Q: Our entire family, including five grandchildren, lives in the same town. Our son recently lost his job, and his wife's salary doesn't cover all of their expenses.
My husband and I have been extremely fortunate; we're in good health and able to help our family out a little financially. How can we make the most difference for them?
A: Many families go through a rough patch at some point and find themselves struggling to meet expenses. Although times are tough, learning how to respond to these kinds of trials and tribulations is invaluable.
You can consider helping in two ways: the temporary and the long term.
Your son and his immediate family need to reconsider their financial decisions. Schedule a family conference to discuss the importance of banding together through this hardship. Every family member could contribute in a variety of ways.
There are several small ways in which you could ease your son's financial burden in an affordable way. Would you consider inviting them all over for dinner once or twice a week? Could you babysit your grandchildren when Mom's at work and Dad's out there looking for a job?
Have your son and daughter-in-law cut up their credit cards? Getting rid of them can feel tough, but we all need to buy only the things we can afford.
In the long term, you can share with your grandchildren the lessons you've learned through a lifetime of ups and downs.
Earlier generations like ours were expected to hold paper routes and babysitting jobs to earn cash for treats and entertainment. Are your grandchildren old enough to find part-time jobs? If not, encourage them to learn life skills like helping out in the kitchen, doing their own laundry and cleaning the house. Developing these skills builds self-esteem and self-reliance.
Do your grandchildren understand the differences between needs and wants? Learning the fundamentals of budgeting is a valuable skill that many people learn too late. Prioritizing necessities and planning indulgences will always be relevant.
By the same token, entertainment need not be expensive. You can create memories with your grandchildren by taking them on picnics, visiting a museum, playing sports, or playing card and board games. Monopoly anyone?
There is a silver lining to hard times. They often encourage families to come closer together to get through them. It's important for seniors to feel wanted and needed, and now is a great opportunity.
These life lessons can be beneficial in the long run. It's all about your attitude. Going through this painful time will hopefully prepare them for the future. Your family is fortunate that you're willing to help out! — Doug
SPENDING AND SAVING
Q: I'm getting older, and I know that I don't have that many years ahead. However, life goes on around me. I have some big financial decisions coming up, like my car and home repair.
Given my age, I feel like my relationship with money and value has changed a lot. How can I make choices that make sense for this time in my life?
A: Get as much value out of these big purchases as possible. You may not get to enjoy these expensive purchases for as long as you'd like, so keep things in context and don't overspend unnecessarily.
Your car needs are different from what they were in the past. The most important considerations are safety and reliability. Driving ability degrades with age, and you want to be protected in the case of any accident. Getting a dependable car will help you avoid future repair costs.
Preventative home repairs should take priority, especially if the underlying issues will get worse over time. Major failures, like plumbing disasters, require immediate attention and can be expensive. Focus on spending money that will maintain the value of your home. If you're leaving your home to your inheritors, you don't want to stick them with a huge bill upfront.
Also consider investing in new experiences like travel. Although you may not get to enjoy a new dishwasher, you will get lasting satisfaction from trying new things.
Really think about what you value at this point in your life. Don't let your established patterns interfere with making the right decisions. — Emma, Doug's granddaughter
Doug Mayberry makes the most of life in a Southern California retirement community. Contact him at [email protected] Emma, Doug's granddaughter, helps write this column. To find out more about Doug Mayberry and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.