When its okay to say no

As we begin our exit of the Great Recession we have all had to make sacrifices to get by. Whether it be cutting back on vacations or shopping a bit more frugally for food, tightening our belt has become the norm. In many cases, retirement savings have become a last resort to keep us liquid and though we hate to dip into those sacred accounts, sometimes there has been no other way. But at what price? Using our limited resources to keep afloat today may result in us experiencing first hand that number one retirement fear of outliving our savings.

I read an article in the Mercury News this morning about the plight of grandparents who are forced to help their children through tough times due to the economy and lost jobs and stretched mortgages. Retirement for many can unexpectedly become a continuation of raising the family that you thought you already raised. Providing daycare services for grandchildren can help children make ends meet but is that really what we want to be doing in our golden years? According to the Mercury over the past five years grandparents have provided $370 billion in financial support to their grandchildren, an average of $8661 per household. And this is at a time when many retirees have total savings accounts in the area of $100,000.

Is it fair or wise to attempt to keep afloat the families of today at the expense of the retirees of tomorrow? Or is this just a way of deferring our debt? Someone is ultimately going to have to pick up the tab.

As retirees living on a fixed income, grandparents need to realistically look at their situation and make hard choices.You can no longer add to your savings – you have to live on what you have. You  want to help but how much?

  • What can you realistically afford to contribute to your kids and grand kids without putting yourself in future financial jeopardy? You need to carefully consider the whole picture weighing your income and costs for the next “x” number of years and only contribute what you can afford if you hope to assure your future financial security. Overly generous behavior now is a recipe for disaster later.
  • If money is “loaned” to children can you count on getting the money back at some future time? Will you be okay if you do not get reimbursed? And is the potential friction that this debt may cause in the best interest of all concerned?
  • You can choose to volunteer your time to help with daycare but is that what you really want to be doing with your retirement? For many it is and for others it is a worthwhile sacrifice since you get to spend time with the little gremlins before they enter the evil teenage years! But if you do not want to do this or are willing to help out but for the short term, how do you get your message across? Remember this is your life to live so what do you want to do?
  • If you choose to take care of your children family today can you expect your children to take care of you later? Do you even want to be in that difficult position?
  • Can your children reduce their standard of living to better cope with their needs? Everyone has to live within their means and if times are tough you have to learn to do with less.

Sometimes saying no is the best answer for all concerned not only for today but for the future.

We all want to help wherever we can especially when it concerns family. But as retirees we need to realistically look at all of the variables. The decision is a very personal one and what works for me may not be the ticket for you. But be ware – this is not something we can afford to make a mistake regarding. A sound decision today will hopefully lead to a safer and more secure tomorrow.


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About LoveBeingRetired

Dave Bernard is a California born and raised author and blogger with an extensive 30 year career in Silicon Valley. He has written more than 300 blogs for US News & World On Retirement and his personal blog Retirement – Only the Beginning. He has authored three books: "Are you just existing and calling it a life?"; "I want to retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be"; and " Navigating the Retirement Jungle". Dave was also a contributing writer for the books 65 Things to do when you Retire (“Positive Aging – Old is the New Young”) as well as 65 Things to do when you Retire – TRAVEL (“Travel to Discover your Family Heritage”). He lives in sunny California with his wife, his Boston Terrier "Frank" and a passion for the San Jose Sharks.

10 thoughts on “When its okay to say no

  1. Tough question that is suddenly one I am facing. My 30 year old daughter lost her job 3 days ago. Even cutting back as much as she can she has enough resources to last only through the summer. By fall she will be tapped out. If she hasn’t found a full time job (or several part time ones) she will be forced to move into our spare bedroom.

    We have loaned her money in the past and she has paid it back over a few years. If it comes to that we’ll do it again. With our family the answer is simple: we don’t say “no” when anyone is in need.

  2. I am with Bob. No is not in my vocabulary for my children in time of need.
    My grandparents got me off the ground with an inheritance. I don’t want our children to have to wait until I die for the help they need now.
    I guess it would be different if we did not get along with our children (grandchild), or we did not have enough to share.

  3. This information does not surprise me at all. Things have reversed when it comes to finances and many young adults have been requiring additional resources in order to make ends meet and that means some people have to dig into their retirement accounts to help.

  4. Bob I like your bottom line – if someone in the family needs help you give it! Having a family member move back into the house means everyone has to be a bit more frugal and sensitive to each others space. But we do what we must for our family – I learned that from my mom!

  5. You hit it Janette – helping is a no brainer as long as you have enough to share. And you will cut back as needed in efforts to assist. But I fear there are those that despite their best wishes cannot financially swing it and then what to do…

  6. A shame but true Your Own Retirement – tough times for families all around. My son graduates from UCSB on Saturday with no immediate job lined up. He plans to do some subsistance employment short term and keep looking for a job in his major of choice. I really don’t want to encourage a return home unless it becomes an emergency. Time to figure things out first hand but as always dad will be there when needed.

  7. We never lend money to a family member. If a family member needs money, we simply give it to them. For a loan not paid back can create hard feelings, and that’s the last thing we want between or among family members. Bill

  8. This is a serious issue these days. We just got our younger son out of the house and he is learning (and enjoyng) his new independence but these are tough times. When- and how- do you help and how do you know if you are helping or just enablng.

  9. You got it Ralph – difficult times but we want to encourage independence for the good of all. Returning to the house after a graduation to me would feel like failure and after getting used to my independence, abiding by house rules would be a pain.

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