Dear Grandparenting: My daughter and I just had our first big talk about my money, her money and my grandchildren’s education. We have both been putting it off. She’s too proud to ask for anything, and I worry about whether I’ll have enough of the green stuff to meet my needs down the road. But it was a discussion that needed having, because you must have a plan for something this important.
I was ready for her estimate on what a college education would cost in a few years when my oldest grandson graduates from high school. We’ve all heard those horror stories, right? But what I never expected was how much she spent just raising my two grandsons without any frills. She said it was going to cost her more than $200,000 to raise one child to age 18. Now multiply that times two and she’s out $400,000? Four hundred thousand dollars! You have got to be kidding me! I find that number staggering and depressing. At this rate, grandchildren will become a luxury item. Where is the sanity? Lindsey Moore, Nashville, Tennessee
Dear Lindsey: That’s a right lofty sum to be sure, but the official numbers are even more insane. Since 1960, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has compiled federal government estimates of family child-rearing expenditures. (If the USDA strikes you as an odd choice for the job, you’ve got company.)
To raise a child born in 2013 to age 18 will cost a middle-aged couple a fat $245,000, predicts the USDA — about $108,000 for housing and transportation, $44,000 for child care and education, $39,000 for food, $34,000 for clothing and “miscellaneous” items and $21,000 for health care. Estimates vary according to where they live, ranging from a high of $455,000 in urban northeast enclaves to $145,000 for poorer, rural families. Anyway you cut it, those numbers ought to give one plenty to think about. “Having a baby is like buying a house,” said The Wall Street Journal. “Except they don’t increase in value, you can’t sell them, and after 16 years they’ll probably hate you.”
But if you’re counting – and who isn’t these days? – the actual cost of getting a grandchild up and running as a productive member of society can run considerably higher. Throw in big-ticket items like college, graduate school and parental sacrifices like foregone salaries, and the total can approach $1 million. Seems like grandchildren are becoming ever more priceless.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Orbin West, of St. Louis, Missouri, writes to say that “the idea that no one is perfect is usually held by people with no grandchildren.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.