The first step in building a secure retirement is to make sure that your heart is not making all the financial decisions.
And when it comes to your family, your heart is always, always, always engaged.
A parent never stops being a parent. Adult children are always and forever your kids.
A parent who becomes a grandparent is blessed with the opportunity to love and nurture a new generation.
As precious and enriching as those relationships are, they can also become pressure points as you near retirement and once you are retired.
It is a very tough thing, I know, to step away from your decades-long role as provider, Yet there is no clear playbook on when—and how—this should happen.
Sometimes it is necessary to provide support to an adult child. But often it is something that parents just keep doing, without giving careful thought to
While you may have been in a hurry to be on your own, your children may opt to stick around for a while. More adult children in their 20s and 30s live with their parents than did when you and I were their age. Living at home can be such a smart move for young adults who are juggling new careers that may not yet pay well, repaying student loans, and in no rush to dive into an expensive rental market.
What I don’t think is healthy—emotionally or financially—is when that adult child living in your home doesn’t contribute to household costs. This has nothing to do with tough love. This has everything to do with continuing to be the strong, supportive parent who helps guide your children to become their best selves.
That requires treating an adult child as an adult. If they live with you, they must contribute to household costs. Asking them to participate as an adult is helping them become an adult.
Even if your kid isn’t living with you, chances are you continue to help. Recent surveys report that many parents with adult children help those children with rent, groceries, car
Then there are the grandkids. Oh, the grandkids! Aren’t they the best? You don’t have to sweat all the tough things that go into raising them, you can just revel in them. But this relationship also needs careful financial vetting. I know many of you see your children struggling to give your grandchildren a broad menu of experience and opportunity. Your provider gene kicks in, and you announce that you will help with the private school tuition, the after-school enrichment programs, the private coach, the summer camp, college tuition at your grandchild’s dream school, or contributing to a 529 College Savings plan, regardless of whether it is a strong financial fit for your family.
Again, I am going to ask you to carefully consider whether you can afford to help in the ways you are. In the here and now, the answer will always seem to be yes! But your spending today must not imperil your ability to support yourself in your 90s. As we will discuss throughout this book, someone who is 65 today stands a very good chance of being alive in their tenth decade.
Complicating your retirement is that you may also need to
I am extremely sensitive to the desire and the perceived need to do whatever it takes to keep your parents in the home they love, with the help they now need, or make it possible for them to move to an assisted living situation. If you can afford to provide that assistance, I can think of no greater use of money than to support those who have supported you.
But this is possibly the biggest stand-in-your-truth moment you will face in retirement. Many of you will have to make expensive trade-offs to provide this support for your parents. If you have children, that means you are putting your kids at risk of having to do the same for you at some point. Dollars you spend today to support your parents—and jobs you leave to care for your parents—mean you will have fewer dollars for your later life. You may be fueling a vicious cycle that can play out for generations.
Perhaps with that perspective, you may find it easier to work with your parents—and your siblings—to keep them comfortable and safe in a way that does not destabilize you and future generations.
I hope you will take a deep breath and read what I have to say with an open mind, and take to heart the suggestions I have for how to juggle your beautifully intentioned desire to help, without hurting yourself.