Grandparents Still Spoiling Grandkids, Despite Economy: AARP Survey

More than half contribute to their grandchildren's education

Spoiling the grandkids; what else are grandparents for? Though that question is usually asked rhetorically, most grandparents surveyed by AARP answered “not much.”

In a report released at the end of March, 36% of grandparents said it was their job to spoil their grandkids by “buying too much,” and 26% said it was their job to give treats and special gifts. (It should be noted that 31% of grumpy grandparents said neither they nor their children should spoil the grandkids by buying too much.)

For the report, “Insights and Spending Habits of Modern Grandparents,” AARP surveyed more than 1,900 grandparents who were 50 or older between August and October 2011.

While the grandparents surveyed seemed eager to take on fun duties, they largely agreed that many of the tasks mentioned in the survey were the shared responsibility of grandparents and parents. While just 3% said teaching values was a role for grandparents, 80% agreed that both parents and grandparents must be involved. Four percent of grandparents said it was their job to teach their grandkids about religion or spirituality, but 67% said it was a shared duty.

Grandparents are eager to spend money on their grandkids, and 40% reported spending more than $500 over the last 12 months. Although birthdays and holidays were the biggest reasons for spending, the report found some grandparents are providing critical financial support for their children’s families. More than half contribute to education, 37% help with everyday basics, and 23% cover medical or dental bills.

Some grandparents noted, though, that some of the money they spent on their grandchildren could be categorized as neither “necessities” nor “non-necessities,” like contributions to savings accounts and college funds.

Surprisingly, more than half of grandparents said the economy hasn’t changed how they spend money on their grandkids. AARP suggests this “understates the impact of the recession” as many grandparents commented that they cut back in other areas because “spending on their grandchildren is a higher priority.”

While 16% of grandparents said they watch their grandkids while the parents are at work or school, an additional 36% said they had done so in the past, even though they don’t currently provide daycare. Many said they agreed to watch their grandkids because they didn’t want their children to send them to a daycare center or babysitter, or because their children couldn’t afford professional care. Nearly half said they provided care simply because they wanted to. Eleven percent of grandparents said their grandchildren live with them, and half of those have their children living with them also. 

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