If you have an older child or children, there’s probably a question on your mind: How can I help them financially without going broke myself? As your adult children face financial challenges, your first thought may be to help them out. But this may not be the best plan of attack for setting them - or you - up for a secure financial future.
A large portion of the millennial generation are finding it extremely tough to pay their rent and utility bills, afford groceries and car payments. This leaves parents wanting to help their struggling adult children make ends meet. For baby boomers in or near retirement, this is a big consideration as providing financial support to a family member can affect their own retirement plans. How can you help them without breaking your bank?
Tables Are Turning
As the elderly population grows and a new crop of young adults are financially struggling to attain a solid financial foothold in trying economic times, individuals ‘sandwiched’ between aging parents and adult children are adequately referred to as ‘the sandwich generation’. Over the past decade, studies on sandwich generation caregivers have become more popular, with the Pew Research Center and National Caregiving Alliance (NCA) performing regular surveys on caregiving habits. Several striking statistics show what makes this hard-working group unique:
- More than one in 10 adults with a child under 18 also care for aging parents, according to a report on sandwich generation demographics by the Pew Research Center.
- These caregivers spend about three hours a day on unpaid care. Nearly three quarters of them are employed full-time. That’s 21 hours a week of caregiving on top of a 40-hour job.
- About 60% of sandwich generation caregivers are women. Male and female caregivers spend about the same amount of time a day caring for their aging parents, but mothers, on average, spend about 45 minutes more daily on child care, regardless of employment status.
- Sandwich generation caregivers spend an average of 86 minutes less a day on paid work, and nearly half an hour less sleeping.
Some adults spend years as a sandwich generation caregiver, while others experience only a brief overlap. However, a new (and worrying) generational shift is happening: According to a recent study, 1 in 3 parents say they have delayed or are willing to delay their retirement to help pay for their children’s college education.
Modern Day Money Management
Parents need to learn to set expectations and limits ... for their children and for themselves.
While financially caring for an adult child, it's important to work together to find a solution. Teach children the concept of earning, budgeting and investing as early as possible. This may be done by giving them an allowance when they are younger or encouraging them to get a job when they are older. Teach them the important financial lesson of appropriately managing the money they earn, and consider allowing them to make small-scale mistakes along the way to help them learn.
If debt is an ongoing issue, you may want to get professional advice on debt management and payment strategies. Having too much credit card debt is not a good way to start off life. It can ruin your credit and force you to pay higher interest rates on new debt, which can cripple you financially. Instilling good financial habits in your children can set a positive foundation for their relationship with money in adulthood — and lessen the odds of them having to rely on “The Bank of Mom and Dad” as they grow up.
Figure Out How Much Help You Can Realistically Afford to Offer
You may need to have a candid talk about what you can and can't do. Communicate with your children how much financial support you plan to give them, if any, during their adulthood. It's a simple task but you’d be surprised at how many parents don't prioritize their own finances.
There are many ways to go about helping your adult child without opening your checkbook. For example, you could offer to watch your child’s kids to reduce her daycare costs, or pick them up from school so it's one less thing for them to stress about. If you’re not in a position to help your adult child right now, have an open talk with them about it.
Be honest and explain that there are certain things you as a parent are willing to do for your kids and certain things you won’t. Don’t be afraid to say “no” if you’re not in a position to help your grown kids financially.
Consider a Loan Instead of a Gift
It's important to specify whether your financial help to your adult child is a loan or a gift.
If you decide on a loan, begin by writing a contract with a set timeline. How long it will take to be paid back and how frequent the payments will be. The payments can start out small and later increase, as your adult children find their footing. They write you a check every month, no matter how small it is, so there is some feeling of gratitude and payback. You should never feel guilty about making your child pay you back. This is a great way to hold them accountable which in turn would help them become more accountable later in life.
Get Professional Help
Giving your adult children money may help them in the short-term but may not give them the skills and tools they need to be financially successful. If providing financial assistance to your adult children is a priority for you, incorporate it into your own financial planning process. Sit down with your children and help them create a budget they can stick to. Look at what money is coming in every month and what is going out. See what can be completely cut out or reduced in the expenses column. If they are outspending what they make, devise a budget that is going to work within their parameters.
You won’t be doing your kids any good, though, if you give them so much financial assistance that doing so depletes your savings. Through your years of financial experience, you may have crossed paths with many financial professionals. Whether they were an acquaintance or you hired them to help you with your finances, you may know plenty of financial professionals that could help your children move toward a successful financial future.
A financial advisor or Fiduciary can help you plan for your and your children's future, and develop a secure financial plan which includes debt repayment, saving for college, and developing a retirement investment strategy. They help you see the big financial picture and assist you in making financial decisions that align with your goals. The sooner your children begin to work with a financial advisor or planner, the sooner they can start achieving their financial objectives.
As a parent, it’s natural to want to help your children financially, but be careful not to do it at the expense of securing your own retirement. Above all, make sure you discuss your spending needs both as a family and with your financial advisor. You’ve put time and effort into building a sustainable retirement plan. Don’t derail your hard work by giving away more than you can afford.
Do you need assistance managing your retirement expectations with your loved ones? The trusted Fiduciaries at Agemy Financial Strategies are here for you every step of the way.
For more information on money management and planning, talk to one of our financial advisors here today.