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Go ahead, help your kids out

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Posted: 10 am ET

Mark Zoril, who owns PlanVision, a retirement planning firm near Minneapolis, says he left his job with a much larger retirement advisory firm hecause he was encouraged to portray clients' retirement prospects in a negative light. "I just didn't like how they wanted me to put the fear of God into people," he says.

It doesn't take a fortune to retire comfortably, he says, pointing to his dad and mom, who are 84 and 81 respectively. They own their home free and clear and live on about $18,000 a year -- mostly from Social Security. "They have some discretionary spending, but it isn't that much any more," Zoril says.

Mark Zoril

Mark Zoril

"When people are in their late 70s and 80s, I see a huge drop off in their spending," Zoril says. "So many firms say to people, 'You're going to need a $1 million to retire.' They base it on inflationary spending well into people's 80s and even 90s. But nobody lives like that."

The biggest challenge many of his clients face, Zoril says, is not their personal need to spend. "In my experience, working people in their 40s, 50, 60s learn to get their budgets under control. They figure out that they aren't going to be millionaires, and they adapt their lifestyles. They know they are never going to Europe, so they decide to be content hanging around the house and having fun with the kids."

Put retirement security first

The biggest challenge for many retirees, he says, is that years later, they are still spending too much of their money on those kids they love so much -- even after the kids are grown and ought to be able to stand on their own feet. He sees this issue in his own family. "My parents are very working class. They never had a lot of money, but in retirement they have more money than they did during most of their lives because of Social Security. One of my nieces called them and asked for $1,000 and they sent it to her. My mother was very happy and gratified to be able to help. She wants her children and grandchildren to have the things they want and need."

Zoril says his parents are not unusual. He has many clients who are equally generous, even when their open-handedness jeopardizes their own retirement security.

If you see yourself in his story, Zoril has this advice: "Don't feel guilty about spending money on your family if it makes you happy."

But don't spend more than you can afford, and don't be "delusional" about how much is too much to spend on your kids.

Make sure you have enough to continue to live comfortably for the rest of your life. Then, as Zoril says, "If you want to give what's left over to your kids, so be it."

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Mark Zoril
April 17, 2015 at 5:53 pm

I agree with your comment, Joe. One of the most important things we will ever teach children is self reliance!

Joe M
April 16, 2015 at 11:58 am

As with all decisions like this, we need to be sure we are truly helping and not enabling bad behavior. Too many parents hurt their children by not letting them learn how to live honestly because mom will bail them out. Remember, mom and dad will not be here forever,then what do children do? We provide our children with a proper education,formal and informal,then they can take care of themselves, and have true self esteem.I wouldn't want to make my grown children dependent all their lives.

April 15, 2015 at 12:48 pm

I agree that if you can help a family member without causing harm to your family, then you should be happy to do it.

But, what if your spouse doesn't want to help them or unhappily finally agrees? This has happened to me. While I am happy we did it, I have to live with my spouse for whom I know is unhappy. Fortunately it doesn't last long because, thankfully, time heals all wounds.