Not only has the U.S. hit a record number of grandparents, but those grandparents are so flush with cash that they financially support their children and grandchildren. That’s what a recent study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute found.

MetLife researchers along with noted demographer Peter Francese counted 65 million grandparents in 2010, up from 40 million in 1980. That means that one in four adults is a grandparent. Typically, today’s grandparents are working-age baby boomers between 45 and 64 years old.

Since most are working, many grandparents are able to give money to their financially strapped children and grandchildren. While real income for those aged 55 and over has increased, their offspring has witnessed a drop in that category.

“The number of multi-generational households has increased, due in part to the recession,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in a release. “This trend, coupled with the increased financial instability of today’s younger families, has huge business implications. The fact that grandparents are spending a great deal of money on infant food and equipment, children’s clothing, toys, elementary and secondary school tuition, and financial, mortgage and insurance products, represents a change in buying habits and may change the way marketers and advertisers focus their efforts.”

By 2020, MetLife estimates there will be 80 million grandparents in the U.S., or one in three adults. The majority of today’s grandparents are women (124 grandmothers for 100 grandfathers). However, as older men live healthier lives and live longer, MetLife predicts that gap will narrow.

Other findings from the MetLife study:

  • Big spenders. Households headed by those ages 55 and older are now spending $2.43 billion annually on primary and secondary school tuition, about 2.5 times the amount of $853 million in 1999.
  • Head of the household. In 2010, there were 39.8 million grandparent-headed households, or one of every three households in the U.S. Only one in five grandparents lives alone.
  • Going to Grandma’s house. An estimated 4.5 million grandparent-headed households include one or more of their grandchildren; 11 percent of grandparent households have at least one grandchild and 60 percent of multi-generational households have two or more grandchildren.
  • More money. Incomes of households headed by those ages 55 or older rose by $491 between 2000 and 2009, while those in the 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 age groups saw their incomes decline.

Source: the MetLife Report on American Grandparents: New Insights for a New Generation of Grandparents

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