If No One from the Fab Five Steps Up, the Groovy Two are Screwed

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Many of you are no doubt familiar with the old saw about friendship: If you want a friend in this life, get a dog. Well, I came up with a take-off on this old saw for wealth-building: If you want to be rich in this life, don’t have friends and children.

My new saw is rather witty (if I do say so, myself). And it certainly has merit. Friends, after all, especially if they’ve developed a fondness for high-end goods and services, can be a major drag on your finances. And children, given the cost of food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education, will be a major drag on your finances.

But how empty would your life be if it were completely devoid of friends and children?

So friends and children are definitely cool. And if surrounding your life with friends and children means your quest for financial independence is delayed by twenty years, I would encourage you to forego early retirement and have friends and children. Financial independence can wait. Having a brokerage account with a lot of zeroes is great. But having a decades-long relationship with loving friends and children is profoundly better.

Who from the Fab Five Will Step Up?

On the friends front, Mrs. Groovy and I have done exceedingly well. We’ve always had great friends. In fact, I’m getting together this weekend with friends I’ve known since 1973.

But on the children front, Mrs. Groovy and I haven’t done so well. We got married in our early 40s. It was the first marriage for both of us. And before we got married, we decided not to have kids. We just felt we were too old to do parenthood correctly. Now maybe we were wrong. Maybe we had the physical and emotional fortitude to pull it off. But the thought of having a 15-year-old when we were 60 really unnerved us.

So, yes, not having kids will always be one of our deepest regrets. I can’t imagine the joy one feels when one is holding one’s newborn child.

But there’s something else that concerns me about being childless. There’s the emotional and spiritual side of having kids, and then there’s the practical side of having kids. At some point in the future, Mrs. Groovy and I will become physically and mentally feeble. Who will step in at that point? Who will protect us from the scam artists that prey on the elderly? Who will find a suitable nursing home for us should that need arise? Who will make sure we die with dignity?

Over the past ten years, I’ve lost all of my grandparents. (My last grandparent, Nanna Groovy on my mother’s side, died this past February.) And as each of their connections to this mortal world began to slip, it was their children and grandchildren who rushed in—willingly and lovingly, I may add—to provide comfort and care. It wasn’t their friends who scoped out nursing homes. It wasn’t their brothers and sisters who managed their finances. It wasn’t their cousins who made sure their meals were prepared, their medications were taken, and their doctor appointments were kept. It was their children and grandchildren.

Mrs. Groovy and I are not without hope. We have three nephews and two nieces—the Fab Five, as we call them. And they are actually very nice young men and women with sound morals. They also have a great role model in Mrs. Groovy. Mrs. Groovy and my brother-in-law have done yeoman work in caring for their elderly aunt. Their aunt, an identical twin of their mother, was the mother of Cousin Joe who sadly passed away last month. But even before his untimely death, Cousin Joe was in no position to care for his mother. If Mrs. Groovy and my brother-in-law hadn’t stepped in to fill the void, Groovy Aunt, who is suffering from dementia, would have been screwed. And I shudder to think how the past few years of her life would have played out.

So the odds are favorable that one of the Fab Five will be there for us when our bodies falter and our minds turn to mush. But you never know. Things happen. The Fab Five may have their hands full with their own parents.

Final Thoughts

In financial planning circles, it’s common to think of only two phases: the accumulation phase, where the goal is to create the largest nest egg possible; and the withdrawal phase, where the goal is to provide retirement income and make sure the nest egg lasts. But perhaps we should consider another phase: the incapacity phase.

Who will manage your affairs when you’re no longer able?

This is where children come in. Your best defense against the perils of the incapacity phase are your own children. True, children don’t always do right by their parents. And, yes, others can certainly fill the void (nieces, nephews, social workers, etc.). But who will feel the greatest need to manage your affairs well, to be your strongest advocate? Who will raise holy hell if a doctor, health aide, or bureaucrat screws up? More than likely, it will be someone who has your DNA.

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36 Comments

  1. It would be my dream to be an older parent. I’m hoping to put it off to my early 40s but science and biology doesn’t seem to agree with me. I wouldn’t worry too much about the caretaker aspect – they’re creating nanny robots as we speak! I heard being the aunt and uncle is a lot more fun. All the cute, none of the cry.

    • Mr. Groovy

      LOL! “All the cute, none of the cry.” Yes, there are benefits to being an aunt or an uncle. And like you said, Lily, nature does frown upon older women having babies. Why is that? Does God have a twisted sense of humor? After all, mentally and financially, a 40 year old is more ready for a child than a 20 year old. But nature wants its baby-producers to be young, regardless of how financially weak and emotionally immature they may be.

  2. My wife and I also don’t have children. She was 37 when we got married. A few years went by and she felt it was too risky after 40. It is her body and I 100% respected that decision. We live close to many of her relatives and are surrounded by their children. We go to their sporting events to support them. It also seems like we are attending a kids birthday party once per month.

    We have a few close friends. None are into financial independence the way I am. They also are not into living beyond their means. Our relationships are based on going out for dinner and talking about sports, books, movies, tv shows, and unfortunately even politics.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Once you near your dreaded 40th birthday, the question of child rearing becomes particularly poignant. First, as you pointed out, a pregnancy at that age is very risky. And, second, you have to consider the possibility that you might not have the energy to handle a kid at that stage of your life. Mrs. Groovy and I looked at ourselves and asked, “Will we really be able to handle a teenager when we’re on the cusp of 60?” We decided that we weren’t up for the challenge. It’s definitely a regret, but we think we made the right choice. Thanks for stopping by, Dave. And thanks for sharing.

  3. My godfather has some significant health issues. Thankfully, his best friends had a medical and durable power of attorney over him. My siblings and myself also show up and do all that is necessary. Especially now that one of his friends with POA passed away. I will not do the same for my biological parents. My godfather is loved and taken care of by his community. Heck, even my girlfriend was pitching in while 1000 miles away because she is really smart about medical care and knows that this man means so much to me.

    If you are not isolated, someone will show you the love you need.

    • Mr. Groovy

      What a heartwarming story, ZJ. Thank you. And I think you definitely nailed it. “If you are not isolated, someone will show you the love you need.” I’m a cynic, but I know there are plenty of people who will rally to the aid of their family, friends, and neighbors. Those who are helping your godfather are a perfect example.

  4. Is this the part where I put my hands over my ears and start singing until I can’t hear you and can go about my day without thinking about this?

    We don’t have kids, though we have the dynamic dozen of nieces, nephews, and cousins. Hopefully my husband and I can take care of each other for a long, long time and by then maybe technology will have advanced to help us out too.

    Uber is awesome for seniors who can no longer drive, and self-drivng cars will be even better. Plus, with the internet, you can get anything delivered, so as long as we aren’t too confused we can prolong our independence that way too.
    After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

    • Don’t worry, Julie, the robots are coming. As you pointed out, Uber and self-driving cars will be there for transportation. And in 20 or 30 years there will be bots for cooking, cleaning, and some aspects of elderly care. I can’t wait to test out the diaper-changing robot of the future. I’m sure it will have a name like Depends-bot or something. So you’ll be fine. On top of amazing technology, you’ll also have the Dynamic Dozen! Life will be good.

  5. I think the fact that you are tackling this topic is incredibly important. We have kids that I hope will step up and do what is needed, as they see us doing that right now for our own parents. I think the big thing is the discussions about your wants – and it isn’t always a pretty discussion. We just had our wills done (and health care proxy’s and power of attorney’s). Kids are almost 18 and 20 – so I kept my older sibling in most of the plans, but the kids at least know we have a plan. Thanks for bringing this topic up Mr. G!

    • Couldn’t agree more, Vicki. I love that you’re keeping the kids in the loop. And I love that you’re showing them how to step up for aging parents. In my family, no one ever explicitly stated how one should conduct oneself. Mom and dad just went to work, paid the bills, took care of us, and then took care of their aging parents. So we learned to be honorable by osmosis. Doing what was right became ingrained, automatic. It was part of our culture. And it looks like a similar culture is taking root in the MakeSmarterDecisions household. Nice job!

  6. This is something FIRE blogs don’t talk much about.

    “It never hurts to dangle a little money” okay that comment cracked me up.

    Pretty sure that you have a nice family and they will help you. I understand why you and Mrs. G didn’t have kids. I wouldn’t have had either at that age.

    You met when you met and no one could have helped that. It just happened that way. Some people meet the love of their life later in life. What can you do?

    I’m an only child but I kind of wish that I had a sibling to bounce off ideas with. My parents aren’t in that kind of need right now, but I do think about it and I don’t mind helping, it’s just as an only kid, it’s a bit lonely.

    I think that’s why I want to have at least two kids in a few years. It would be nice to have one sibling to bounce off ideas and have the emotional support from them.

    I think it’s nice you guys stepped in and the brother-in-law stepped in as well to help Groovy Aunt. That’s very sweet of you! =)

    • Hey, Lila. Thank you for your kind words. Aunt Groovy is very happy. And Mrs. Groovy and I don’t mind being her advocate. So far the nursing home staff has been treating her very well.

      I’ve always believed that parenthood is a young person’s game–but not too young. Having kids in your teens can often sabotage your ability to earn money and develop worthwhile skills. I think the sweet spot is late 20s, early 30s. So I like your game plan, Lila. Best of luck.

  7. This is actually something that never crossed my mind which is actually really sad. My great aunt didn’t have any kids and she adopted us as our her own grandchildren. So I figured family sticks together. Before I had children, I never thought about someone not being there to take care of me which is very sobering. Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, MSM. Mrs. G and I both come from families that “stick together.” So the concept of an elderly family member being abandoned or neglected is very alien. But our families have very traditional views. Out-of-wedlock births are unheard of. And children feel a strong obligation to “give back” when their parents become incapacitated.

      But as we all know, the Ozzie and Harriet family model is no longer the norm. And, sadly, more and more elderly Americans will find themselves dependent on the state for care. Very sobering indeed.

  8. Queenie

    From a 60 year old with 2 self sufficient mid 30s adult children…. there is
    no guarantee that for whatever reason your children will be able to take care of you. They may be born with mental or physical handicaps that require lifelong care. They may make poor choices in life and go down the wrong road. Many people my age have very dysfunctional adult children no matter the love they were raise with. I am just playing devils advocate here. Based on my worldview my35 year old daughter is not having children. Without the financial implications of children a person or couple can make plans for their care in the event of possible future dementia or disability. I am hoping my kids don’t have to take care of me but we don’t know what the future holds. To some of you 60 may sound an advanced age; it arrives quickly. I don’t feel old or look old. Taken usually to be in my 40s. But time flies and I am scrambling to make up for lost saving years. If I could give you one bit of advice it would be “Stick with dogs; don’t have kids.”Ha!

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love devil advocates. And you are so right. Adult children won’t always be there for you–for a variety of reasons, some understandable, some tragic, and some sad. Your advice to “stick with dogs” had me rolling. Thanks for stopping by, Queenie.

  9. This is something I think about a lot, mostly because my parents are in their 70s. Part of the reason I want to retire early is to help care for them (assuming they’re still around in 10 years). I have one sibling, an older brother, who is married with no kids and they live out of state. None of us are counting on him helping at all and my parents don’t expect me to help, but I’m more than happy to do so. I also have a single/childless aunt who I’m the POA for (along with a cousin), so even more reason to leave the workforce as soon as a I can.

    Kids have never been in my future and a lot of people trying to convince me to have kids provide this same argument – who will take care of you when you’re old if you don’t have kids? Sometimes I worry about this but I try not to, since there are no guarantees in life. Too many what-ifs to consider.

    A close friend of mine has 2 kids and she said that she’ll force them to take care of me. If only we could hold them to that!

    • Mr. Groovy

      It’s amazing how time-consuming caring for elderly parents can be. Mrs. G and my brother-in-law split the care duties for Groovy Aunt. Mrs. G makes sure the nursing home isn’t neglecting Groovy Aunt, and my brother-in-law takes care of Groovy Aunt’s finances. If Mrs. G had all the care duties, and still had a full-time job, her life would be very stressful. So I definitely understand why you want to leave the workforce as soon as possible.

      And I hear you, Kate, about the “too many what-ifs.” My only solace is that both Mrs. G’s family and mine have a history of rallying to the aid and comfort of the weakest member. And as of now I’m fairly confident the Fab Five won’t break that tradition.

  10. Thanks very much for the perspective. Honestly your kids are the future. There will come a point where odds are you won’t be able to manage your life independently, if you live long enough. The one thing I always keep an eye on when I setup my finances is it simple enough so my wife or when they get old enough my kids can manage it. I might not be here forever to manage it and if you make things too complicated money may end up getting lost or taken by the government (escheatment).

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent point, FTF. Right now Mrs. G and I are moving to a two-fund portfolio. This way Mrs. G will be able to manage our portfolio when I go, and the Fab Five will be able to manage her portfolio when she becomes mentally frail. There is beauty in simplicity. And as you so eloquently pointed out, when your money gets “complicated,” the odds of it “getting lost or taken by the government” go up significantly. A lot of wisdom there, my friend. Thanks for stopping by.

  11. It’s a valid concern and I hope in your case that one (or more) of your Fab Five steps in to help. Because my wife is younger, I anticipate that if and when I need help, she will be able to provide it. But I know that she worries about who will be there for her in her older years.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Yeah, it always seems to be harder on the wives. Both my grandfathers went before my grandmothers. And my father-in-law went before my mother-in-law. When Mrs. G and I visit Groovy Aunt in the nursing home, we rarely see a male resident. I don’t know the exact numbers, but it looks like the female residents outnumber the male residents by at least 10 to 1. So Suzanne and Mrs. G have a lot to worry about, unfortunately. Thanks for stopping by, Gary. May the Fab Five in your life do right by you and Suzanne.

  12. That’s a really interesting take. I’m blessed enough to have come from a large family, as does my wife. We also have four kids of our own. So I’m surrounded by family. Holiday dinners look a lot like a Norman Rockwell painting. I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way, even though having four kids and a single income means that my FIRE date will be pushed out a bit. That’s a trade off I’m happy with.

    Because I’ve always had family around, I’ve never even thought of the ‘incapacity phase’ but that would absolutely need to be something that everyone should have in their financial plan.

    Thanks for the new perspective and good luck with the Fab 5! Maybe you could up your Christmas budget for them…start greasing those wheels if you will 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      Yes, we’re definitely greasing the wheels! We’ve been throwing them some very generous graduation and wedding gifts. And if our lithium mine ever starts producing lithium, they’ll all be getting five-figure checks. The Fab Five have it pretty good.

      Thanks for stopping by, Ty. I loved hearing about your Norman Rockwell family. It sounds like you’re already rich.

  13. This brings a whole other view on my children…I never thought of it that way, at least, black on white like here.

    That being said, a few weeks ago, my wife and I ran into a group of elderly on a day out. We had then a brief discussion on how we will need to take care of our parents one day. They are in their sixties (my side) and seventies (wife side). One day, it will indeed happen.

    The part where someone will have to look after me… I prefer to ignore that for now

    • Mr. Groovy

      It is a dreary topic, AT. And at your stage of the game, there’s no reason to dwell on it. You can wait until you’re in your 50s and 60s to talk about it. But it is amazing how quickly the mind goes. It’s kind of like compound interest in reverse. You cruise along with a gradual decline over decades, and then, out of nowhere, you have a precipitous drop. Oh, the joys of aging.

  14. Yea, this has crossed my mind as well. If you have a good and close relationship with your nieces and nephews, I’m sure they will step up if needed. And as Fritz says, it doesn’t hurt if they know they will be in the will =) Also, it’s great that you have good and loving friends are also very helpful.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. Love is good, but it never hurts to dangle a little money. Oh, we bloggers are so cynical! Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Always a pleasure.

  15. We half joke with our three children about taking care of my wife and I as we age. That have no idea what they are in for.

    An interesting topic for sure. I like the idea of talking about it while everyone is of sane mind and healthy, so you can get wishes out on the table. I would think some might be able to put a long-term care plan in place too.

    What the fab five think of all this?

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent advice, Brian. A little talking and a little planning on this admittedly morbid topic would do a lot of good. We already discussed this with the Fab Five and right now they’re cool. But only time will tell, of course. The first diaper change will probably send them all running.

  16. Really good point Mr. Groovy about handling the later years of your life. I’m a consumer protection attorney and far too often see older folks getting victimized by unscrupulous companies and people. It’s often the children who bring this stuff to my attention. Especially if you have money, folks will be coming after you trying to get their hands on it. Here’s to you fab five watching your back!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Mrs. G’s uncle and my boss’s mom got taken by unscrupulous people. And the point of entry was the phone! Most people realize that they’re going to have to take the car keys away from aging love-ones. What they fail to realize is that they might also have to take away (or lock down) the phone and the computer. Sigh. I’m glad you’re one of the good guys, FP. Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Wondering about who will take care of you as you age is scary. We have our one, and hopefully we will both be able to see Little Bit into adulthood. But Jon will be 71 when our daughter turns 21, and I will be 63. Aging parents may put an undue burden on her way too young, plus I have both a sister in law and a brother with no kids of their own. Little Bit may get more burdens than I ever dreamed about taking on.

    My grandmother had two sisters who never married, fiercely independent women. We didn’t really notice the creeping dementia they were both exhibiting until they were in a car crash that killed the elder. After that, my youngest aunt took the remaining sister into her household for the rest of her life, which turned out surprisingly well for all concerned. My Great Aunt had care and companionship, my aunt had always bonded with her, and my cousins got a new honorary grandma.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Poor Little Bit! I’m sure she’ll make you proud when the time comes. And I’m so sorry to hear about your great aunts. Car crash. Dementia. It’s so sad. My mother-in-law and sister (Groovy Aunt) deteriorated very fast. One trip down to Florida and they appeared fine. The next trip about a year later and they were a mess. We had to put my mother-in-law in assisted living. And we had to arrange for a daily health aide for Groovy Aunt. But unfortunately, that’s the way it goes. We don’t always age gracefully. I’m glad your youngest aunt was able to take your great aunt in and care for her. It’s always encouraging to hear when a family member rises to the occasion. It gives me hope, Emily. Thank you.

  18. Groovy’s, an interesting take on the long term concerns of those without children. Money is a small part of life, and you point out well some of the “non-financial” considerations that are particularly important as we age. Hoping your Fab Five will step up, and suspect they will (just promise them they’ll be in the Will! Smiles).

    • Mr. Groovy

      We got our fingers crossed too, Fritz. And, yes, they are all in the will. We even told them that who ever steps up will get a bigger cut of the Groovy fortune.