How deep is your generosity?

By Karen Cifala

It is said that the Baby Boomers are the most generous generation. Really? I didn’t know that. It’s been reported that they are responsible for 43 percent of the giving in the USA because they are now in their peak earning years. Forty-three percent—wow! Despite not being very well prepared for retirement, they apparently feel they have more cash to give, or maybe they have other things to give as well.

In a recent article in the Guide to Retirement Living (, which by the way is a great book to pick up because it’s free and has an abundance of helpful information), I learned about a national study done in August 2013. It explored modern family interdependencies and the challenges Boomers faced in balancing them with their own retirement planning and financial security.

The study was conducted with a survey of more than 5,400 respondents over 50 years old, and it uncovered the fact that three out of five Boomers have provided financial assistance to members of their families, including their parents, children, grandchildren, siblings, or other relatives. This assistance was offered with no expectation of return, with the average financial assistance provided being $15,000 during the last five years—much more than that in the wealthiest families.

Also pointed out in the article was the fact that no matter what your long range financial plan was, most likely it didn’t include support for family members (according to 88 percent of respondents). Hint: bring that up with your financial advisor next time you meet! Time to build it into your retirement plans?!

Many of the other highlights of the study I found very enlightening included topics that I hadn’t necessarily considered “giving,” until I stopped to think about all the ways that one gives. Not just in a monetary sense, but in ways which still impact financial preparedness.

The Family Bank. There seems to be one member of every family who is the most financially responsible and approachable.

Sacrificing retirement for family. Sixty percent said they would retire late, 40 percent would return to work, and 36 percent say they would accept a less comfortable retirement lifestyle to help family members out. That’s generous, all right!

“Because it’s the right thing to do.” People age 50 and over are 20 times more likely to say this because their mindset, especially regarding inheritance, is to begin passing it along during retirement, rather than waiting until end of life.

Blended families and their effect on finances and planning. Nearly 2 in 5 people over age 50 are part of a blended family, and nearly 1/3 of those admit that it complicates financial planning, but still say they wouldn’t change a thing!

Perpetual parenthood and boomerangs. 1 in 5 parents have had at least one boomerang adult child who has moved back in with them and more than 2/3 of parents have provided some form of financial support. That’s got to have an effect on retirement plans!

Care-giving and receiving. No surprise here: 91 percent say they are not prepared to take care of their parents or a relative if long-term care is needed, and most people prefer to receive care in their own homes. Many Boomers are giving up their jobs and moving back in with their parents to take care of them. Generous, for sure!


Not surprising to me is that half of adults over age 50 have not discussed any important topics such as a will, health directives, inheritance plans, and where they plan to live in retirement with their adult children, much less how they should be financially cared for. This study pointed out a very important fact: proactive discussions and coordination with family members can be the difference between smooth sailing and significant hardship when confronting financial challenges leading up to and through retirement.

Across all relationships, fear of conflict ranked as a top barrier to discussion, while death or illness were the most common catalysts to finally broach difficult topics. It occurs to me that if we want to leave a legacy as “giving” people, maybe we should add another point of giving: If you are really feeling generous, give good advice and good information to your parents AND to your children. It’s FREE!

The valuable resources below are a good place to start:

Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging in Front Royal; (540)635-7141

VICAP; local help with your Medicare questions: (540)635-7141

Virginia Easy Access;

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging;

Senior Navigator —

US Social Security Administration;

US Veterans Affairs Department;

Karen Cifala, a realtor for Remax Roots in Berryville, is a senior real estate specialist specializing in transitioning and time-of-life issues facing seniors and their families. She is a member of the Professionals Working 4Seniors Resource group and has a wealth of information to share. She can be reached at (303)817-9374 or at Remax Roots in Berryville at (540)955-0911.