Parents, never make your children your retirement plan
“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams” — Gabriel García Márquez
Albert Einstein said: “If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” If parents wish to be stable, fulfilled, wealthy and happy in life in their old age, they must never make their children their retirement and financial plan.
As a parent, you must continuously live in such a way that you are an asset and not a liability to your children. A wise parent would never make the children or pension a retirement plan. As parents, it is our duty to provide our children with what they need to grow up to be adults who can survive and thrive on their own. When we have decided to have and raise children, we accepted the responsibility to take care of them. It is not a tit-for-tat arrangement.
During the course of this write-up, I shared my thought-pattern with a senior friend, and he said: “I’m not raising my son to think he has any sort of obligation to me as an adult; I want him to know that his adult life is his to live. He should make it more fulfilling and impactful because that was why I raised him in the first place. I am not going to customise him for my old age. It will be my joy to see him impacting his community and the world at large.
“However, if he gets so rich, I wouldn’t turn down a new house, new cars, housekeeper or maybe a personal chef, but his decision must flow from love and not from being obliged to me.”
I was so touched with his thought-pattern that was mostly un-African, as our tradition believes strongly that parents’ old age should be lived fully at their children’s expense. We must find a healthy nexus between our own responsibility to design our old-age plan and our children’s responsibility to shower us with love and attention.
Some parents design their lives around their children, who are like their bank, salary, business, money-spinning venture, career, occupation and ATM at old age. Such parents normally end up becoming miserable in life. Your children must definitely be there for you in your old age, but no parent must make a child his/her source of wealth.
God is your Source; don’t ever build your life around any child at old age. Parents that do not have their own distinct life at old age normally mark themselves for a journey to oblivion. I have seen many old people living miserably and pitiably just because they designed the latter part of their lives around the proceeds from their children. This wrong notion that our old age must be a burden to our children is a debilitating mentality. Old age can be more rewarding when we create time to design our own retirement plan.
There are various businesses and investments that can be profitable for us at old age, like rental business, shareholding, consultant jobs from years of experience, writing a book and having coaching outfit. I particularly see writing books as more refreshing than any others.
Write books and don’t die with the knowledge you have acquired, revelations that you have received and experiences that you have gained over the years.
Plan your retirement, give back to society, serve God, avoid health risky habits and keep contacts with your childhood friends. Join your old school platforms and give back to the institutions that formed you, as giving back to your alma mater can be so fulfilling and refreshing at old age.
Don’t ever live in such a way that you become a liability to your children. Live in such a way that it becomes obvious to them that you still have a lot of value to add to them even in old age. Don’t go around in a way that your children conclude that you are a liability. Make yourself an asset to your children through the wealth of experience you have been able to acquire over the years.
As a parent, you must be able to earn your own living and pay your own way. Whatever comes from your children should be a gift and a show of their love, but must never be the only thing you are depending on for survival. Many parents are frustrated at old age because of their unhealthy expectations towards their children. It is not a sin to have expectations of your children, but it can be so frustrating for the children if those expectations are unhealthy.
Bill Lemley said: “When nobody around you seems to measure up, it is time to check your yardstick.” Many times, children are normally at variance with their parents because they never communicated their old age expectation to them.
If you have a parent who is approaching the age of retirement, it is a good idea to sit down and have the conversation about what the next five or 10 years look like to them. It is uncomfortable to have, but it is incredibly necessary. Not everything has to be resolved in the first conversation, but it is important to open the door and to begin to come up with a plan. And if you are in a position to, it is never too early to begin preparing for old age.
It is important for families to have these conversations sooner than later. It is quite appalling to know that many ageing parents aren’t talking to their children about their expectations. That leads to the children being completely blindsided and ill-prepared to step in if the time comes that their parents need them for care. Children may be forced to take leave from their jobs or quit altogether and relocate to care for their parents and if they are not financially prepared for that, it can have lasting damage.
I want to suggest that parents should keep the communication line open always and ensure that their old age expectations are communicated to their children with clarity. Decisions around spending their old age with their children’s nuclear family must never be a sudden decision. Many times, parents are oblivious of how their decision to spend their old age with their children actually strains the relationship between their children and their spouses.
As a parent, if you want your children to live a productive, stressless and fulfilling life, be an asset to them and not a liability. I have observed that when you are your parents’ retirement plan, it can actually be a hindrance to your destiny fulfilment if the decision was never planned in the first place. It can get worse if you are the only child of your parents, as there would be no other siblings to share the responsibility with.
Theodore Adorno said: “In the age of the individual’s liquidation, the question of individuality must be raised anew.” So, many parents have liquidated themselves to build their life around their children. You must definitely use your time and resources to raise your children to maturity, but you must not also neglect the fact that you are an individual with hopes, aspirations, dreams, goals and passion.
Parents should stop buying the lie and myth that only a life built around the proceeds from their children means a better life because it is a blatant lie. Your personal development, dreams, goals and relationship with God should be the object of your pursuit, even at your old age.
I have realised that many parents die untimely because they no longer have goals that inspire them in old age. It is not a bad thing to still have inspiring goals at old age, as this would definitely keep you revitalised, energised and full of life. Make sure you have ‘old age goals.’
Tony Robbins said: “People are not lazy; they simply have impotent goals, that is, goals that do not inspire them.” By building a life and lifestyle around our values, goals, dreams and vision, we create a life that is more sustainable, satisfying, meaningful and fulfilling even at old age.
You would definitely need your children’s care and comfort in old age, but you must avoid becoming a financial and emotional burden to your wards. Your old age should be to share your experience and wisdom. It must be both fulfilling and rewarding.
Another thing I want to emphasise is the issue of self-esteem at old age. The worst time for your self-esteem to be battered is actually at an old age because it can lead to an untimely death. Roberts Liardon said: “An internal security will always produce outward stability.” Stop depending on the unsustainable life-supporting system, be secured from within and put more effort into building your self-esteem.
Parents must not lose their individualism at old age. Eleanor Roosevelt said: “Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, but you also have an obligation to be one.”
Finally, I want to encourage every child to have a concrete plan for their parents in their old age. In fact, for most religions, serving your parents in their old age is as good as opening the door of paradise. Children must definitely give back to their parents out of love, but not out of distress, and it must be prepared towards and not become an overwhelming emergency.
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