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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Grandma, How Can I Help My Financially Dependent Son?

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Dear Susan B.,

I live in Michigan with my husband and my son. We are 67. We were investing in real estate and we did well, but soon discovered we could not retire. There are no pensions in the area. We asked our friends for help. My sons said we should start a business. But what kind of business? I have a few ideas, but what’s the best way? Where should we start and how would we raise the money to make a profitable business? Thanks for your input.

Happy Grandma

Dear Happy Grandma,

Gretchen, as you may already know, I have a way of thinking that makes most grandmas green with envy. As I get older, we older people frequently think we would be much, much happier if we could turn over more of our power to our children. Who among us would resist a chance to spend less time cooking, cleaning, reading, going to the doctor, etc., and spend much, much more time on happy pursuits that include swimming, painting, pottery, cross-country skiing, birdwatching, writing, learning new languages, studying languages, reaching for new goals, and maybe even making new friends.

While that may sound entirely unrealistic, I do believe in it. As we get older, we have had to learn how to rely on our own abilities and skills and push ourselves beyond the limits that have always been there for us. We understand that many people in our situation have to rely on financial support, but we have had to learn to be grateful for our retirements, whether we like it or not.

The difference between good parenting and great parenting is being able to lead your children into a world where they have hope and optimism that it will be OK for them. It is giving them a sense of what they have to be grateful for rather than what we have to be grateful for. You do this by letting them take care of themselves — building their confidence, having positive attitudes, making smart decisions, learning new skills and becoming more responsible. By giving them this sort of self-confidence and positive attitude, they feel they are capable of anything.

What’s important is not where you start with your business, but how long it takes you to get to that place of empowerment and competence. Once you have completed a project, you are ready to take on new projects.

We would hope that people of your financial age are already acquainted with the kinds of things that are necessary to be creative. The question is, will you stretch yourselves into new realms and ventures that really will make you feel good?

Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes about generational and economic issues. She may be contacted at elaine@brookings.edu.

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