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The era of children moving out at 19 years old and becoming fully financially independent is slowly disappearing. With soaring housing prices and easier access to credit, younger generations are becoming more and more indebted. These days, it is not uncommon to see several generations living under the same roof. But what do these changes mean for seniors?

As a Licensed Insolvency Trustee at Grant Thornton Limited, I’ve seen an increasing number of seniors coming into my office seeking advice on tackling their debt. One of the top reasons for their increasing levels of debt is that they have been supporting their children and at times, their grandchildren as well, often beyond their own means.

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Statistics Canada , close to 1.9 million people in Canada, or 9% of the adult population aged 25 to 64, are still living with their parents. This is more than double the figure found in 1995. With children and grandchildren living at home, seniors are less likely to downsize into retirement, meaning they continue to support a more expensive home even when on a fixed income. With the whole family living under the same roof, even if they are financially independent, senior parents and grandparents are more likely to continue to pay a disproportionate amount of the costs.

One of the major reasons adults do not move out of their family home is that they are in post-secondary studies and therefore are not earning an income. Another reason is that the adult has been unable to obtain steady employment and cannot afford to live on their own. The study found that adults who lived with a parent were less likely to have worked in full- time permanent jobs. These situations can put a strain on the household owner. Often times, this means that the parents or grandparents are the sole financial contributors to household expenses.

One of the most significant impacts of seniors financially supporting their children is that it is delaying their retirement. According to a report by the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) and Credit Canada, one-in-five seniors are still working and 12% are still providing financial support to their children.

Giving your family members money and helping them pay their bills may seem like the natural role of a parent that cannot be avoided, but there are several things to take into account. If you have children or grandchildren still living at home, you should make sure that everyone is aware of the financial impact of them living with you and do what you can  to have the children contribute to the household budget. If you already have significant debt from credit cards and mortgages, straining your finances to help others will just make your own situation worse. Have an honest conversation with your children and be completely open about any financial struggles.

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As Managing Partner of the Consumer Insolvency practice, I help individuals with overwhelming debt get financial fresh starts. I also help companies from diverse industries—ranging from manufacturing and retail to fishing and forestry—overcome their financial challenges. I’ve served as past President of the Nova Scotia Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals, past President of the Atlantic Chapter of the Risk Management Association and past board member of the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals. Prior to joining Grant Thornton, I held the role of CFO at an engineering firm with offices across Canada and the US, as well as the role of corporate controller at a publicly-traded firm with interests across radio, shipping and newspapers. I am passionate about my community. I am a board member and treasurer of the Strongest Families Institute, which helps families with children experiencing mental illness and behavioural issues and, previously, I supported the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia in a number of volunteer roles. When not helping clients, I spend my time playing tennis, running and enjoying live music.