What Happens When Grandparents Are Too Busy Working To Look After Their Grandkids?

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It’s possible you’ve been so busy being a parent that you’ve forgotten you’re also a kid – to parents who may be struggling to achieve the dream of their “Golden Years.” If so, you’re not alone. A Census Bureau report shows senior citizens are retiring later and facing more financial challenges than they have in decades.

What’s Happening
Thirty three percent of Baby Boomers believe they won’t retire until they’re 70 or older, if they can retire at all – that’s an 18-percent increase since 2000. Their concerns aren’t overblown; the number of 65-year-olds in the U.S. labor force has increased steadily over those 10 years, and is now above 20 percent for the first time since the mid-70s. (Thanks, Walmart!)

While some of this can be attributed to longer, healthier lives, a lot of it can be blamed on the one-two sucker punch of the tech bubble popping followed by the Great Recession. Even before those calamities there were concerns about the Boomers’ overall savings; now, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 43 percent of them won’t be able to cover their living expenses in retirement.

What It Means To You
If your parents wind up delaying their retirement by 5 or more years, that’s a lot of free potential childcare no longer accessible to you. If they’re as poorly set up for their eventual retirement as the EBRI suggests, your parents may become a financial obligation, if not outright roommates. Additionally, research in Italy suggests that when the parents delay retirement, their children have fewer kids. So, if you were planning on having a big family, look on the bright side – you might. It’ll just include more old people than young ones.

The Bigger Picture
There’s an anthropological theory that claims grandmothers’ evolutionary function is to improve the outcomes of their grandchildren — supported by research in communities as far-flung as African hunter-gatherer tribes, post-Communist rural Bulgaria and post-apartheid South Africa. In each instance, the grandmothers contributed directly to the financial, physical or emotional well-being of their grandkids. Here in the U.S., 60 percent of grandparents report serving as caregivers over the period 1998 – 2008; it remains to be seen what happens when Nana isn’t available to impart her wisdom because she’s too busy fighting for overtime shifts.

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