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Whose Money Is It, Anyway?

Most of us would like to pass wealth on to our heirs, be they children, nieces, nephews, or dear friends. But sometimes, life disrupts our good intentions. That's the situation for many retirees today, who continue to suffer because of the weak economy.

The stock market is still way down from its 2007 peak, and interest rates are at rock-bottom. It's no wonder that retirees in particular are worried about their financial futures. They don't have all the time younger generations have to make up for stock-market losses.

If you're concerned about your dwindling nest egg, it's time to reconsider your good intentions. It's your money, so how compelled should you feel to save it to benefit someone else? No one needs or deserves your savings more than you. If you can simply avoid becoming a financial burden on your children or other family members, you've accomplished something wonderful. And it's all the better if you can spend a bit more to have an enjoyable retirement.

Help Adult Children; Don't Enable Them

The recession has and will continue to affect vast numbers of people, including, perhaps, your adult children. Parents can often be a source of financial help to get a child over a rough patch.

Whether you are already helping or think you may want to do so in the future, keep these two matters in mind:

First, can you easily afford the outlay? I have received several disturbing e-mails from parents who don't have much money left themselves, but who still feel compelled to help their kids. While this may be a natural inclination, you don't want to impair your own financial future. As callous as it may sound, you may simply have to say that you can't afford to help.

Second, if you are providing financial assistance, don't let temporary assistance turn into an annuity for the family member. You have to draw the line somewhere; otherwise, you might end up coddling your offspring to the point where they view the periodic assistance as an entitlement.

Communicate Your Intentions

Whatever your plans, discuss them with your children or other heirs. Don't limit the discussion to money. If all you're likely to be able to give are valuables or mementos, by all means let your heirs know what items you would like them to inherit. After all, while money is nice, family heirlooms, and the memories that come with them, are priceless.


All the information presented on AARP.org is for educational and resource purposes only. We suggest that you consult your financial or tax adviser with regard to your individual situation. Use of the information contained in this Web site is at the sole choice and risk of the reader.

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