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Older Parents Squeezed Between Paying for College, Retirement

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There’s no workaround when it comes to paying for kids’ education and getting ready for retirement.

An increasing number of parents put off starting a family until they feel they’re on solid financial footing, but new research released Monday by Allianz Life found many still worried about paying for college and funding their own retirement.

As part of its LoveFamilyMoney Study, Allianz looked at families in which one parent was older than 40 and at least one child in the household was under age 5. It defined this cohort as opposite-sex couples who were married or living together, with fewer than 10 years’ age difference between the partners.

Fifty-four percent of older parent families said they were more financially established because they had waited to have children.

Researchers found that 79% of parents in this group felt a great deal or some angst about financing their child’s college education and at the same time preparing for retirement.

Fifty-three percent of older parents were focused on saving for their children’s education, compared with 39% of traditional families — those in which the spouse was married to someone of the opposite sex with at least one child under 21 living in the household; no stepchildren, no adult child who returned home; and no one else besides sposues and their children living in the household.

Older parents were also significantly more likely to say they would postpone retirement, with 27% saying they would wait until after age 70 to retire, versus 13% of respondents from traditional families.

“Juggling work and family goals is challenging no matter when you do it, and many people are choosing to get settled in their careers before starting a family,” Katie Libbe, vice president of consumer insights at Allianz, said in a statement.

“The older parents in our study are largely members of Generation X, which has had a number of financial setbacks, most notably the Great Recession of 2008. It’s not surprising that people in their 30s during the recession, possibly facing layoffs and underwater mortgages, would choose to wait to start a family.”

(Another study by Allianz Life found that some Gen Xers and boomers were traumatized by the 2008 market crash.)

Allianz noted that the number of first-time mothers in their 40s rose by 35% between 2000 and 2012, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The long-term trend was even more striking, Allianz said: in 2012, there were nine times more first-time births to women over 35 compared with 40 years before.

Researchers found that 58% of the older parent families had invested their money, and 73% expressed pride in what they had accomplished financially. Forty-eight percent considered themselves to have excellent or above-average knowledge about financial planning.

Even so, 59% said a top worry was figuring out how to invest their money.

Sixty-nine percent described themselves as “savers,” and 60% said their spouse was a saver as well.

In another finding, a quarter of parents in their 40s said they would not consider using a financial professional, and only 45% said they had used one in the past, compared with 53% of traditional families.

Of those who currently used or had used a financial professional in the past, 64% said it was to manage an investment portfolio.

Sixteen percent of older parents said they did not have time to spend on creating a long-term financial plan, more than twice as many as traditional families who said this.

“We found mixed messages in the data from our older parent group,” Libbe said, adding that “they can’t let personal financial planning wait too long — pretty soon they’ll be juggling the competing demands of their own retirement and their children’s education.”

Fifty-three percent of older parents said they would be motivated to create a long-term financial plan in order to save for their children’s education, and 45% would do so in order to create a comfortable retirement.


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