Helping adult children with their finances is becoming more pervasive among Canadians. In a survey commissioned by FP Canada, 31% of parents said helping their children pay for post-secondary education will―or already has―postponed their retirement or paying down of debt. Nearly one third of parents said their children were causing a financial strain. Sometimes referred to as “snowplow parents”, members of this well-meaning cohort are intent on helping their children by trying to clear financial obstacles from their path.
Certified Financial Planner® professional Sterling Rempel, founder and principal advisor at Future Values Estate & Financial Planning in Calgary, offers personal insights into why this trend is becoming increasingly common. “Some of my clients are supporting their children for longer than their parents supported them―myself included. Our children in post-secondary institutions get help to a far greater extent; we aren’t just paying for tuition and housing, but cell phone bills, auto insurance, clothing, and health and dental expenses. Kids are also taking longer to complete post-secondary school, maybe taking a year off in between studies.”
“This collective willingness we have to help our children more may be a reflection of living in a more affluent society than our parents did,” he says. “If we have it, why not help the kids?”
Problems can arise, however, when parents don’t have the means, a situation Sterling helps his clients avoid by showing them the big-picture effects of their generosity. “Parents may choose to help their kids through financial blizzards, but they don’t plow the road for them. Particularly when it might impact their own financial wellness, I encourage my clients to recognize that children need to reach self-sufficiency.”
When spending for today sweeps aside saving for tomorrow
Sterling also sees a higher level of spending on things like hockey, dance lessons and travel among younger families than in previous generations. “Priorities have shifted. Families I work with are focused on current spending, sometimes splurging on things like vacations rather than saving for the future. They focus more on RESPs than RRSPs.”
“Parents often think that once their kids move out, they’ll be able to put money away for retirement,” he says. “But that can be risky―starting early and being consistent is the key to a secure retirement. Your kids have more years than you do to reach their financial goals.”
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For more on family finances, read 4 ways to get your adult children on the road to financial independence and 5 tips for loaning money to family and watch Loaning money to your children.