Bridging the Between Gap

Grandparents

You may have to parent more than your children.

“Most children threaten at times to run away from home. This is the only thing that keeps some parents going.”
–Phyllis Diller

For 18 or so years, your parents raised you. They gave you a home, clothing, food, and love. They carried you to soccer games, plays, slumber parties, amusement parks, and a host of other destinations that you probably don’t even remember now. They taught you values, kissed your scrapes, and helped you develop into the person that you are now. You may now have kids or might be thinking about having kids and want to do the same thing for them. You’re glad to have them as grandparents to be that influence for your children.

However, as they enter into retirement years and start the long walk into the twilight of their lives, has it ever occurred to you that you might have to be taking care of your parents at the same time that you’re trying to put your own children into college or survive those teenage years long enough to kick them out of the nest? It’s a challenge that some children of the Baby Boom generation are just now starting to realize that they are going to face and are wondering how in the world they’re going to do it.

Historically, when families were large, taking care of Mom and Dad in their later years was not much of a financial strain. Families tended to live on farms and had plenty of hands around the house to help out. Helping the parents meant keeping a room for them, tending to them, and providing food and shelter for them. Because life spans were not long, the requirement for keeping the parents did not last very long.

Now, though, with advances in medicine and healthier lifestyles, Mom and Dad might be around a lot longer than their parents were.

It is becoming a common occurrence to see people live into their nineties. When Social Security started, the retirement age of 65 was not much longer than the average lifespan. People retired, enjoyed a couple of years of doing nothing, and then died. Now, they can reasonably expect to live 25 years past retirement age.

Compounding the timing issue is the progressive increase in ages of men and women before they have children. As societies advanced, people sought to develop careers and explore the world before they settled down and had children. This means that not only are parents older when they have children, but grandparents are older. Thus, it is not unsurprising for the 45 year old parents of 15 year old children to have their own parents who are approaching 75. So, just as Junior is getting ready to pack up and head off to college, Mom and Dad might be ready for a retirement home, assisted living, or even a nursing home. Whether this scenario is happening now or may happen in fifteen or twenty years, you do not want to be surprised and unprepared for the double crunch of the between gap.

What to do?

Don’t be the Taxi Driver

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Take the rest of the day off or not?

“The one thing you shouldn’t do is try to tell a cab driver how to get somewhere.”
–Jimmy Fallon

“Life is like a taxi. The meter just keeps a-ticking whether you are getting somewhere or just standing still.”
–Lou Erickson

Imagine that you’re a taxi driver in New York City. You live modestly, so you need $50,000 a year to live on (OK…in New York City, that means you live like a pauper, but bear with me just for the sake of this example). You want to work 5 days a week for 50 weeks a year. That means you work 250 days a year.

How do you know how much to work during those days? If you’re a taxi driver, you can work up to 12 hours in any given shift, but you don’t have to work all 12 hours.

This is a question that CalTech’s Linda Babcock and Carnegie Mellon’s George Lowenstein investigated, looking to measure how taxi cab drivers figured out just how long and how much they should work.

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