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Family First

Richard Quinn

MY WIFE AND I ARE blessed with 11 grandchildren and two step-grandchildren. They range in age from six to 18. Amazingly, as we get older, they’ve gotten older, too. We’re fortunate that all of our family is no more than an hour and a quarter’s drive away.

How I miss the days when they were delighted to play with Pa. We went to parks, to playgrounds, to see koi in a pond. We made sandcastles, dug for sand crabs, dunked each other in the ocean. The times on Cape Cod were the best, as were the occasional sleepovers.

Then they started going to school and our time was limited. As they grow older, their activities and friends take priority. Vacations on the Cape are limited because they need to be home for sports. But there’s good news, too.

Over the years, we’ve attended concerts and award ceremonies. Twice, I was invited to one granddaughter’s school when they held a celebration and breakfast for veteran parents and grandparents. I was surprised to see I wasn’t the oldest in attendance.

In normal times, we see our grandchildren regularly, only now it’s at soccer, baseball, basketball, track and lacrosse games. They’re all good athletes, a skill they surely didn’t get from me. I played Little League as a boy, with the less-than-enviable record of never getting a hit—not even getting my bat to touch the ball. My children weren’t into sports, either. One of my sons spent his time in the outfield picking dandelions.

I’m glad to see the parents attending their children’s games. Neither of my parents ever saw me play Little League. My relatives also weren’t into sports. One Christmas, all I wanted was a basketball. Seemed like a simple request. But when I opened the package, it was a beachball printed to look like a basketball. My mother insisted I take it to the park. Oh, the embarrassment. The wind carried it away—into a pricker bush. I was saved.

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All these sports activities are costly for parents. There are fees for the teams, buying uniforms and equipment, and—in some cases—private lessons to hone their children’s skills. I never had that expense. Maybe a future college scholarship will offset these outlays. Or not.

There’s a cost to grandparents, as well. “Pa, would you like to buy… for my team’s fundraiser?” That’s not counting the Girl Scout cookies. I decided to donate the 15 boxes I just bought from granddaughter No. 3. No sense risking the 15 pounds I lost being quarantined prior to my recent surgery.

Many people disagree with me, but based on my experience with college—nine years at night—and paying for our four children to attend private schools, I think grandparents should help their grandchildren if they’re in a position to do so. We started a 529 plan when our first grandchild was born. I have to admit, our funding plan didn’t anticipate 11 grandchildren, but there’s no turning back. We send money each month and an additional amount for birthdays.

The grandchildren have added more to my life than I could ever repay. Our family is our top priority. If at all possible, reasonable and prudent, I’ll never say no to our children, and neither will my wife. An exception: One son asked me to cosign a loan so he could remortgage his house, and I did say no to that.

If they need help—be it our time, a loan or emergency cash—we want to be there. Once we secured our own financial independence, what’s the money for?

Richard Quinn blogs at QuinnsCommentary.net. Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. Follow him on Twitter @QuinnsComments and check out his earlier articles.

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Lynne
Lynne
8 months ago

My situation is a little different. No kids, and I retired to Mexico a few years ago. My housekeeper here has a very bright, delightful, hard-working daughter who is the first in her family to go beyond elementary school. She’ll graduate from high school this year. When the pandemic hit, I bought her a laptop and paid for internet at their home so she could continue with school online. Over the years, I’ve chipped in when small expenses, like not having the money for the next semester’s school books, would have derailed her education. She’ll take college entrance exams later this year, and I’ll pay for college. Luckily public universities here are very, very affordable, because she wants to go to medical school!

R Quinn
R Quinn
8 months ago
Reply to  Lynne

I really like that, good going. I bet they appreciate what you have done.

Ben Rodriguez
Ben Rodriguez
8 months ago

That’s the dream.

Jack Hannam
Jack Hannam
8 months ago

I view helping others with their educational costs, to the extent I can afford, as an investment. The education or vocational training they receive may potentially open more doors and hopefully increase their future economic security.

steveark
steveark
8 months ago

I think its great that you want to contribute to your grandkids’ education but just as I would not tell you what you should or shouldn’t do in that regard its a little presumptious to tell others they should do the same. I’m sure I’d help grandkids if they had a serious need of help, at most anything, assuming it wasn’t self inflicted, but I hope my kids would not need help from us for their kids’ education. Most studies I’ve seen show that providing parental welfare for grown kids reduces their success at being independent and successful adults. Giving money earmarked for education is no different than just giving the parents money because it will free up that much money, dollar for dollar, to be spent in any fashion the parents decide. You know your kids so you know that isn’t a risk for yours but many parents aren’t in that situation where their kids are nearby and they don’t have as strong an idea of how things are going in their lives.

parkslope
parkslope
8 months ago
Reply to  steveark

Could you please provide references for the studies you’ve seen on the impact of parental “welfare” on grown children?

R Quinn
R Quinn
8 months ago
Reply to  steveark

Unless my influence is greater than I imagine, I have given my opinion and I have not told anyone what they should do. I don’t see it as welfare at all.

There is another factor in my family and as a general trend. When my oldest started college I was 45. I had my best earning years ahead and I had a pension.

When my children are in their 60s their children will be in college and several just starting college. And none of them have a pension.

So if a parent is in the position to help, I see helping with grandkids education as a privilege, not welfare. In fact, if that situation exists and a parent does not help, they are not much of a parent in my opinion.

Last edited 8 months ago by R Quinn
parkslope
parkslope
8 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

I couldn’t agree more! Both of our sons will also be in their 60s when their children are in college and both work for employers with modest retirement plans. Both are very responsible and hard-working and we feel privileged to be able to help fund our grandkids’ educations.

Jerry Pinkard
Jerry Pinkard
8 months ago

Your priorities are spot on. We have thoroughly enjoyed our grandchildren. Our youngest granddaughter graduates from HS this spring. She was into competitive cheerleading, a money pit, but she enjoyed it. Her team was very good and won several major regional events.
We helped pay for her older sister’s college tuition because she went out of state. We will pay the same this one but I think she is going to an in state school.
We made a lot of friends through youth athletics and other young activities when our kids were young. That was a very enjoyable time.
I see you went to school at night. I did the same. I went 6 years at night to get my degree, and I had a young family at the time. People who have not done that do not realize how hard that is.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
8 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Pinkard

I also finished my degree at night – 5 years. My three year old son got to attend my graduation. Working in the field while taking classes added so much meaning to my education.

R Quinn
R Quinn
8 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Pinkard

You’re right about the challenge of night school.

Brent Wilson
Brent Wilson
8 months ago

Since your kids weren’t into sports, were there any other costly activities your kids regularly engaged in? If not, did you have to push back against their desires to engage in such activities?

I have two girls. Both go to dance and it’s $170/month combined. One goes to gymnastics at $75/mo. Combined, these “extracurriculars” cost around $3K per year.

It is hard for me to argue against the joy and social connection these activities bring to our daughters, but I often struggle to justify these expenses when I think about the vast number of children who seem to be perfectly happy without such costly activities. I suppose there may be some lower-cost options to explore as our children get older, and there is a middle ground to be found. For now, I am torn.

Chazooo
Chazooo
8 months ago
Reply to  Brent Wilson

Wait until they drive and NEED the newest IPhone, etc.

R Quinn
R Quinn
8 months ago
Reply to  Brent Wilson

All the kids were into music and played in marching bands, jazz bands and concert bands in middle and high school. We were band parents for ten years. They also played tennis and track and softball in high school, but none were the typical jock.

Last edited 8 months ago by R Quinn
James McGlynn CFA RICP®
James McGlynn CFA RICP®
8 months ago

Richard which 529 plan did you use?

Nate Allen
Nate Allen
8 months ago

Clark Howard (or one of his writers) does a roundup of different state plans.

https://clark.com/personal-finance-credit/investing-retirement/529-plan/

I think they go back and update it once a year.

R Quinn
R Quinn
8 months ago

I used Nevada plan, but that was years ago. Not sure that would be best choice today.

R Quinn
R Quinn
8 months ago

Before it’s asked, why did I refuse to co-sign a loan? It wasn’t because of any thought my son would intentionally stick me with the loan, he wouldn’t. However, he works entirely on commission and who knows about the future. Any number of uncontrollable factors – health, job interruption could impact the situation. In my judgement it was just too great a risk for my wife and I to assume. And in the worst case it would be unfair to my other children. I want to help family, but I also want full control.

Jim Burrows
Jim Burrows
8 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

It’s obvious to me that you didn’t co-sign the loan because it wasn’t reasonable or prudent!

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