How Finances Affect Grandparents Mobility


We have become a more mobile society.  With more and more families moving to chase the bigger paychecks, the American ideal of living in the town where you grew up is becoming the stuff of films instead of our lives. But alongside that change is another one, that of grandparents pulling up stakes when they retire to move closer to their adult children. This is especially true when the grandkids begin to arrive. Just how much finances affect grandparent moves is part of the latest trend. When you combine it with some other housing trends, a picture of how grandparents fit into their grandchildren’s lives begins to emerge.

Younger and More Affluent Grandparents
The 2010 census revealed a few trends, one of them that of younger grandparents as well as more affluent ones. It showed 54% of grandparents were 45 to 64, below the usual retirement age. This group was more affluent then the older group, with a mean household income of $81,000. This puts them well above the average household income of $68,000. They could afford to travel while still working, especially if the grandkids were within a two hour drive of home. That changed when the kids moved further for work or opportunities.

Early Retirement and Greater Mobility
With some families, taking early retirement and moving near the grandkids may be just the ticket. With the move towards putting family first, and the high cost of childcare, it may be more advantageous for kids to help their parents move out to be near the grandkids. But it can involve sacrifice, including the much anticipated leisure of moving from northern climates to places like Florida. But for some families, particularly those whose personal relationships are strong, it is worth it.

Moving In instead of Moving Out
There has been a move towards the reintroduction of “grandparent houses” or laneway homes for many families. This often means building a small house in the back of the grandparent’s home for the kids. When grandchildren arrive the order is often reversed, with the grandparents in the smaller back home and the children and grandchildren taking over the larger family home. This can all happen without having to sell or incur taxation.

More Than Finances Affect Grandparents Decisions
The costs of moving go beyond the dollars and sense of a bank balance. For grandparents who pull up stakes and move to be near their grandkids, there is also the difficulty of leaving behind long term friendships. Communities they were part of for decades are hard to rebuild later in life. Looking at the cost of living in a child’s new location and budgeting for it should also be a factor. But for many grandparents the joy of being a part of their grandchild’s formative years was worth the gamble. Building on those memories and keeping the family bonds strong can be a trade off well worth making.

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