I don’t have any children of my own (yet), but I have a 13-year-old sister who is like a daughter to me. I was her first babysitter for the first six weeks of her life. I never knew anything could sound that loud—for so long. I had to carry her from one end of my father’s home to the other ALL DAY LONG. When I sat down, that loud sound would start again until I resumed pacing duty. Those early days with my sister made me realize that I could never be a single mother (not without full-time paid help). So, if I have a child in my late 30s (or even my early 40s), by the time the child graduates college, I’ll almost be eligible for social security! This means, my child will not have come into his own financially when I’m retiring. Unlike when women had children in their 20s, the children of us late bloomers won’t be able to take care of us.
In fact, a big shift should become visible in the domestic economy in the coming decades. Not only will our children not have to take care of us financially, they also probably will not be starting out saddled with the six-figure debt that many of us incurred because our young parents could not afford to pay for our education. So our children have got it made when you think about it. (And so do we because we get to enjoy them without significant financial worries.)
Still, we don’t want to do too much for our children. Just educate them and teach them how to fish. Doing anything more may be counterproductive. We risk creating a new generation of lazy adults. And there’s nothing worse than a sorry adult, really.
I should have put this one first. We cannot help anyone else until our own financial house is in order. There is cheap debt (e.g., student loans) available to the young and government programs (e.g., Medicare, Social Security) available for the elderly—for now anyway. But the only thing available to those in the middle is work and the savings and investments from work.
So we need long-term care insurance, retirement savings, life insurance, health insurance, and proper estate planning documents in place. But there’s no need to become overwhelmed by these awesome responsibilities. You’re probably doing better by your family than you think. In fact, most of us are worth more dead than alive anyway.
So as we tackle various aspects of planning for three generations, let’s continue to check items off our own bucket lists. My bucket list item is to take six months off from work before I’m 50. I’d use the time to write, learn a foreign language, play tennis and swim every day. I’d only dress up when I’m going to the opera, drive a Vespa (with a little basket for groceries) as my primary mode of transportation, cook healthy, delicious meals, invite neighbors over to share my meals, some fantastic wines, and witty conversation. Six months, who am I kidding? I’d never go back to work!