Every generation begins as kids, then sires kids, then raises kids…and then needs its kids to take over. But not the boomer generation, not everybody. Liz Kitchens reflects on how differently she helps her own grown kids today….from how her parents helped her.
I’m a numbers junkie. Typical of most baby boomers, I wear a lot of hats … enough to count! One of them is that of a pollster. My husband and I conduct polls and focus groups for progressive candidates and issues throughout the country. So, when I heard about the “Families & Money” survey done by Lieberman Research for Charles Schwab in February of this year, I was intrigued.
The survey found that one in four “adults” between the ages of 23-28 still live with their parents. And here’s a higher number: 41% of boomer-generation parents provide at least some financial support for their adult children. Only half of them say their kids are fully independent; 35% expect their kids to achieve independence by age 30, with the remainder pessimistically saying independence will come later or perhaps never.
On the other side, a strong majority (86%) of us— boomer parents— report that they were fully independent from their own parents by the age of 25 (we wanted to get the hell out as soon as possible. My own brother created a room for himself in a hot Florida garage to escape as much parental control as possible). The data from this survey also found saving for retirement, and financially helping our children, are high, and virtually equivalent, priorities for boomer-generation parents.
So after reading the results of this survey, I have one big question: WHAT IS UP WITH US?! I include myself in this exclamation because I would have responded in much the same manner to these questions. While my husband and I have been faithful about funding our SEP (self-employment pension) each year, the amount we put in is matched almost equally by the money we spend on our adult children.Anyone who has watched episodes of AMC’s Mad Men is getting a clue about parenting priorities in the 1950s and ‘60s. Society was not as child-centric as we are today. My parents offered little help financially once I turned 18. The parents of my former husband charged us 16% interest for a housing loan (to be sure, it was the early ‘80s when interest rates had skyrocketed).
But I have to say, indulging my children is one of the great joys of my life. By indulgence I mean, helping pay off student loans from a Masters program; helping with a down payment on a first mortgage; purchasing a “formerly owned” a.k.a. used car; supplying a YMCA membership; stocking refrigerators; gift cards for books; and paying for meals out with children we have raised to be excellent dinner companions.
So yes, admittedly, we have kept our kids much closer to the vest than did our own parents. But we are rewarded with a kind of closeness I did not share with my own parents. There is a reason why many of the kids keep ricocheting back to their rooms where they grew up: we encourage it because we enjoy their company, as they seem to enjoy ours.
We are truly the “tweener” generation. We are sandwiched between parenting our children and tending to aging parents. A question to ponder is, how will our children treat us as we age into retirement and possible infirmity? We struggle to fund our retirement accounts in part because we are determined not to be a burden to our children. I guess that means both of these spending priorities— financing our kids and saving for retirement— ultimately benefit our kids. Ahh, isn’t it great to be a boomer…
Category: Boomer Lifestyle