The silent workforce: grandparents who babysit

If I had known how wonderful it would be to have grandchildren, I’d have had them first.

- Lois Wyse, author


The sentiment in this quote is shared by grandparents the world over, so much so it could probably be an official motto. Mine even bought a fridge magnet that said it.

If there’s one thing that unites grandparents, it’s that they want to spend as much time as they can with the grandchildren. Given the chance, they’d probably put babysitters out of work.

In fact, many families already rely on retired grandparents for babysitting duties. It’s a win-win for everyone: parents who work all day need someone to watch the children, many retirees often have free time to help out, and the children themselves get to spend time with the people who are renowned for spoiling them a little.

There’s also the benefit of the arrangement saving parents as much as £5,000 a year in childcare costs.

                Hold on, £5,000 a year? How do you know?

In September of this year we carried out a survey of 1,500 people with children under the age of 13. What we found is that during term time, about a third of grandparents take on childcare duties for more than 10 hours a week; in the school holidays, that increases to almost half.

Fulltime childcare isn’t cheap, averaging more than £200 a week1. For a family with two children, which is still the UK average2, they’d be spending close to £5,000 a year.

                That seems like a lot. Did you expect it to be that much?

It’s higher than we would have guessed. Surprisingly, though, only a fifth of the survey’s respondents knew how much money the arrangement was saving them. Only about a third knew that their family could afford to help out, too.

That’s not to suggest that the parents don’t realise they’re getting value, though: nearly a quarter of our respondents would prefer to have a reduction in their salary rather than have someone else look after the children.

And whether it’s reimbursing the costs or buying gifts as a thank you, 83% of families give something back, too.

                Can the grandparents afford it, though?

Well, now you mention it, not all of them can. Looking after children can be costly, from fuel getting to their house to lunches and the costs of days out. For retirees who are managing a tight budget, additional unexpected costs can make a financial situation tricky. And if parents themselves don’t have much disposable income, they may not have the flexibility to completely reimburse these costs.

Even if the costs aren’t quite affordable, many grandparents would still choose to look after their grandkids instead of missing the opportunity to be with them. For those who have generous pensions or sufficient savings it isn’t a problem, of course; for everyone else, it could be challenging.

                I’d rather not have to worry if I can afford to look after my grandchildren.

You’re definitely not alone there. If you see grandchildren in your own future, now is the time to get saving.

Your pension could be the key to spending more time with your family

The more your pension is worth, the more freedom you could have to spend with your family without being burdened by a lack of money. It could mean the difference between struggling to make ends meet and spending your days doing as much of what you want as possible.

A pension is one of those things that many people don’t think much about until they are close to using it for an income. But the earlier you check on it, the better.

Think of it like your savings in a bank account. They’re currently in an account paying just 0.5% interest, and you’ve just found out that another account will pay 5%. Every day that you stay put is a day you are losing money. On the other hand, the quicker you switch to the higher interest account, the more money you’ll have.

The same is true if you are in a pension that isn’t working as hard as it could be: every day you stay put is a day that your wealth is being eroded. And ultimately, it’s your future that’s being affected.

The truth is not all pensions are the same. If yours isn’t the best one for your circumstances, a simple switch now could mean you have thousands more in your fund in the future.

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The details provided in this article are for general information only and are in no way deemed to be financial advice. All of the material is correct as of the publication date, but could be out-of-date by the time you read the article. For our latest information and news, please see our articles section:

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