Home Perspectives Ask Ella When can we stop giving and start living?

When can we stop giving and start living?

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Dear Ella,

Last week at bridge, the topic of paying for our kids homes came up. Gloria bragged about her daughter’s new house, which she gave her the down payment for. The other girls chimed in and said they had done the same. I stayed quiet.

My husband and I have raised three children. We both worked since we were teenagers. We put all three kids through school, paying for their residence, tuition, books, entertainment. We paid our share for two elaborate weddings as well. Our youngest is still at home.

We have plans for our retirement. We want to finally do some travelling and have been saving for this goal. I’m feeling so guilty that we’re not giving this money to help our children buy homes. Maybe we really should rethink our financial goals? Thoughts?

Retirement Remorse

Dear Retirement Remorse

It’s true that getting into the real estate market in many parts of Canada is difficult, especially Toronto and Vancouver. Each family is different. Don’t judge yourself by your friend’s situations. I guarantee you are not hearing the whole story.

Contrary to what many parents and children feel, you were not put on this earth to only serve your kids. You, too, are entitled to a life. You should feel proud that you gave your kids the tools they need to make choices and create lives for themselves. If they have to move out of the city, or rent, or buy a small condo while they save, so be it. It’s called life.

Not everyone has to move into the best neighbourhood and have a kitchen with granite counters at the snap of a finger. If you want to help and have some savings put aside, you might consider a loan. Set it up as a mortgage on the home. The money will still be yours to spend as they pay it down.

You’ve given your kids the best gift possible: the gift of being able to stand on their own two feet. It’s a feeling many kids today don’t know, and there’s no feeling like it. You and your husband worked your whole lives to give your kids a proper foundation from where they can build a future for themselves. Be proud of that accomplishment. You’ve more than earned this retirement. Now go enjoy it.

READ: THE CHALLENGE OF THE JEWISH MIDDLE CLASS


Dear Ella

The day our grandson was born was the happiest day of our lives. We can’t get enough of that precious face and those chubby thighs. Ethan is almost one and my daughter-in-law is due back to work. She asked if we would be willing to look after Ethan so she wouldn’t have to put him in daycare. My first reaction was elation. Now that reality has set in, I’m thinking this is far too great a commitment. I don’t want to be selfish, but I have other commitments, and we like to go to Florida for a month in the winter. How am I going to break the news to my son and his wife after telling them I could handle this?

Inadequate Grandma

Dear Inadequate Grandma

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. How about a compromise? Maybe you can enjoy time with Ethan for one or two days a week? There are other options for Ethan’s care besides you.

I’m sure your daughter-in-law was thinking of the best environment for her baby, and that would be with his grandparents. You obviously felt it was right too, because you immediately agreed. Sometimes something can be right in your heart, but not so practical in reality. It’s a huge commitment and not really a fair question to pose to a doting grandma.

Be realistic. You’ve raised your family, it’s time to enjoy your life. Of course, your grandchildren are a huge part of that enjoyment, but they are not the only part. Think this through carefully and give your son and daughter-in-law a realistic answer of what you are prepared to commit to. I’m sure they will be appreciative. 


Ella is the author of  Hidden Gold – A True Story of the Holocaust. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.

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