How to Help Family Members Without Hurting Your Own Finances
Rachel Koning Beals
Family financial demands can pose a challenge in saving for retirement
It wasn't the dread of long flights that kept the retired Kluevers, who live in
It was the fear that dipping into their savings, even for a much-deserved trip, would compromise their diligent retirement planning and the financial legacy they wanted to leave their children and grandchildren, says son
Like the Kluevers, many of today's retirees -- and right behind them, the baby boomers who just reached or will soon hit retirement age -- are expected to live longer than their parents. They also have to plan more extensively than their parents, who most likely collected a pension and
The paradox leaves many asking: What's the benefit of a longer life if it's one shackled by worry? And not just worry about your own retirement and extended care, but about the well-being of your offspring and the charitable causes you cherish?
It doesn't help that a decade of flat stock returns, record-low bond yields, and the highest unemployment rate in some 30 years hit just at the time early baby boomers began to join the retirement ranks. This economic rut has forced some to at least temporarily support their adult children, cutting into their retirement savings or income, and forcing some to become ultra-conservative with their own spending.
Markets may gyrate, but retirement targets are largely stationary. Experts, using
Those estimates largely cover longtime investors throughout a lengthy career. Of course, some retirees will have to make do on much less. In all wealth categories, determining if there's enough cushion in the budget to help multiple generations is typically best made on a case-by-case basis.
Emotions and economics. For many families, there's little question that they would jump to action if a child, even a grown child, is facing a financial emergency. Determining what qualifies as "code red" or setting the terms of such support is another matter. So is asking the tough question: Can I afford to help?
Multiple generations queried in a
Respondents also felt strongly that retirees have an obligation to themselves. Survey respondents were asked to evaluate a hypothetical situation in which two 70-year-old widowers in good financial standing took two different approaches with regard to their four children who were struggling to make ends meet. The first retiree spent his time enjoying lower-cost activities in retirement so that he would be able to leave his children an inheritance that may help them get ahead.
The second retiree gave his children small gifts for birthdays and holidays, but believes it is time to enjoy his retirement and plans to spend his money on personal hobbies and interests. Asked to indicate which philosophy they agree with more, nearly two-thirds of respondents showed support for the second retiree, who is giving gifts to his children but is mostly focused on enjoying his retirement.
He saw a need to increase the flexibility of variable annuities and has helped develop annuities, which his parents now use, that combine the protection of insurance (the death benefit does not decrease even when income is withdrawn) with an income portion and a growth component linked to the stock market. Nicknamed a "live and give" annuity, it's just the kind of approach that may appeal to some investors who want an income stream they can use now and in their 90s, and still have something to leave behind.
Family bank. There are some circumstances for which intra-family loans make sense in the best and worst of economies. Tapping mom and dad for the funds to finance a home, start a business, or build a nest egg lowers the borrower's rates and allows the senior generation to still collect modest interest payments. Both generations can benefit because the loan legally reduces a future estate-tax bill. That makes intra-family loans an attractive alternative to traditional loans for adult children and the sometimes-complicated tax shelters sought by their higher-net-worth parents.
"Ideally, your son or daughter would be able to pay you a fair rate of interest each month, providing you with some cash coming in [the
"The most important thing to realize is that money that you give away, encumber, or spend on behalf of your children today is money that very likely won't be available to you in the future if you need it. Be sure that your desire to help doesn't set you up for turmoil later," Samotin says.
Consider your child's money personality, say
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Personal Finance - How to Help Family Members Without Hurting Your Own Finances
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