Boomer Grandparents Have Youth, Money to Spare

ByABC News via logo
May 20, 2002, 3:39 PM

May 21 -- Just call them "The Nanas and the Papas." A generation of baby boomers is becoming grandparents and they're still trying to change the world.

Grandparents in America are the youngest they have ever been, with the average first-time grandparent now just 47, according to the Washington, D.C.-based AARP.But grandma and grandpa don't necessarily fit the stereotype of years past. About a third of all grandparents are "baby boomers," and you are more likely to see them coasting along on Rollerblades than relaxing on rocking chairs.

The new crop of baby boomer grandparents is also doing more with, and for, their grandchildren, opening up their purses and wallets, and spending a collective total of $35 billion a year on their grandkids. On average, they spend $500 a year on grandchildren, up from $320 in 1992.

Debra Schmitt became a grandmother when she was just 42, and at age 48, she now has three grandchildren under the age of 7. She is also among the wave of boomer grandmas who are more likely than their predecessors to have their own careers and be college-educated. Schmitt works as a management consultant for Fortune 500 companies and runs seven marathons a year.

Paying Bills for Grandkids

Thanks to her job, Schmitt has been able to build up her bank account for her family's little ones.

"Now I can give my grandchildren things I couldn't even give my own children," she said. For instance, they are able to pay for the grandkids to go to private school, which she considers the most important thing that she could do for them.

She is not the only one. Fifty-two percent of grandparents help pay for their grandchildren's education, 45 percent help pay for living expenses, and 25 percent help pay medical and dental costs.

Ken Dychtwald, president and CEO of Age Wave and the author of Age Power: How the 21st Century Will Be Ruled by the New Old , said that these grandparents are a largely untapped market. Most advertising messages are directed toward outdated images of grandparents, who are often perceived as being frugal.