Financial Freedom: Do it for the Kids

As I sit by in another country – able only to offer prayer and support – watching my dear friend and biz partner Ruth transitioning her beloved mother to a senior home, I can’t help but think what a relief it must be that they don’t have to worry about money at a time like this. Ruth’s parents lived frugal lives and saved well, and Ruth and her DH began their own journey out of debt and are now on the last leg of their journey, slated to have their mortgage paid off in just a few short years.

Changes and Motivation

Life changes such as watching your parents age are difficult, but they’re much more difficult if you’re struggling with how you will pay for the costs of those life changes.

This is part of what keeps us plugging away at our debt load. As a child, I watched my paternal grandparents struggle with money constantly. Bad decision after bad decision kept them broke and struggling to make payments and have enough money for the very basics. Their eight children routinely gave them Christmas gifts and birthday gifts that covered basic needs such as food, paying the electric bill or paying for home repairs in their small, ancient home.

As we work toward debt freedom all I can think about is that I want Rick and I to be a financial blessing to our kids – not a financial burden. I want to be able to take the whole family – the kids, their spouses, the grandkids and all – on vacations and out to dinner. I want to be able to give them occasional surprise checks for Christmas.

However, those things will only happen if Rick and I continue on our path to pay off our debt and build up our savings.

Keep the End Goal in Mind

On the days when I feel discouraged, or on the days when I’m feeling elated that we’ve come so far and having to discipline myself to not spend as I work to remember what is truly important to us, I remember that we have four beautiful children that deserve to not have to support us as we age. Know that this is not a criticism, just an observation of what I saw as a young person; struggling grandparents and their struggling kids trying to feed their own families and their parents at the same time.

My dad, having overcome his own decades of financial troubles, is working a kick-tail savings and debt payoff plan with his wife. I’m nearly 100% certain that he won’t need a dime for us in his old age.

My mom, whom I wrote about here, has zero debt but only a small retirement fund left. We may have to help support her in a few years. And I want to be prepared financially for that too. I don’t want having to support her hurt our own family financially, but instead be a blessing to her that we can easily give.

In other words, our end goal is to be a financial blessing and not a financial burden to those around us, and to teach our kids to do the same. So much of what we do each week in our quest to be debt free is motivated by our kids. There is something about that unconditional love that parents have for children that makes them be able to do extraordinary things.

One of the extraordinary things you can do for your kids is to pay off your debt and build yourself up a substantial savings account. Then, when you get to the age where you need to change your living situation, money won’t be a factor. Instead, the family can focus on loving you and loving each other through each transition, like Ruth’s family gets to do. Money troubles only make transitions more difficult. When you don’t have to worry about money, you can focus on what matters most: people.

19 comments on “Financial Freedom: Do it for the Kids

  1. That’s a great goal and one I share, Laurie. At this point, it feels a bit overwhelming to plan for long-term care and unknown costs in the later years, but I know we are doing the right things to set ourselves up to not be a burden.

    My grandfather did just this and each of his children received an inheritance. My father has used some of it to help out my siblings if they need it. It’s neat to think about how my grandfather’s discipline and wisdom with money is helping his grandchildren in ways he never expected.

  2. It’s so easy to not think of the retirement years when you’re young. Personal Finance blogs like Fruclassity, Prudencedebtfree, and TheFrugalFarmer, do a valuable public service. You may never know just how many people benefit from them, but if I had to give a rough estimate, I would say ~ A LOT! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kay. Yes, for years we thought “Oh, it’s so far away. We have time to get our financial crap together.” Now I’m heading on fifty and we’re feeling the urgency. If not for ourselves, then for the kids.

  3. Being able to pick up the check or do things to create family memories are great goals to have for the long, long term. Little things make a difference. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is such an important post! It can be hard to think that far ahead when you’re younger. I remember when my husband was trying to convince me that contributing to his 401k in our 20s was a good move. And I thought retirement seemed so far away and we had plenty of time. And now, in our 40s, being at that point where we may need long term care still seems far off. But I also know time passes much too quickly and it’s comforting to know we will have enough to not be a burden on our children.

  5. Both of our parents are on the path to being debt-free and building there retirement accounts. You can say they did life “backwards” as my wife & I were both born right after our parents graduated high school spent their 20s & 30s raising a family & not necessarily saving for the future. But, in the last decade or so they have started thinking more about retirement & getting rid of their interest payments.

    From their experience, we were both more intentional during our teens & 20s. We also think it’s because we are the firstborn children as well & remember when our parents lived paycheck to paycheck before they received a promotion or two.

  6. This is such a critical topic to consider, Laurie! Like you, I have seen first hand the impact of a lean retirement account. Like so many other readers, Mr. Money Tree and I want to be a blessing for generations to come. Our families didn’t instruct either of us on money, and we have no current knowledge of what plans our parents have made for their retirement or beyond.

    I like the advice that Dave Ramsey gives regarding wills/trusts. He says to sit down, as a family, and go over the Will/Estate Plan that has been prepared, while you are still alive. It sounds radical, but what a way to open up honest discussion and share feelings about the outcome of your wishes. It seems like it would be a smart approach to keep family unity and minimize hurt feelings during the difficult time of losing a parent.

    It frustrates me that there is such privacy/stigma attached to money discussions. I believe that you and Ruth are helping to change that mindset with your openness about your financial journeys.

  7. Good topic Laurie. I know as we try and get out of debt, it is important to think long term and not want to unnecessarily burden our kids with our debt and/or financial burdens.

  8. This is a timely post as I had this very same conversation with my mom just 2 weeks. She started saving for retirement just a year ago and didn’t do any asset allocation so she lost a year of gain. Now I finally convinced her to move some of her cash out of the bank and into Vanguard. I may have sounded callous when I told her that I won’t be able to afford to take care of her but thankfully she’s accepting my help and advice. She has 14 years to retirement so if her health stays well enough she should be fine. For my so , I want to be able to impart wealth to him while living well in retirement. Thanks for this post!

  9. Fantastic post. I’m thankful that both my parents and my in-laws did a great job of managing their finances. My husband and I are striving to do the same so we don’t become a financial burden to our children.

  10. I’ve been quite fortunate in this regard. My parents had well paying jobs and saved up a sizable nestegg. This means they can go where they want, live how they want, and generally do whatever they want.

    In addition, they paid my tuition, allowing me to graduate debt free. My mom always says “if your business ever fails in the future, at least you can always come home! You don’t have to worry about being unable to feed yourself”.

    I truly am blessed.

  11. Thank you, Laurie for your kindness and support. Much, much appreciated : ) Such a great post. Your children are very, very fortunate to have you as parents.

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