Dear Grandparenting: It’s my fault and there’s no getting around that. I was the fool who wrote that big check in the first place. But when my daughter announced she was going to make me a first-time grandparent, all my reason flew right out the window. I was beyond happy. Now my grandson is 13 months old and I’m still paying. None of this has escaped notice of my other children. Two are married and may want to start their own families. What am I going to say when they come to me for their money next?
I told myself I would be there for my children when they brought my grandchildren into this world. I don’t ever recall saying I would be there forever. Money can change relationships. My family is no exception. I worry about the money and I worry about any hurt feelings that could arise. There has to be a better way to do this and I wish I’d known about it sooner. Dallas Boyer, Battle Creek, Michigan
Dear Dallas: It takes $245,000 to raise a child to age 18, according to government data. And with so many living from paycheck to paycheck, two out of three Americans don’t have $500 in savings to cover a car repair, much less a newborn.
Grandparents are quick to step up, sometimes without the benefit of reasoned thought or planning. And you’re right about one thing — money does change relationships. It’s an often divisive and awkward topic, especially when it gets personal. The casual, well-intentioned promise of forthcoming funding across the supper table can become a family nightmare.
First decide whether you can truly afford to help — is it money earmarked for other purposes? Is it a loan or gift? Put it all in writing, including if payments are missed or the loan is not repaid. Consult IRS-approved interest rates for family loans above $14,000 — the annual limit for tax-free gifts. If you don’t charge interest, the IRS could impose taxes on interest you could have collected, even if you didn’t. Grandparents who lack the cash or want to avoid sticky situations can learn to say no respectfully, to keep the peace.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Lenore Olsen from Marysville, Washington, reports that her son, Bjorn, 6, tried to hijack her holiday mistletoe for the love of his grandmother.
When Bjorn inquired about the mistletoe he noticed in his home, Lenore told him, “You stand under it with someone and kiss them.” Soon enough, Lenore saw mistletoe leaves and a pillow on the floor beneath the mistletoe.
Bjorn confessed right up. His pillow attack had failed to dislodge the mistletoe, just dent it. “I wanted to get it down so I could go to grandma’s house and kiss her,” said Bjorn. The lucky grandmother is Virginia Greenlee, also of Marysville.
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.