The company’s recently released Money Across Generations II study titled “Family First” concludes that boomers are literally caught in middle age, providing financial support to their elderly parents and to their grown children.
“I have had clients who used retirement funds to help family members, mainly their adult children,” Damon Dyas, an Ameriprise financial advisor in Southfield, Michigan, told On Wall Street.
The Ameriprise survey found such behavior to be widespread. A phone survey of over 1,000 baby boomers (aged 47-65, with $100,000 or more investable assets), plus hundreds of boomers’ parents and grown children, came to these conclusions:
Nearly all boomers surveyed (93%) have provided some form of financial support to their adult children. That includes helping them pay for college tuition or loans (71%), allowing them to live at home rent-free (55%) and helping them to buy a car (53%). Many are helping their kids pay for care and health insurance, rent, utilities and car payments.
However, all this assistance has come at a price. More than one-third of responding boomers (34%) say that helping their adult children has slowed the pace of their retirement savings.
Also, more than half of all boomers (58%) help their parents with daily household tasks and home maintenance. In addition, many are also chipping in for groceries (22%), medical bills (15%) and helping out their parents with monthly utility bills (14%). Ten percent of boomers said that helping their own parents has hindered their retirement savings efforts.
Dyas provided some examples of how some boomers are sacrificing their own retirement planning efforts to help out their adult children.
“I may have a client who has a rental home and a son or daughter living there, rent free, due to unemployment,” he says. “Therefore, the client is paying all the cost of a primary home and the rental property, with no income. Or, a child may still be in college while the client is using retirement funds to cover tuition, apartment and car. Sometimes, clients incur debt that they pay off over time instead of funding retirement accounts.”
How can financial advisors help these generous clients stay on track to reach their own retirement goals?
“My advice to them depends on factors such as the amount of support, whether or not it’s an emergency, how long the support is needed, and whether the client is liquidating funds to live on,” says Dyas.
Typically, Dyas includes support provided to family members in clients’ expenses and updates their financial plan to determine the effect that support is having on their ability to maintain their standard of living.
“Also,” he says, “I encourage clients to let their family know that there is a limit to how much support the clients can provide. This is a hard issue to deal with because no one wants to see family members suffer or go without, but relatives in need may be able to look for other avenues of support such as a church, a non-profit, or community programs.”
According to Dyas, his efforts to have clients tell family members that there are limits to financial support have not yielded a great deal of significant results. “It's hard for clients to turn down their kids and grandchildren if they need help. I just try to let them know the effects the support is having on their retirement and they have to make appropriate decisions.”
Donald Jay Korn writes for On Wall Street.