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Retire Or Support The KidsThe lifelong dream of working hard, meeting the love of your life, getting married, buying your first house, having kids, working hard, sending them to college and then off to retirement has been derailed. Somewhere along the line, the order above seems to have gotten, well, out of order.

According to Economist Barry Bosworth, Senior Economics Fellow at the Brookings Institution, the biggest expense and responsibility, formerly taking care of our parents, has been replaced by taking care of our adult children. The largely unfortunate result of this phenomenon is that that since the expense was not planned for, the delay of retirement and living comfortably into the sunset years has been replaced by continued employment (if you are fortunate enough to have a job these days) and parental sacrifice. With the recession hitting our kids’ generation the hardest, not only are we getting older and slowing down, the opposite need is happening- we need to work harder to make more money to support a larger family.

In a survey done by Ameriprise in 2011, 71% of Boomers admitted helping their children pay off college loans and 55% have allowed adult children move back into the family home because of housing needs. Then you have the issue of child #1 complaining that child#2 is getting more support from Mom and Dad, and sibling rivalry abounds. At the same time, just 24% of the same boomers surveyed said they were saving for the future, down from 44% just 5 years ago.

Unfortunately, that’s not the end. Traditionally throughout time, children at some time take on the responsibility of taking care of their parents, so now we have one generation supporting three, not to mention those beautiful, loving and adorable grandchildren, totaling at times 4 generations needing financial support. If you’re the only one working…you got it- you can’t stop. Your family depends on it. What’s a parent to do? As our generation has been known to say, “It’s time to get down.”

It’s time to call a family meeting. At no time is it more important to open your books to your family and show complete transparency. The most important thing is that you are supported: take the time to do a full analysis of your expenses and income, and determine if you have positive, flat or negative cash flow. If you are positive, share with your family just how much discretionary monthly funds you have to share, and don’t go above it. If your cash flow is flat, they need to know you don’t have any discretionary (extra) funds. And if it’s negative, be very careful: once you go through your savings, it’s gone. Forever. Be sure to include an emergency fund of at least 6 months of your carrying expenses, which is not to be touched- that’s why it’s called an emergency fund. If your children are to live with you, be sure they contribute to the household expenses. There are a myriad of ways to seek employment, and impress upon them that there is little to call “beneath their dignity” if it will help to pay the bills. If you live together, everybody shares in the responsibility.  It’s their job to keep their spending in check, and you have the right to question how they are spending if they are not contributing.

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