If you are a parent, some day you will most likely become a grandparent. Being a grandparent is tons more fun than parenting. You get to enjoy all the cute moments and hand back the kid when they stink or act out! You aren’t responsible for teaching them to behave like human beings. Yet you can enjoy loving them and being loved by them.
However, being a grandparent can be expensive. It is not only possible to spend gobs of money on your little rug rats but also gobs of your time.
Boomers are becoming grandparents by the second. We spoiled our children and we apparently are even more intent on doing so with our grandchildren!
In Huffington Post article Boomers Give New Meaning To Spoiling The Grandkids author Linda Stern reported:
“Roughly 36 percent of the grandparents surveyed by AARP said “spoiling (grand)children by buying them too much” was a part of a grandparent’s financial role.”
Boomers claim to have redefined many aspects of life – from open family dialoge to ways to influence politics, now are they redefining grandparenthood?
My own grandparents (members of the so called ‘silent generation’ who lived through WWI, WWII and the depression) rarely interacted with the grand kids. They tolerated our presence. I only remember staying with them once without parents around. They rarely gave us toys or money.
My parents were somewhat more interactive with their grandchildren (my kids). They drove the 200 mile trip on holidays and birthdays to celebrate with us. They provided Christmas and birthday toys and on occasion provided direct financial aid. They also took the kids (one at a time) each year and entertained them by going to tourist attractions in their area.
Why are we boomers more involved? Why are we spending more on our grandchildren?
Expectations of our children.
In my experience, my kids expect more of me for their kids than I expected of my parents for mine. It never occurred to me to ask Mom or Mom-in-law to come watch my kids. I’ve seen the nieces and my own kids ask for and get babysitting services time after time from a busy working boomer.
We raised our children to expect more involvement.
Some of the boomer generation became what is now know as helicopter parents – always there for the bailout or rescue of their kids – helping them in situations when the kid really should have handled it. We were open and sharing with our children – letting them in on the family experience/family discussion/family decision making. So, it is somewhat natural that they would expect us to be more involved than our own parents were.
We desire a lifeline to the future.
We actively seek to develop and maintain a relationship with our descendents so that our lifeline to the future will remain intact. Who wants to be forgotten?
We want some influence over how our grandchildren are raised.
Boomer grandparents definitely have ideas on what they want their grandchildren to learn and how they want them to behave. Providing babysitting, funding for special projects or education and buying special treats makes us feel that we might have some influence. (Hint, be sure and get the parent’s blessing beforehand though).
Our kids need the help.
With the economy of the last few years, it is often more necessity (than spoiling) for grandparents to help supply living expenses for grandchildren.
It’s just fun!
Seeing the joy of discovery on a child’s face or watching them learn a new skill or develop a new talent is just plain fun, no matter the cost in money or time.
How much are we spending?
Hanah Cho in the Next Avenue article The High Cost of Being a Grandparent reported:
Demographer Peter Francese, who last year collaborated with MetLife Mature Market Institute on a report about the current generation of grandparents, estimates that today’s grandfathers and grandmothers spend, on average, $900 to $1,200 a year on clothes, baby food, furniture and education expenses for their grandkids.
Do the math and you’re talking about $16,200 to $21,600 over a grandchild’s first 18 years.
Among well-to-do grandparents and the 2.7 million grandparents who are the primary caregivers for their grandkids, the price tag is higher — maybe as high as 10 times as much, Francese says.
I drop a bundle each year (both money and time) on my week long Grandma Rie’s Money Camp where I try to help the kids learn about and experience personal finance concepts. It isn’t just about the learning though, it is also about building a relationship with them apart from their parents and it is about having fun and building memories together. This year for instance, I dropped upwards of $250 on entertainment (boat ride, eat outs, amusement park, supplies, books, games and etc) plus the opportunity cost of using our condo instead of renting it out (over $1600 for the week) plus groceries, gasoline and more.
Since we can afford to do so and not jeopardize our own later years, we also give annual financial gifts to children and grand children.
Grandparents can do a lot to save money when indulging their grandchildren, but it still adds up in both time and money costs – but most of us would say “So?” “It’s my grandkid!”
How much do (did) your parents spend on your kids?
My parents spend way too much on my kids! But, they enjoy it and won’t stop. I don’t know what to do except embrace it=/
That is fine as long as it isn’t causing issues for you with your kids. If it is, then you might want to think of finding a way to address it.
I’m not a grandparent nor are we parents but I know that my parents spoil the grandkids. My wife’s parents spoil their grandchild as well with all sorts especially since he is the first born which makes the hype even bigger.
My own feelings, on seeing that first born grandchild, were so intense and joyful that I can understand why your wife’s parents made ‘the hype even bigger’.
My grandparents had me once a week for lunch as they lived near school, and occasionally took me out too. As we grew older they used to take all the grandchildren to travel internationally and it was really expensive but created some of my best family memories.
What a legacy to give and receive! I only had one set of grandparents. They showed me life on the farm, which was totally different than my own major metro life!
Marie!! My parents have allowed grand-parenthood to destroy a potentially rosey retirement by acting as surrogate parents for their grand-kids. Their mother is perfectly capable of earning the money and spending the time to be a parent and the requisite parental duties. I’d be shocked if their savings do not run out before they do. If my parents seemed at all happy, I’d have nothing to say on the matter, but they are obviously miserable. Grandparents acting as parents is a total denial of human nature. On the other hand, having a bit of occasional fun with gram and gramps is great. Have a marvy one, Marie!
I’m afraid your parents aren’t alone. Grandparents.com suggests that many grandparents are being surrogate parents, mainly due to the parents not actually being around for one reason or another.
Frankly, I do not remember how much my mother or my wife’s parents actually spent on my children. My mother gave them money to invest or use to buy a home. I think the best thing a grandparent can do for grandchildren is to give them experiences and their time. Far more valuable than money.
I agree. Experiences and spending time together beat money gifts hands down.
Grandparents are definitely expected to spend more money on their children than ever. All little gadgets and video games can cost a lot of money, not talking about taking kids to the movies and doing other fun things when they are visiting. You add Christmas gifts and birthday gifts to the equation and it can be quite a large sum of money every year for grandparents who are retired and have limited income. The key is to set a budget for everything and try to stick with it. Kids should enjoy not only getting expensive gifts but also doing simple things with their grandparents like taking a walk to a park or baking cookies together.
Sharing experiences is the very best way for Grandparents and their grandkids to connect. Finding inexpensive ways to do that can be a challenge, especially if geography gets in the way.
I’m a late bloomer boomer. Our son is only 12 years old and I still hope to retire in 10 years. We try not to do the helicoptering, and let him fail every now and then, but I am afraid that my wife has a tendency to spoil our child. Our son is fine with wearing 2nd-hand clothes, but my wife dropped a hundred bucks last weekend so he and a friend could go trampolining for a couple hours. I point out how she and I grew up with nowhere near that kind of “fun” spending, she says I’m right, and then does it again.
We are doing fine as far as retirement and savings, so I am not worried about the expense. I am just concerned he will grow up with an attitude of entitlement. It doesn’t help that he has now reached that age where he does not like to listen to either of us.
I should add that we hope that way down the road, like 15 or so years, when and if we actually have grandchildren, that we will be able to contribute substantially to our grandchildren’s college funds.
Instead of specifically gifting for college funding, we are doing annual gifting and letting the parents (who are very financially reliable) decide where best to put the money. If there is a need when the kids actually get to college age, and if we are in a position at that time, we may decide to directly pay some of the expenses….
Its good that you and your wife talk about the issue. I know it is hard to resist splurging a bit on our kids – my kids excelled at pushing my buttons! Keeping talking with each other (and of course not ‘at’ each other) about the long and short term effects of fun spending – but include the good and potential negative aspects of it – would be my layman’s take (but then I’m not trained for this so use your own judgement!).
Hmm…food for thought. I haven’t thought much past raising my own daughter and getting her ready for the big wide world. When she decides she wants to have her own children, probably in about ten years, what role will I want to play in their lives? Will we live close and be involved on a weekly basis or live farther and come out for special occasions and holidays?
These are good things to ponder – especially the expense angle – it’s always good to have a plan for the future. Thanks for the great article!
It is good to plan but it sounds like you have plenty of time, so enjoy raising your daughter now and things will work out.