According to reports, retirees are distributing (what would have been) inheritance to their children while they are still very much alive. This is not a new phenomenon; it is just going by an awkward and clumsy new name. “Early distribution of inheritance” is also known as supporting your adult children. The reasons for the life support are somewhat varied. There are adult children who come upon unavoidable and devastating life experiences, and need a hand. Thank goodness for family. But the stories that seem to bubble up, and are told rather defensively, seem to be of a different ilk.
Married retirees speak of their adult children “needing” health insurance and suggesting that it would be tantamount to eating one’s young to have these grown-ups go uninsured. Spend your money on whatever you’d like Mr. & Mrs. Retiree, but no one ‘needs’ health insurance (yet.) What your elderly children need is healthcare. Purchase hospitalization or cataclysmic insurance if you must. But they can go to doctors and pharmacists on their own. If they can’t afford those bills, chances are that they (or at least their children) qualify for assistance. Don’t confuse what your children “need” with what you or they may “want”. If you do that you might end up paying off your elderly child’s six-figure student loan debt.
Yes much of higher education is ridiculously expensive. But so are sports cars, and sable coats. Before buying sable most people would have to do a little R.O.I. exercise. “Will I miss the money that I would spend on this coat?” “Do I have a life which will enable me to get use out of this coat?” It’s pretty much a given that this exercise does not include “How high is the credit limit on all my cards?” If you can’t afford it, you don’t buy it. If you live in a warm climate, or have a casual way of life, you don’t buy it. For many people, attending any kind of institution of higher education will demand incurring debt. But it never should be more than the projected career can support. The high school teacher with $100,000 in debt either had very poor advice or experienced some sort of catastrophic event. Four years of a private liberal arts education is a luxury few can afford. Two years at a community college followed by two years in an accredited college/university can be made affordable by most. Savings, grants, awards, and work-study (students do better academically when they have a job) can make a serious dent in what needs to be borrowed. For the graduate who wants to teach; you might want to look into public school systems that pay for your master’s degree.
Of course not all baby boomers are supporting their adult children with large chunks of change. Some choose a more homey approach, and modify their existing dwelling, or move to a larger abode to accommodate elderly children and their families. Many extol the old-fashioned virtues of multi-generational living. But often there is something a little less sweet simmering beneath the Norman Rockwell imagery. The retiree might not have pictured a lifetime of parenting of a seemingly developmentally typical son/daughter. The retiree might have niggling thoughts of how they might have contributed to this situation. One thing is pretty certain; these ‘kids’ are not worried about an inheritance. For an adult living with his parents, time has pretty much grinded to a halt. The relationship dynamic has not shifted yet. The two-way street of adult child/parent relations has not been paved. No one is getting older and no one is ever going to die. Chances are they’ve never even heard of Sugar Mountain.