Grandparents, Kids and Money


Today I would like to dispel the popular notion that "when you are a grandparent, you are entitled to spoil your grandchildren."

Recently I was in New York doing a presentation when Kate (a mother of two) asked me if I had a few minutes to talk with her about a situation that was causing angst in her family. Kate told me she was no longer on speaking terms with her mother (a grandmother of two).

While everyone can have challenges with family members from time to time, this situation was a bit out of the ordinary – or was it?

Turns out grandma was sending the grandchildren a new gift each week. Suffice it to say, mom and dad were not happy. As Kate told me, "We’re doing everything in our power to minimize the blizzard of consumer messages that are being thrust upon our children. The last thing we need is someone in our own family undermining our efforts."

Grandparents take note. While you might think you are doing the "right thing" by frequently giving gifts to your grandchildren, I encourage you to exercise restraint the next time the urge hits you to buy the little darlings a gift.

According to American Demographics magazine, one-third of all adults are grandparents and they spend an average of $500 a year per grandchild. At the same time, advertisers are spending billions of dollars trying to convince grandparents that their relationship with their grandchildren will be so much better if they would just buy them something.

A practice

I promised Kate that I would begin this week’s idea with a request for all grandparents. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Because of your role as a grandparent, you have a unique opportunity to positively impact the future financial habits/values of your grandchildren. Here are a few quick suggestions for you to consider:

– Ask your adult child to help you set appropriate boundaries for gift giving to the grandchildren.

– Do the "look back" exercise. Think about how your grandparents managed gift-giving when you were a child.

– Share with your grandchildren your financial values and more specifically how you balance sharing, saving and spending.

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sed author, award-winning speaker and national expert on family finances and the effects of mass marketing on young people. A top-performing financial advisor and vice president of marketing for a Fortune 500 financial services company, he founded Share-Save-Spend LLC, an organization that helps people of all ages develop and maintain healthy financial habits. His book, Prodigal Sons & Material Girls: How Not to Be Your Child's ATM, was released in 2003 by publisher John Wiley & Sons. Nathan is vice-chair of both the National Institute on Media and the Family and Minneapolis-based YouthCARE boards. Visit, e-mail [email protected] Copyright © 2005 Nathan Dungan. All rights reserved.


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