First Person: The Key to Not Going Broke When the Grandparents Move In

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I've heard a lot of talk about rules for dealing with boomerang kids, but we are more worried about how to financially handle it as the grandparents move in. We have had to think about the house rules and how much the grandparents will pay until they can move out and become financially independent again. As the children of older baby boomers who have trouble managing their debt, we periodically deal with the financial and housing problems of our elders.

Exhausting other options

Before agreeing to let the grandparents stay with us, we ask them to explore all other options. On one occasion, we simply said, "no," and the grandmother found they could stay with her sister. Another time, we suggested they avoid foreclosure by taking in other senior citizen roommates such as in the television sitcom, "The Golden Girls." If they are experiencing a true emergency, we have no problem taking them in.

Establishing a firm time line

One of our rules is that the grandparents can't stay unless they have a firm time line and "exit strategy." Of course, the exception is if a parent has dementia or health problems. At one point, the grandparents wanted to live with us until the housing prices hit bottom so they could get a better deal. I told them their plan was too vague. Instead, I encouraged them to save up money for 6 months. If they didn't have enough for a down payment or couldn't qualify for a loan, they would have enough for a rental.

Keeping credit cards off limits

Another financial boundary we had to establish was that the grandparents couldn't use our credit cards or expect us to pay their credit card bills. I would not allow them to become "authorized users," our credit cards. At the same time, I didn't comment on the fact that they ran up debt on their own credit cards since that's their business.

Using inheritance to control

As members of Generation X, my husband and I have radically different ideas about inheritance compared to the elderly baby boomers. We are excited about the opportunity to leave an inheritance for our children, but we don't expect to receive one. It's probably a good thing since our boomer parents believe in living it up until they die, even though they use alleged future inheritance to manipulate. If a grandparent tries to guilt us into paying a debt now by mentioning future inheritance that will cover it, we say the future is unknown. Therefore, I'd rather only deal with the reality of the present.

Paying some of the bills

When it comes with all the household expenses, we would only ask our elderly parents to pay for their own food and the difference in our utility bills since it's higher if they are living with us. We figure we would be paying our mortgage whether or not they lived there. In most cases, our parents wouldn't stay with us forever, although they might "boomerang" back in between housing situations.

With two children at home, it's not always easy to accommodate grandparents who want their own private bathroom and bedroom. Unlike boomerang children who can drive themselves where they need to go, "boomerang baby boomers" sometimes need to be chauffeured around. On the bright side, their grandchildren can practice their driving skills by driving them to their lawn bowling matches and sewing clubs.

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More from this contributor:

I'm not Retiring to a College Town

I Blame Baby Boomers for Destroying the Economy

Cutting off the Grandparents


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