Satisfying Retirement In A Changing World: Parental Financial Planning


One of the topics that never fails to generate interest is almost anything to do with finances. That isn’t surprising. After our health, having a firm handle on one’s money is vital for most of us. As we age and either leave the workforce or look ahead to a time when regular income will stop, the key question becomes, ” Will I run out of money?” 

For most of us, I think the answer is, No. Are lifestyle changes, downsizing, and pulling back on what we spend possible? Absolutely. In fact, I would probably say, likely. In my case, Betty and I live on about 40-45% of our pre-retirement income. Cutbacks in the number of meals out or how often we replace clothing and furniture, and how often we replace a car have changed since retirement. Medicare has resulted in substantial health care savings compared to our pricy individual market policies.

Importantly, what we find most satisfying and where we choose to invest the bulk of our time and resources are different. Family-oriented activities and making memories have become so much more important than material items and things. Stuff just seems, well, like stuff. We joyfully spend money if it makes our daughters, grandkids, or son-in-law’s life easier and more fulfilling.

My dad passed away six years ago, in March 2015. I was the one charged with overseeing mom and dad’s final financial gifts to their three sons. Our parents’ desire was to make life better for their offspring, both during and after their lives. I have a firsthand view of how stunningly successful they were.

We grew up solidly middle class, which considering our circumstances, is quite remarkable. With almost 20 moves before I left for college, friends always assumed my dad was in the military. The reality was that he had a tough time holding onto jobs, so we were constantly moving to his next opportunity. One of my strongest childhood memories is our dining room table stacked high with resumes as dad gamely searched for work.

Throughout his periods of unemployment, he never became discouraged or took out his frustrations on the family. He did a masterful job of keeping his sons unaffected by his problems. Meanwhile, mom taught elementary school. Her steady paycheck kept us afloat. Most meals were simple casseroles, but we were never hungry and never wanting for anything important.

I am pretty sure only the death of my mom’s brother and her parents, all within two years of each other, allowed my parents to retire with the insurance and estate monies left behind. I can’t think they had much in the way of savings.

I can only speculate that is what prompted mom and dad to be so vigilant in protecting their assets and providing such a life-changing financial gift to the three boys. With so many periods of unemployment and living on just a teacher’s salary, leaving much of anything would seem unlikely, much less the balance sheet I was left looking at.

My parent’s financial planning gift made my future (and that of my brothers) much more secure. I am well aware that I am fortunate that my parents did what they did. 

I am not one of those folks who puts a bumper sticker on the back of a monstrous RV that says, “I am spending my kid’s inheritance.” Nor do I believe Betty and I should live a bare-bones life so we can pass everything along when we die.

But, I do take the lesson of my parents’ planning and thoughtfulness to heart and hope to make my children’s lives just a bit better and easier when the time comes.

We saved a lot and inherited more. But, that does not mean we are to spend it all in such a way that what my parents passed on to us or what we worked for should come to a grinding halt. 

As an important part of being a parent, I see that bringing some financial comfort to my offspring.