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Do this before you retire: Stop giving money to grown kids

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It was one of those online teases I couldn't resist: Three Retirement Moves You Should Make in Your 50s.

I clicked on the link to the cbsnews.com "Eye on America" video segment, frankly, more to find out where I'd made a wrong turn. Self-flagellation. Another self-inflicted told-ya-so.

We know you have a lot of financial obligations during those years, the reporter, financial analyst Mellody Hobson, said, but saving for retirement should be at the top of your list.

As the first of the Three Retirement Moves — 1. Pay off debt — came on the screen, the newscaster said having your mortgage paid off (is she kidding?) will really ease the financial pressure of retirement.

Well, cross that one off my list.

2. Stop subsidizing kids.

Get your kids off the dole, the newswoman advised. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of middle-aged parents gave money to their grown kids in the past year.

"If your child hits a rough patch, that's one thing, but subsidizing rent or insurance over the long term doesn't make financial sense.

"I know it's tough to do but you need to look out for yourself, too."

At that precise moment, the phone rang.

It was my younger son.

The subsidizee.

He actually didn't want money this time. In fact, he had started a new job the day before. But the week before that and the week before that and the week before that, he was definitely in a rough patch.

My problem as a mother is differentiating between a rough patch that blindsides him and a rough patch that he has plenty of time to steer away from if he wants to.

He had lost his (full-time, insurance-providing retail) job a month ago. Then, he had his car towed because he had three unpaid parking tickets.

Then, he had to move out of his downtown Chicago apartment — the lease was up and two of the four roommates were leaving, which made the place too big and expensive for the remaining two.

So, here I was living in paradise while my faraway son was jobless, homeless and car-less.

How could his mother not give him part of the money she has?

Add to that, I take much of the responsibility for the way he is. I have indulged that child since the day they laid his 9-pound, 10-ounce body on my belly in the delivery room 27 years ago. He never had a problem, financial or otherwise, that I couldn't find a way to get him out of. That's what moms are for, right?

Yeah, well, not exactly, I've since found out. I wish I would have allowed him to practice problem-solving and self-sufficiency on little things when he was 8 or 15 or even 20 so that by the time he grew up and moved away, he'd know that you shouldn't park your car in a space that is sure to land you a ticket, and that if you don't pay the tickets you got for parking in spaces you shouldn't have, they'll tow your car.

But, he has that new job and he found a place to live. And, his car's out of the impound lot. All's well ... for now, at least.

Which brings me to the last move the CBS financial guru suggested 50-somethings should make as retirement nears.

3. Reconsider your career.

Most polls say baby boomers will need or want to work after retirement, she said.

Start thinking about what kind of job will fit your lifestyle down the road and start moving in that direction.

Hmmm. What kind of job will fit my lifestyle?

Well, unless I suddenly, miraculously become able to put the words "mom" and "tough love" in the same sentence, I'm thinking the U.S. Treasury might be a good place to start.

Do this before you retire: Stop giving money to grown kids 04/21/14 [Last modified: Monday, April 21, 2014 5:01pm]
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