Those of you who have read my blogs in the past will already know that I grew up in a multi-generational household. Until now I had always assumed I grew up with three (3) generations under one roof. Turns out technically we had five (5) !
Count with me:
My grandparents are from The Depression Era (1912-1921),
My dad is from the Post-War Cohort (1928-1945),
Mom is a Baby Boomer (1946-1954)
Me - I'm what they refer to as Generation X (1966-1976)
and my brother is a "Y", or what is recently categorized as a Millennial (1977-1994)
My brother and I always saw it as having three (3) teams in the house though. It was usually my Grandparents vs. my Parents vs. US. Can you imagine the difference in opinions, values and lingo we had growing up in our home??? My parents were saddled right in the middle of two generations that couldn't possibly be any different from one another. Thinking back now, it wasn't easy for them. Tensions were always highest when it came time for us (especially me as the girl) to push the boundaries. You'd have my grandparents on one side who wouldn't think it appropriate for me to go out after dark - what would the neighbours think?, and I on the other far-side, who couldn't care less about the neighbours because I was pretty sure had their own issues and kids to worry about, which meant my parents were stuck in the middle of having to break that tie and defend it...a lot.
Aside from the teenage struggles (and they were real people), we also had varying opinons in a household like ours on things such as money and how to spend it, politics and of course the very taboo subject of sex. But when it came to the expectations of one generation taking care of the other, if and when the time came, I think we were all pretty much on the same page - and even there we could've done a better job. The hardest decision our family ever had to make was after my grandfather had his second stroke. We had to decide whether we could keep him at home. My grandmother, who by then was in her late 80's, and my grandfather's primary caregiver since his first stroke, insisted she could continue (he was 6'2'' and weighed over 250 lbs - she was 4'12'' and 140lbs). The decision was hardest on her. I still remember her saying that it would've been easier to deal with had he passed away, then to have to now 'send him away to a home'. Never mind that it was the right decision to make. Her generation didn't do that kind of thing. We were back to. worrying about.. what were the neighbours going to think?
My family is probably no different than yours. You didn't have to live together to understand that the values of one generation are very different from the other. And the conversations are never easy to have, regardless of how tight a family is. So when CIBC recently came out with a poll that found that 2/3 of Canadians are in the dark about managing the care and finances of their aging parents, I wasn't surprised.
A word of advice? Sometimes bringing in a neutral third party, like your financial advisor, can help steer the conversation in the right direction. Good luck.
P.S...my grandfather passed away a few years later when he was 95. My grandmother who is now 99 is still with us and continues to live in her own home together with my parents. We've been very fortunate that her good health has allowed for this, although it has not been without sacrifices from both my parents and the rest of her family. The time will come when every generation will be tested with the same kind issues. Have the conversations now.
Kelly Fagundes is a Senior Financial Advisor at Manulife Securities Incorporated. She can be reached for further comment at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (416) 259 8222.