Greg Womack, president of Womack Investment Advisers and author of the bookWisdom and Wealth,says the key to maintaining workable multigenerational living situations is clearly defined legal and financial spaces and roles.
“Children should be very careful in commingling parents’ assets with their own, such as being added as a joint tenant on accounts, deeds and titles,” says Womack. “Get a durable power of attorney in place for each parent. Get a health care power of attorney for each parent. Have a regular financial checkup with the parents.”
Womack adds that these clearly delineated responsibilities will help make intergenerational living much smoother and will empower parents and children in an emergency. His first piece of advice: Sit down with your parents and talk about these issues. That’s especially important for recent college graduates living with parents or grandparents. A lack of clear discussions about responsibilities and expectations between the parties in a multigenerational home can leave both sides unsatisfied, Womack says.
Jensen, for one, struggles to help her grandparents out. But without a job, there’s little she can do financially to contribute to the household. Instead, she tries to reduce her impact on shared expenses and bills. “I’ve been buying in bulk, shopping less,” she says. “The electricity bill has been a real problem. We’re trying to cut back on heat, too.”
Jensen says that she will continue to look for a job, in the hopes that someday she will be able to provide for her grandparents. In the meantime, she is trying to accentuate the positive in a difficult situation.
“I didn’t ever see myself moving back home after college, certainly not for a long time,” she says. “But every day at home is another day I get to spend with my grandmother.”
Freddie deBoer is a writer living in Connecticut.