parents to the end

Parenting Adult Children for Your Peace of Mind and Their Accountability

Friday Food for Thought: To Leave or Not to Leave (an Inheritance)

Posted on October 10, 2014 | No Comments

by Linda M. Herman, LMHC

This is a question many baby boomers are considering for the first time.

For those who are just squeaking by, the choice is easily made.  If the money and assets run out, then the kids are on their own. But many boomers are just entering retirement or thinking about it. At this point, they do have assets and are rightfully thoughtful about how best to utilize these.

New York Times columnist and author Ron Lieber looks at this question head on in his 9/20/14 article “Parents, the Children Will Be Fine. Spend Their Inheritance Now.”…/parents-the-childrenwill-be-fin

He says that although the great majority of retirees want to leave something to their children, many of these same children have no such expectations of their parents. Lieber cites research  by Kyungmin Kim, Ph.D. and her colleagues published in The Gerontologist last year. They found that despite the fact that 82% of parents ages 59 – 96 wanted leave an inheritance for their children, only 44.6 % of children ages 40 – 60 expected to get one.

But interestingly, there are some “small print” details worth noting for us baby boomers. The adult children who provide more support have fewer expectations that their parents will leave them something.  But adult children who have been getting money from their parents have higher expectations that they will continue receiving money even after their parents are dead.  What is the message here? That providing a stream of money to your grown kids is not empowering, but rather the opposite. It increases the feelings of entitlement!

This is a theme I have echoed in Parents to the End and in my blogs, so it comes as no surprise to me. While productive adult children may not expect an inheritance, it is natural, of course that they might want –and enjoy—one.

Considering the economic woes our country has faced for a number of years, parents do worry about whether or not their children will have to sustain a lower standard of living. This puts more pressure on the parents to try to have something to pass on.

Lieber says that parents and their adult children should discuss these issues. His own take is that parents should tend to their own needs and enjoyment first. If there is something left for their offspring, fine. He recommends that parents use their money now to create “meaningful memories with family” or to insure that they (themselves) have excellent care as they move through the aging process.

These may be uneasy conversations to have, but could be well worth the time. And about that grown child  who continues to hit you up for money?  Unless you just say “no”, the requests will never stop.

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