Retirement & Financial Planning Report

The aging of the population is bringing with it a boom in grandparents and today’s granddad and grandma are more likely to be financially supporting their own children and grandchildren than in prior generations, according to a report from the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

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It said that the number of grandparents is at an all-time high, now 65 million and projected to reach 80 million in 2020, growing at a rate twice as fast as that of the overall population. However, in contrast to the traditional image of elderly and frail grandparents, most of today’s grandparents are baby boomers, who are now between 45 and 64 years old.

Because of that demographic, today’s grandparents are more likely to be college educated and fully employed than those of the past. That means that in contrast to the traditional image of a person living on a limited fixed income, grandparents now are more likely to be wage earners in stable, high-paying jobs.

"In the past decade, many grandparents have seen substantial and real increases in theirhousehold incomes while their offspring have fallen behind," it said. Real income is increasing for households of persons 55 or older, in contrast to the decline in real income for households of persons 44 and younger. Meanwhile, consumer spending by the older group "has been rising at rates well above inflation and faster by far than any other age category."

One result is that about one in 10 households headed by someone who is a grandparent has at least one grandchild living with them. "Part of the reason for this is the recession-driven high unemployment among their grandchildren’s parents," the report said.

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For example, spending on items for children such as clothing, toys and games by the 55-plus age group is up by 71 percent from 1999, and spending on school tuition and supplies has tripled.