Dear Grandparenting: When someone asks how many grandchildren I have, it’s all I can do to keep from saying “too many.” My little rascals were driving me right to the poorhouse. I am a generous soul by nature, especially where my grandchildren are concerned. But I didn’t start out wealthy, and now there’s a lot less of what I had to begin with.
You know how it starts. The grandbabies are so cute. You bust with pride as they turn into little people, and what’s $5 or $10 if it gives them so much pleasure? That’s my job, right? Sometimes I got to see much more tangible results. I pay a pretty penny every year helping my grandson, Mac, who has a learning disability and emotional issues. Now he’s figured how to cope and is hitting his stride. For two years, he’s talked about becoming a mental health counselor. Somehow we’ll make it happen.
Did I bust my budget? Sure did, but I wasn’t too worried until my accountant son-in-law ran the numbers. That was my wake-up call. My level of spending was unsustainable. My late husband always warned me about spending down capital assets. He was right. Let this be a warning. Grandparents are born suckers for grandkids. Jinks Browner, Tempe, Arizona
Dear Jinks: Grandparents are often esteemed as paragons of wisdom, except when it comes to spending down the nest egg on grandchildren. People will do many things for their children, but they’ll do anything for grandchildren. Loosening the purse strings and spending, as you put it, becomes a grandparent’s job.
In a 2012 American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) survey that took a closer look at grandparents’ spending habits, respondents identified the top eight reasons they spend on grandchildren. Birthdays and Christmas tied for the most common reason — 95 percent of grandparents think gifts are in order for both. Next at 89 percent was “enjoy buying things for grandchildren,” followed by 82 percent “to entertain or have fun with grandchildren,” 53 percent “to help with educational expenses,” 37 percent “to help with everyday living expenses,” 28 percent “because grandchildren ask for things” and 23 percent “to help with medical or dental expenses.”
It’s every grandparent’s prerogative to indulge grandchildren, and many, indeed, have trouble putting on the brakes. According to AARP’s data, the great majority of grandparents take great pleasure in buying kids’ stuff or entertaining grandchildren to have fun. Such discretionary spending is one thing, but alarm bells should sound for those who find themselves on the hook for extended financial support.
More than a third of grandparents already help with everyday living expenses, says AARP. This noble impulse to serve as the family safety net is a tender trap that ensnares too many grandparents, fraying their own safety nets in the process. Make a budget and stick to it.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Clint and Goldie Marshall, of Ringgold, Maryland, “don’t find all that much to get excited about anymore,” said Clint. “But once a week we bust loose. Forget about keeping calm. The grandkids are coming!”
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.