The Power of Saying “No” To Preserve Your Retirement

by Melissa

Do you know how to say no?  If you are in your 40s or your 50s, can you say no to your kids’ requests for money?  Do you feel selfish putting yourself first?  If so, you may suffer financially in retirement and will benefit from saying “no”.


Kiplinger’s recently shared how hard it is for many middle aged people to say no to their adult children’s requests for money.  “It’s hard to say no, and most people don’t.  But that decision may have long-term implications.  Even if you don’t have to raid your retirement accounts, cutting back on your retirement-plan contributions to help family members translates into a smaller nest egg” (Kiplinger’s).

My own grandpa retired at 62, and then he and my grandma sold their house and moved down to Florida for the winter months.  Everyone knew that once they were in Florida for the winter, they did not fly back, even in the case of a death in the family.  They missed my cousin’s funeral and several others over the years because they didn’t feel they could afford to fly back and forth.  I thought this was cold when I was young, but I see now the wisdom in this.

They had over 30 grandkids, and every Christmas and every birthday, each of us would get a handwritten card with a crisp one dollar bill enclosed.  Even 30 years ago, this was not a lot of money, and I didn’t even spend it.  I still have those one dollar bills saved as they are a physical remnant of my grandparents’ love.

Because of their willingness to conserve their funds and say no, their retirement outlasted them, and they lived to 88 and 90, respectively.  While I am not sure that I could miss a relative’s funeral to avoid an airline expense, I see now that my grandparents were very good at preserving their own retirement and putting themselves first.  As a result, they never had to burden their children with their care, even when my grandma was in a care facility the last few years of her life.

On the other hand, we have a close family friend who could never say no and helped finance several of her daughter’s business ventures, each of which failed.  This friend has very little for retirement even though she is now in her mid-sixties.  Unfortunately, her situation is not unique.  Mari Adams, a Boca Raton, FL based financial advisor shares that “One of her clients is almost 70 years old and needs to retire soon, but she can’t because she spends too much of her money on her kids.  Sometimes the kids are in their twenties or thirties – and even their forties.  A study by the National Endowment for Financial Education found that more than 25% of parents surveyed took on additional debt to help their children, and 7% had to delay their own retirement because of it” (Kiplinger’s).

Saying no can be awkward and uncomfortable, especially if you do not frequently say no financially to your children.  The best time to begin is when they are young.  Because my grandparents only gave us $1 for our birthdays, I never expected anything more from them.  Money didn’t enter our relationship, and I am glad for that.  If your children are older, now may be the time to sit down with them and explain that you must save for your own retirement and are no longer able to help them.  As difficult as this discussion may be, the kids will likely be glad when they don’t have to support you in retirement.

Are you able to say no to your kids, or do you help them at the expense of your retirement?

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Jacob @ iHeartBudgets May 30, 2012 at 10:07 am

I definitely believe in teaching your children to be responsible with their own money and not support adult children at all. Unless it’s a true emergency, I don’t think I’ll be handing any money out to my kids once they are on their own.

I started paying for everything myself at age 18, even paying for my own wedding, cars and house. Though it was frustrating sometimes not to be able to purchase something, it taught me to value what i did have and appreciate the work I needed to put in to make a purchase.

I think it’s more loving to tell your kids “no” and to have them figure out another way to overcome their obstacle other than looking for a parental handout. It teaches responsibility and also that there are consequences to bad decisions.

That being said, I wouldn’t miss a family funeral or wedding to save money, but that’s just me 🙂

Grace May 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm

I think the key is to never raid one’s retirement funds or decrease payments into the fund for one’s children. I don’t do that. But I do help out (and sometimes bail out) my children from time to time. Partly it is because they are children who were adopted from the foster care system and they have on-going special needs. Partly, it is to help maintain stability for my grandchildren. It is hard to draw those lines sometimes.

Lance@MoneyLife&More May 30, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I think a lot of people need to learn this lesson. While I might have gone back for funerals you definitely have to know when to say know.

Charlotte @SmartMoneyFocus May 30, 2012 at 8:31 pm

I agree, you have to teach your children at an early age that asking for money is not the answer. They need to learn to live within their means. If they don’t have the money for something, then they don’t need it. I’m very lucky that my children have never had to come to us for money.

Get Rich Point May 30, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I have seen people suffer a lot because they couldn’t say “No” when they should have. I have learnt a lot from them and trying to say no when saying yes could be a life long pain.

Marie at FamilyMoneyValues May 31, 2012 at 6:46 am

Wow, great minds think alike! I actually wrote up a post on how to say no to siblings when they ask for money. Miss T has it scheduled for Prairie Eco Thrifter on June 6.

Thanks for the info.

[email protected] June 1, 2012 at 2:45 am

My Mum started me on this one young “You are going to love being a poor student” – and she lied, It Sucked!!!!

But it has set me up to realise that she is not my personal piggie bank – that I am independent and have to be so.

Time to start saying this to my own little brood I think.

Jai Catalano June 1, 2012 at 8:39 am

How was the dollar given? Was it as a symbol for something? My grandpa used to give me $50 but he did that my whole life. It never changed and never had much meaning although I am sure he loved me.

Janette June 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I don’t think it is one or the other always- but our kids know that retirement is top priority. They are more important than a grand tour of Europe though, and that is the way we planned it.
We saved for our retirement AND the gifts. House is paid dor and retirement looks pretty good. We get far more joy out of spending on them than we ever did traveling.

Bret @ Hope to Prosper June 8, 2012 at 9:13 am

There are many ways to love your children. Supporting them financially as adults can be one of the most harmful. I’m sure my parents would have bailed me out if I ever needed it, but I am very proud that I never had to hit them up.

Like Jacob, I paid for my own wedding, house, cars and college tuition. So did all of my brothers and sisters and we have all done pretty well. Even though I saved up college funds for my two kids, they already know I expect them to make it on their own.

Zero Passive Income June 19, 2012 at 10:19 am

I believe that each generation to should pave their own way and make their own mark on the world. Sometimes parents keel over backwards for their kids – but that can leave them missing out on some of the most important character building experiences in their lives – like struggling to pay tuition, or learning to be frugal to pay off student loans, etc.

Saying no to the next generation can make them stronger better individuals.

Drew June 21, 2012 at 9:25 am

Particularly if your adult children are able to support themselves already, you’ll be doing them a favour in the long run by saying no more often, it will make them look for ways to earn the money themselves – everybody will benefit from this.

Roger Wohlner June 27, 2012 at 5:53 am

Excellent post and one that I can really relate to being in my 50s with three kids ranging in age from 19-23. So far we have one out of college and on her own. She is largely self-supporting, though we do help with a couple of expenses. Our other two are in college, but both seem to have a good sense for managing their money. We are pretty good at saying no, but there is probably some room for improvement.

Felicia June 27, 2012 at 11:43 am

Helping your children is a very personal issue. If the need is for health care I would not retire in comfort if I had said “no” to the child’s medical needs. However, it does seem that children are having a difficult time learning to save money before making the purchase.

PawPrint53 July 13, 2012 at 10:42 am

Anyone know what’s happened to this blogger? The blog hasn’t been updated in quite a while.

Bret @ Hope to Prosper July 13, 2012 at 9:45 pm

I know this blogger, but I haven’t seen her in a while. She is probably burned-out or has other more important personal matters to attend to. Blogging takes a lot of work and pays very little. She may start writing again in the future.

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