Retiring to Care for Grandchild isn’t Unusual

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Retirement can change everything. So can grandchildren.

new study that looks at the transitions made by older workers finds that the odds of relocating after they retire to be closer to their adult children increase from the pre-retirement years – 16 percent of recent retirees do so.

Some people make these moves, to within 10 miles of family, right around the time of retirement, but the relocations are still happening at least four years afterward.

A new grandchild provides an even more compelling reason to move at a time quality childcare is expensive and in short supply. In the study, the researchers found that one in 10 grandparents who, prior to retiring, already considered themselves caregivers for at least one child move closer to the child’s parents. That doubles to two in 10 after they retire.

The probability of making a move is “higher for older adults reporting grandchild care compared to their peers who do not provide such care,” conclude Megan Doherty Bea and Somalis Chy at the University of Wisconsin.

They tracked some 3,000 older workers’ answers to a regular survey during a 12-year period around retirement. The survey collected a range of personal data, including information about their finances, where they live, and whether they spend at least 100 hours a year taking care of grandchildren.

One curious aspect of this study is that retiring and moving doesn’t necessarily mean the person will simultaneously sign up for Social Security benefits, which raises the question of how the new retirees support themselves.

The answer might, in part, be explained by how the people who relocate near family differ from those whose adult children have always lived nearby. The movers tend to be more educated and, it follows, wealthier, an indication they may have the financial resources to delay claiming Social Security even though they’ve left their jobs.

The researchers concluded that their study “underscores the importance of thinking about retirement as a key life event that motivates” big lifestyle changes.

To read this study, authored by Megan Doherty Bea and Somalis Chy, see “Family Proximity and Co-residence in Retirement: Heterogeneity in Residential Changes Across Older Adult Care Contexts.”

The research reported herein was derived in whole or in part from research activities performed pursuant to a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Retirement and Disability Research Consortium.  The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA, any agency of the federal government, or Boston College.  Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, make any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the contents of this report.  Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof.

1 comment

Interesting study results. We retired where we spent our last 25 years – our young grandkids live just 4 miles away; our home is paid off. Our parents retired here; 3 of my 4 siblings live here; 4 of my wife’s 5 siblings live here. Our philosophy is that is what families are supposed to do.

Since the article mentioned it – yes, we both have college degrees. We both retired early at 55y/o, but both delayed claiming our Social Security benefits until we were at the full retirement age.

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