My plan is to raise financially fit children so that, when the times come, they can get out of my house and off my books.
I love my children, but I look forward to the day they can support themselves. If they need help here and there, my husband and I are willing to assist.
But, for various reasons, some parents who are long into their retirement years find themselves still having to financially support their grown children. And I’m not talking about young adults just out of college.
The Pew Research Center has found that “among the 60-plus set without jobs anymore, 43 percent are still helping grown kids out with the bills,” reports Chris Taylor of Reuters.
This trend is troubling.
“Older Americans are entering a new, more dangerous phase: Supporting their adult kids not out of new income streams coming in, like annual salaries, but out of their own pot of existing savings,” Taylor writes.
Kim Parker, Pew Research Center’s director of social trends research, says in the Reuters story: “Obviously, families are doing what they have to do to support each other. But I assume it’s going to become much more financially stressful for them if they don’t have new income coming in.”
It’s natural for parents to want to help their kids. But, as Taylor points out, “such familial generosity can have long-term implications that need to be taken seriously. After all, retirement-fund withdrawal rates are critical to how long the money ultimately lasts.”
Color of Money Question of the Week
Is it assisting or enabling when senior parents are still supporting their not-so-young adult children? Send your responses to email@example.com. Put “Seniors Supporting Adult Children” in the subject line, and include your full name, city and state.
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File Your Taxes Early
Even though the Internal Revenue Service will not begin processing 2013 individual tax returns until Jan. 31, the agency is urging taxpayers, who qualify for the Free File program to submit their tax returns early, reports Kelly Phillips Erb of Forbes.
The Free File program, conducted in partnership with private-sector tax-preparation companies, offers software that will assist those with low or moderate incomes to prepare and e-file their returns. Taxpayers with an annual gross income in 2013 of $58,000 or less are eligible. Each participating company sets its own eligibility requirements. Look carefully to see if you qualify to work with a particular company in the Free File alliance. Eligibility may include your age, state or military status. The commercial software companies that provide their Free File tax prep products at no cost can be found at IRS.gov/freefile.
Geoff Williams of U.S. News offers some advantages to filing early.
-- Get your money quicker. Getting a refund sooner rather than later is always a great thing. “But try not to fall into the trap of thinking you need the refund before the IRS can get it to you,” Williams writes. “Some tax preparation services offer refund anticipation loans, which have steep fees that eat into that refund.”
-- Prevent yourself from becoming a victim of identity fraud. “The sooner you file your return, the less opportunity someone else has to file a return in your name,” says Joe Reynolds, identity fraud product manager at Travelers, headquartered in New York, said Williams.
Taxpayers should elect to receive their tax refunds through direct deposit “so criminals can’t have it redirected to their address or steal it from your mailbox,’’ Reynolds added.
When filing your returns this year, you may be taking some tax breaks that won’t be available to you for your 2014 return, reports Carole Feldman of the Associated Press.
Feldman compiled a list of tax breaks that have expired. Here are a few:
-- Education tax break: Gone is the maximum $4,000 deduction for tuition and required fees to attend an institution of higher education. The deduction for interest paid on student loans and the American Opportunity and lifetime learning credits are still available.
-- Charitable donations: If you’re 70½ or older, gone is the tax break that allowed you to contribute to charities directly from an individual retirement account. “This direct contribution allowed seniors to avoid having to declare the amount withdrawn from the IRA as income — and pay taxes on it,” Feldman writes.
-- Commuter credit: As Feldman points out, many employees take advantage of employer programs that allow them to pay for certain commuting costs on a pretax basis. The amount of money set aside for mass transit before it’s taxed is decreasing from $245 a month to $130.
Nadya Suleman, dubbed “Octomom” for giving birth to octuplets, is facing charges that she lied about her income when she was receiving state financial aid, according to recent reports.
For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: Does Suleman’s choice to have children she can’t afford insult you?
“There is always more than one side to a story,” wrote Alli Kaplan of Austin. “I haven’t heard Suleman’s side, and I cannot pretend to be offended when I don’t truly know where she is coming from. I am not in the least bit insulted by someone else’s choice to have 14 children. Why should I be? I disagree that she deserves nothing. She deserves compassion, as every human being does. Vitriol directed at her will not turn back the clock and unmake a decision.”
Tracey L H Martin wrote on Facebook, “Yes, it’s grossly irresponsible Ms. Suleman [to have] children she can’t afford. . . Finances do play a key role in parenting, as it affects your ability to provide basic necessities (food, shelter, education) and your emotional in/output (nurturing, guidance, affection). Also, Ms. Suleman is probably doing her best to overcome, but thinking, ‘I could have done this another way.’ And I would agree: It’s always best to think things through.”
“She elected to have in-vitro to have more babies, when she already had [six] that she was barely taking care of,” Lois Thompson of Montclair, N.J., also wrote on Facebook. “That is irresponsible, selfish and just looking for notoriety. The only people I feel bad for are her children.”
Tia Lewis contributed to this report.
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to www.postbusiness.com.