Financial help that can make a difference
Raising children now is much different than times in the past. Many families require two incomes along with an income suite just to get by. Real estate prices have been a driver of these changes but there are many other costs that have followed closely behind. It is not uncommon for groceries to add up to over $1000 each month, childcare costs are often $900 or more per child and gas has risen to several hundreds of dollars just to get to work and back.
This current reality means that when families are discussing their finances, it can be a stressful situation with feelings of overwhelm, regret and hopelessness. There is no wonder why money has become the number one stressor and cause of marital breakdowns.
We have seen an increase in grandparents helping parents with a gift, or loan, of a down payment to reduce the financial stress load. This is an amazing and generous offering that allows families to become homeowners. However, there are many grandparents who are not in the position to bestow such a gift who still want to help.
Save for Education
The responsibility to save for post-secondary education weighs heavily on parents. While children are allowed to have more than one Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) open at a time, this option adds additional confusion around grants and bonds especially during the withdrawal period. You could encourage the parents to open the account as soon as possible and remind them that the BC government currently offers an additional $1200 grant if applied for between the ages of 6 and 9. Monthly, annual, or one-time contributions can be sent to the parents with the understanding that these funds will be deposited into the RESP.
Help with Extracurriculars
Playing multiple sports along with learning an instrument and swimming all in the same season is common these days. This comes along with significant costs, often into the thousands of dollars, for each child every year. When grandparents offer to pay for a class or summer camp they not only help with the parents’ budgeting they also provide a skill your grandchild will cherish into their adult years.
Invest for the Future
Teaching the next generation to invest in their future allows them to learn while the mistakes have little consequence. Include your grandchild by discussing the investment options based on your experience and knowledge, choosing the best fit, and regularly reviewing the progress and objectives. With your support, your grandchild will feel comfortable to ask questions, make mistakes and learn valuable lessons that will pay dividends in perpetuity.
Share Your Stories
History is the best teacher. Sharing stories of your first paycheque, how you saved for a house, what pension plans were offered or the cost of groceries when your kids were young give perspective to the current reality. While they may not be able to follow in your footsteps they will find their own path easier.
During the long, wet, winters on the island parents are often looking for activities to fill the weekends. Unfortunately, indoor activities often come with a large price tag like those at museums, movies and trampoline parks. Many of these establishments offer annual passes and gift cards which make wonderful Christmas and birthday gifts.
Buy the Equipment
If your grandchild is in extracurricular activities like sports and music, they likely need new equipment on a semi-regular basis. Before their next season starts, take them shopping for their new baseball glove or hockey skates and consider making this an annual event for the two of you.
Offer to Babysit
Babysitters can quickly double the cost of a night out for a couple looking for some time alone. Either a sleepover at your house or a visit to theirs can mean that mom and dad get to have some fun and the kids eat ice cream and stay up late creating memories with their grandparent.
Any grandparent who wants to help can find a way that works with their financial situation, location, and schedule. Raising children feels harder now than it used to be so this help can make a real difference. Regardless of how you choose to pitch in, please keep in mind of the additional stress parents are facing and do your best to help without judgement of the differences.