“It takes a village to raise a kid”; I believe it takes a village to raise a family, which includes the grandparents, parents, and kids.
Traditional Chinese culture teaches whole-hearted reciprocation of love and care for our parents. Multi-generational living was common and expected when my parents were kids. Unfortunately, this wonderful tradition is fading out.
My father recently decided to move in with us, at least temporarily, with the ultimate goal of my parents living within walking distance of us. As my partner, my daughter, my dad, and I embark on this new adventure, I am once more reminded of the benefits of multigenerational living. As the merits of combing the strengths of all 3 generations are bounty, I’ll try to focus on discussing the economical advantages here.
- Division of labor. Each generation has unique offering. Grandparents offer time, wisdom, and flexibility. Parents work and focus on the logistics of caring for the old and the young. Grand kids are sources of boundless energy and love.
- Grandparents provide the best childcare money can’t buy. My partner has been a dedicated stay at home father. However, even my daughter feels that he is short-changing himself staying at home. We have long concluded as a family that him getting a job and us hiring someone else to care for Mini Wise Money was better than him staying at home. Yet he was reluctant to have a non-family member care for Mini. The day he knew my dad was moving in and would happily care for Mini, my partner got a 40-hr job with bonus overtime shifts.
- I plan to set up a tutoring/consulting business and pay my retired father for childcare while I’m working, which will allow him to maximally contribute to ROTH IRA starting in 2015 (he currently has no ROTH account). Since Roth IRAs are not subject to Required Minimum Distributions during the owner’s lifetime, we can keep putting away tax-free ROTH money for Dad. Meanwhile, I am happy to support my parents financially (as they have little savings, and no social security checks.) If we manage to not pull any funds from dad’s ROTH IRA for the next several decades, it can become a tremendous tax-free legacy fund for Mini.
- Young parents are naturally inclined to focus on the logistics of day to day living. As it turns out, my partner and I are obsessed with doing our best in every little detail of caring for Mini. This is a double edged sword. As we expend so much energy in putting Mini on the side of car with shade depending on the direction we’re driving and time of the day, or constantly reminding her to drink water and sit straight, we run out of energy when it comes to playing or simply having a good time with her. While both my partner and I think we should relax more as parents, we are making baby steps in mellowing out. On the contrary, my dad simply doesn’t want to deal with logistics nowadays and can be more PRESENT with Mini than us. So we care for him the same way we care for Mini: we put food on the table and call them for dinner; we take them to doctor’s, dentist’s appointments; we nudge them to go on family walks and outdoor activities, etc. The foci across 3 generations are different, and combining our foci plays to each of our unique strength.
- Action speaks louder than words. One time right before I boarded a plane for job interview, Mini gave me a massage. As she was rubbing lotion into shoulders, she said, “Mommy, I told you I would take care of you when you are old.” I was so touched. I don’t tell Mini to take care of me in old age; she simply sees us taking care of our parents.
- Savings on travel expenses. Grandparents love to see grand kids and vice versa. Why not live together and cut out the hefty plane rides!
- Combine forces. Why pay 2 utility bills, 2 internet bills, 2 garbage bills, etc… when you can pay just one!
- More resourcefulness and creativity, less spending and shopping. I know many friends and family members who enjoy retail therapy and are shoppoholics. While my partner and I are already content and not seeking more material comforts, I’ve noticed a greater level of contentment and gratitude in our home since my dad’s arrival. There is a greater draw to come home and stay home, to cook dinner and sit down with one another and share our day. I guess this general enhancement of our family morale is one of the most valuable things of multi-generational living, which are often intangible and hard to quantify.
- Do you think multi-generational living is for you? why and why not?
- Is funding grandparent’s ROTH IRA as a potential legacy fund a good idea?
- What is the division of labor in your (multi-generational) household?
- What have you taught your kids through your interactions with your parents?