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  • Grandparents Helping More & More These Days

    [caption id="attachment_4644" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Grandparents Helping More & More"]Grandchildren[/caption]

    Be sure to check out this article by Veronica Dagher where she discusses how grandparents are helping their families financially more than ever during these difficult economic times. Dagher of The Wall Street Journal explains further in her article Grandparents Bearing Checkbooks:

    Earlier this year, Frank Fertelmes gave his car to his 21-year-old grandson to get back-and-forth to college.

    Mr. Fertelmes's daughter could no longer drive her son to school each day with her family's one car, as she had just started a new job after being unemployed for over a year. Mr. Fertelmes' son-in-law couldn't help out either, as he is still on medical leave after a serious car accident.

    The 81-year-old Stratford, Conn., native also pays for the occasional car repair and maintenance. And he likes to slip his grandson, who goes to school full time and takes any part-time work he can get mowing lawns and doing other handiwork, the occasional $20 for lunch or gas money.

    "The downturn put a strain on his parents, and he needs my help," Mr. Fertelmes says.

    Grandparents, like Mr. Fertelmes, are increasingly playing a bigger financial role in the lives of their grandchildren.

    The economic strain on their children and grandchildren, due in part to higher unemployment, is prompting more grandparents to pitch in and pay for everything from toys to insurance to college tuition.

    Yet some grandparents are making financial mistakes that could put their own financial future in jeopardy. Promising too much to grandchildren, not saving enough for their own possible health-care needs and paying off their grandchildren's loans are some of the mistakes well-meaning grandparents are making, say financial advisers.

    "Grandparents can sometimes give too much support," says Oliver Pursche, a Suffern, N.Y., financial adviser.

    Grandparents today are younger and have more financial resources than ever before. The majority of grandparents are working age baby boomers between the ages of 45 and 64, according to a recent study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. In the past decade, the inflation-adjusted income for households age 55 and older has risen to 34% of the nation's total, up from 28%. Yet during that same period, income of households ages 25 to 44 fell to 36% of the total from 43%, according to MetLife. In turn, some grandparents feel compelled to help their progeny whose income has fallen behind.

    However, Mr. Pursche has seen several grandparents make the basic mistake of lending support before they "do the math" and figure out what they can actually afford to give.

    Lazetta Rainey Braxton says grandparents can make the mistake of not planning to cover the expenses of catastrophic events, such as significant medical and long-term care costs. The Chicago-based certified financial planner says while it may be difficult for some grandparents, especially those who are young and healthy now, to throttle back support for their grandchildren, they may need to do so to ensure they have enough money saved for possible health-care expenses later in life.

    "One of the biggest gifts a grandparent can give is being able to afford his or her own care," she says.

    Among the biggest mistakes William Martin sees grandparents make is helping pay off their grandchildren's debt. The State College, Pa., certified financial planner says this can be dangerous because it not only shrinks the grandparents' balance sheet but it can also enable the grandchildren to make poor debt decisions down the road and ultimately prevent them from becoming "financially healthy" adults.

    Read more at The Wall Street Journal

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