?
Which, when you get down to it, is often the value line many of us draw when it comes to helping our kids with money: It depends on what they're going to use the money for and whether it will help them or their family in a meaningful way. A trip around the world? Maybe not. Help with a down payment for a safer car? Maybe yes.
The time-money exchange tends to happen more frequently as we get older, Richards notes. "We still need money, but we often start to value time more. We care about time spent with family.... We have the money that gives us the time with the people we care about, doing the things we love."
And, I would add, using that time to help those we love as well.