Lately it has come to my attention that many parents see their children as a means of retirement. I am not talking about those near (or at) retirement age who have lost their retirement funds due to the bad economy. Rather, I am referring to those who “invest” in their children from the beginning so that the children can support them in their old age.
From talking to my friends — especially those of Asian descent — I have found that this phenomenon is more common than I thought. The parents make many sacrifices while pressuring their kids to go to good schools and get good jobs in hopes that one day, the children will realize just how much their parents have given up for them and willingly invite them into their homes and provide and care for them as soon as possible.
I know of families whose parents quit their jobs as soon as the children finish school and start working, assuming that the kids will provide for them.
I also know of families whose parents pressure the kids to pay for their vacations and demand lavish gifts.
Do your parents see you as a means of retirement?
Will you expect your kids to care for you in your old age?
I have personally never dealt with this kind of pressure from my parents. My parents have sacrificed everything for me and my sister. However, they do not expect us to care for them. They are building a retirement fund that will allow them to live independently from us so that they will not be a financial burden to their daughters.
This isn’t to say that I plan on cutting off my parents as they grow older. I will definitely give them money if needed and provide assistance as I see fit. I even give (and will continue to give) lavish gifts once in a while as signs of my love and appreciation. At the same time, I know that they really expect nothing but intangible love, not money or gifts.
I fully plan on doing the same for my children because I do not believe that having children should be a selfish act. Having said that, I can understand how some people would feel differently. Because at the end of the day, having kids is practically a surefire drain on your finances; why not expect them to return the favor?
Having children is a choice and a privilege. If it is too much of a financial burden then they should not have had children to begin with. If the child chooses to support the parent that is wonderful. Having the parent bank on a child is a horrible way to plan for the future. Extorting money for luxuries like travel is inexcusable. I can’t comprehend this mindset.
Interesting, I know this is relatively common in asian families (my grandma had the same mindset, too!). I am lucky to have parents who did very well for themselves, worked hard, retired in their 40’s, and keep trying to buy US stuff. They paid for my college, bought my first car, helped DH and I with our first home, want to take us on vacation with them….I’m very blessed and I realize this. They see their money as, "we have plenty, let us help YOU," not the other way around. They put me through college so I could have a great job (and i do) so that I could return the favor to my own children, not to them. They want me to SAVE, not spend. They encouraged me to go into a field that is stable and pays well so I wouldn’t be needy (i’m an engineer). My parents expect nothing from us but love (and probably grandkids on some level, haha…even though my Dad has told me it’s our decision and he’ll support us if we don’t) and would never expect us to sacrifice for them. They don’t want to go to homes, they don’t want to be a drain on our finances (or, their own, because they’ll comment that they don’t want to strip me of my inheritance). They are TRULY very selfless like that.
They expect our TIME when we come visit or vice versa, but they were very responsible in setting up for their own retirement so that they wouldn’t become a "burden" on us, and that’s how they’d see it. I don’t really buy my parents gifts (gift cards for dinners sometimes, or special things from the city, or i make korean food for them since i have all the ingredients available to me, unlike them, and then i send them home with a HUGE batch!)….they have so much money it feels stupid to buy them lavish things and they tell me this. They can buy anything they want–what they want are the intangible things, and my mom has often told me, "Em, you know how GOOD it makes me feel that you make X?" Seeing me succeed and be able to provide well for my own family is more than enough for them. They don’t expect anything more from me. Heck, i gave my mom a box of my leftover clothes and she was just SO grateful…they’re awesome =]
This is interesting, but not something I’ve ever come across. The closest I’ve seen is a friend whose parents own a business and encouraged all the kids to take leadership positions in the company after college, and then the parents stepped back into retirement. That’s different, though, because the parents paved the way to specific jobs (and even made all the kids VPs!).
I agree that having children should not be a selfish act. I have a friend with a 10-year-old son who just started mowing the lawn and he’s talking about his return on investment. That’s a joke, but I can’t imagine expecting my kids to take care of me. I don’t think I’d want them to. You made a good point saying that children should return the financial favor for their parents, but I disagree — the parents have to provide for children because they’re kids and can’t take care of themselves; adults should take care of themselves unless age or health prevents them from doing so. The poor health situation seems like a different point here.
I have heard of parents doing this but my parents (thankfully) have not been one of them. They have plans for thier futures and it doesn’t include depending on me. I couldn’t even think of doing that to my daughter. I made her I provide for her! I want her to have the best life possible, I am not her child why would I depend on her? people who think they should are way backwards.
@Emily — My parents are the same exact way. Even when I give them the smallest gifts (or even stuff I don’t use anymore) they are SOOO grateful. And just like your parents, mine only expect me to return the favor to my own children, not to them.
@Jessica — I think you misunderstood me; I never said that children should return the favor to their parents, but I can understand those who think so.
I know this is common in more traditional Asian families, but my family is pretty well off from years of saving and never spending (other than on us daughters) and will not need our assistance. Husband’s parents own their own business, and they don’t have as much saved up, but will be able to live decently when they retire (next year) after they pay off their mortgage and start receiving social security benefits. We still give them money from time to time, not because they ask for it, but because they have provided so much for us that we want to be able to repay them. It’s the least we can do to help them out.
I am the daughter of two immigrants, one from the Caribbean and one from Africa. (Just saying this, because I think it informs my view on this matter.)
I would be furious if, in my old age/infirmity, my children did not take care of me. I wouldn’t want to be put in a nursing home unless absolutely necessary, because they mistreat old people in some of those places. I don’t think of it as a "you owe me" type of thing either (what kind of BS is that? You don’t loan your "love" to your children in expectation of something in return) — I think that, if you have a good relationship with your children, they’d want to take care of you when you get older. That being said, if I’m just an old person, but I don’t have any troubles or illnesses and it’s not dangerous for me to live alone, then no, I don’t need to live with my kids just for the hell of it or because I don’t want to pay for anything.
It’s tricky, isn’t it? Expectations never bode well. And then I think, what about honoring your father and mother? And loving others as you love yourself? Tough, tough call.
My in-laws are 80 yrs old and both are in poor health. Sometimes they say offensive things to me and push the boundaries. My husband tries to stick up for us as a unit, but they haven’t ever apologized or changed their behavior.
We’re at the point now where we just shrug and say to each other "Dude. They’re OLD."
Oh no! I understood that you were pointing out the opposite of what you plan to do and what your parents have done for you and your sister. I meant that I can’t even get my head around that much expectation, for precisely the reasons I mentioned!
My parents see us as a retirement fund. It wasn’t until 10 years ago that we realized what the deal was, and forced them to save for their own darn retirement.
That being said, they never invested in us. They fed us, loved us, clothed us, but didn’t save money aside or do anything above that.
*shrug* It’s how it is. But while I will let them move in and stay with me forever if they wanted (feed them, etc).. I will never pay for their luxuries — new car for example.