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Jul 18 2013

How Should a Grandparent Spend Her Money?

By at 9:47 am

flightWe married young, had children young, and by the time I was 31, we had two children in yeshiva day school. My husband worked long, hard hours and I was a stay-at-home mom for 18 years, the right decision for our family.

We paid for private schools, including Ivy League colleges, for four children as well as a master’s and a doctoral degree. We managed to pay off the loans about two years ago and left our kids with no debt. I don’t know how we did it and I often consider that God was making regular deposits into our bank account.

We have started small 529Ks for each grandchild and I am the best customer of the day at Gap Kids when I do a big shopping trip twice a year for clothes for them. We try to be generous with our gifts.

So why am I feeling guilty spending money on just us, my husband and me? Why am I troubled spending money to travel with my husband when we never had the time or money to do it earlier in our lives?

Why, before each trip, do I calculate what I could give the kids if we didn’t travel–money towards a down payment, towards their own astronomical yeshiva bills, another deposit into the 529s?

I know that there is a small window of time during which we can travel while we are still relatively young and in good health. Now that the kids are all married I feel that if, God forbid, something happens to us, I know they’ll be OK. I know that life gets less predictable and we feel more vulnerable as we age. I say to myself–if we don’t go and see the world now, we never will. Don’t we deserve to be good to ourselves, to travel as we love to do while we still have each other, while we can still handle the physical demands of international travel?

But that leaves less money for the kids, less for the grandchildren. Am I selfish not to help them more rather than spend the money on the expensive indulgence of world travel?

We taught our kids a good work ethic and important lessons about finances. From a very young age when they received money for birthdays or Hanukkah gelt, they were allowed to spend some but also had to save and give to tzedakah. Now, they all have good jobs and work hard and seem to be careful spenders.

Unlike many other parents I have observed, I don’t believe in supporting adult children. But I do believe in trying to make their lives easier. I never thought I’d feel like this, but if I had the money, I’d buy each one a house and help with the tuition bills. I don’t want them to worry about money like I did. Sometimes I feel inadequate because I would like to be able to help more. Then I start planning another trip and the nagging ambivalence kicks in again.

I hope that sometime soon I’ll make peace with my decisions about how I am spending money at this time in my life.

I hope that my children, through their own efforts, will be able to afford a nice house in a nice neighborhood, that they’ll be able to pay the tuitions without worry, that they will have material comfort and financial security.

And I’ll pick another exciting destination while thanking God for my husband’s and my good health and for the blessing that we still enjoy being together. And I’ll pray that we’ll be able to continue our travels for many years, that our journeys will take us far from home but, even after all these years together, still closer to each other.

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