11 Common Mistakes Seniors Make Just Because Their Kids Ask Them To

Don’t let your kids talk you into ruining your retirement by making one of these 11 financial slip-ups.

Father and son looking at each other
Updated July 11, 2024
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For better or worse, the impulse to support your kids financially is a hard one to break, adult kids included. 

But for retirees now living on a fixed budget, it can be a dangerous one, too, especially when you’re relying on limited savings. 

So, to keep more money in your wallet, here are 11 common financial mistakes parents make because of their kids so you can avoid them.

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Cosigning on a car

Courtney H/peopleimages.com/Adobe reading contract with senior woman

Speaking of loans, think carefully about cosigning on loans you’re not positive your kids can pay back, starting with car loans. 

If your child defaults on the loan, you’ll be left to foot the bill — and unless you’re swimming in enough cash to take the loan repayment in stride, cosigning could spell financial ruin.

Lending your kids cash

juliasudnitskaya/Adobe businessman giving cash money

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to slip your kids some extra cash every once in a while. However, offering family members a loan to finance a major purchase can have negative repercussions for your financial stability and relationship.

Ask yourself these questions before lending money: If your child can’t pay back the loan, will your relationship ever recover? And if you never see that money again, will you be able to afford long-term care, medical bills, and your mortgage payment?

If you’re pretty sure the answer to both questions is a hard no, put the relationship first by refusing to lend your kids a lump sum of cash or find a way to make more money to fund this bad idea. 

Funding a child’s newest business venture

Zaleman/Adobe  elderly man and his son drink wine

Starting a new business usually requires a good deal of upfront cash. As tempting as it is to support your child’s startup dreams, resist: 

There’s no guarantee your child’s business idea will pay off, and if it doesn’t, you’ll be down a retirement fund with no good way to make your money back quickly.

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Cosigning on student loans

fizkes/Adobe older man putting signature

Federal student loans don’t require a credit check or a cosigner, but private student loans typically require both. On the one hand, if you cosign on a student loan, they could qualify for a lower interest rate. 

But as with any other type of loan, if your child defaults on their student loan payment, you’ll be on the hook for making payments as the cosigner.

Remember, too, that your cosigning status will appear on your own credit history, which could make it harder for you to qualify for your own loans.

Footing the bill for expensive family vacations

Dusko/Adobe happy grandfather with grandson driving bumper car at amusement park

If you’re planning a family vacation with all the kids and grandkids, set financial expectations in advance. 

Get everyone on the same financial page about how much the trip will cost, including which expenses each adult needs to cover for themselves.

Otherwise, you could find yourself paying out of pocket for everything from the hotel room to the rental car and airfare.

Paying for everyone at the table after a family dinner

DragonImages/Adobe friends dining together

Resisting the urge to cover every expense when the family is together takes practice, but it’s a necessary part of protecting your retirement. 

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with treating the family to a nice dinner if you can afford it, but don’t foot the entire bill out of habit alone.

Cosigning on a house

zinkevych/Adobe senior couple signing documents with agent

Defaulting on a mortgage loan is a much, much bigger deal than defaulting on a car or student loan. If your child loses their job, spends unwisely, or simply can’t afford the mortgage loan you’ve cosigned on, your finances will almost certainly be devastated when repayment falls to you.

Cosigning your child’s mortgage loan is a particularly risky choice if you’re still paying off your own mortgage. Handling two mortgage payments is a financial stretch even when you’re working full-time. 

Taking on two housing payments while retired probably isn’t sustainable, so steer clear of disaster by saying no upfront if your child asks for your assistance securing a mortgage loan.

Giving a child an early inheritance

Drazen/Adobe Woman visiting her elderly father at the nursing home

A typical inheritance includes the items and assets you leave behind after your death. If your child requests an early inheritance, you’d presumably give them a cut of the amount of money you believe you’ll have at the end of your life.

However, there’s no way to know for sure how much money you’ll need to live off of for the coming years. A medical emergency, unexpected hospital stay, or unpredictable inflation could take a toll on your hard-earned savings, requiring you to spend more than you’d planned. 

Giving your child their inheritance early means you might not have the cash you need to stay afloat throughout your later decades.

Paying your kid’s credit card bill

focusandblur/Adobe family happy while shopping using card

Did your typically responsible child have a hard month, and now they can’t make their credit card payment? Helping them pay off the bill just this once could be a safe idea (as long as you can spare the cash).

But make it clear that you won’t be available to help a second time. If you know your child is the type to spend until they’ve exhausted their credit, you probably shouldn’t help the first time either: 

Establishing a pattern of bailing out your kid won’t help them break the cycle of maxing out credit cards.

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Going all in on “the next big thing”

Jadon B/peopleimages.com/Adobe retirement with a father and son

From bitcoin to NFTs, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of investing in whatever seems to be this year’s “next big thing.” Occasionally, a risky investment pays off, as it did for some lucky cryptocurrency investors. 

But going all in on the investing craze of the moment is a terrible idea for seniors who rely on their 401(k)s to fund retirement.

As a retiree, you don’t have the same fiscal flexibility — so no matter how excited your child is about the latest and greatest investment opportunity, sticking to your more conservative investment strategy is the smarter choice.

Financing grandchildren’s expensive hobbies

Lumos sp/Adobe grandchildren saving money on piggybank

Saying no to grandkids can be even harder than saying no to your kids — but your retirement fund exists to support you once you’ve left the workforce, not to support your extended family. 

As much as you love your grandkids, practice saying “no.”

Bottom line

Konstantin Yuganov/Adobe Generations of family members

There are plenty of ways to show your kids you love them besides supporting them financially. You can eliminate a lot of money stress out of your life just by setting that boundary. 

Avoiding these mistakes ensures you can maintain financial independence no matter what life throws at you over the coming decades. 

However they feel about your tightened purse strings right now, your kids will absolutely benefit from your fiscal responsibility down the line.

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Author Details

Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith has spent a decade writing for and about small businesses. She specializes in all things finance and has written for publications like G2 and SmallBizDaily. When she's not writing for work at her desk, you can usually find her writing for pleasure near large bodies of water.