The days when working people dreaded the loneliness and hardship of old age are long-gone. Now 40-something parents cannot wait until the children leave home, and for the first time since starting a family, they'll have cash to spend as they please. Unfortunately not all of them will have quite the lifestyle they are expecting.
Just one in seven parents in their 40s say they spend most of their money on their own lifestyle rather than on their kids, and one in seven parents aged between 40 and 60 told Warner Leisure Hotels that they look forward to a time when they don't have to spend their discretionary income on their kids.
By the time they reach the age of 60, more than one in three are spending most of their cash on themselves and half of them say they love it. Susan Chitayi, aged 60 from Hemel Hempstead and mum to three, told researchers: "Now I'm older I love the fact that I can spend any spare money on myself instead of always putting the children first. As much as I love my children, I really enjoy being able to do the things that I want to do, not what I have to do. This has been the best stage of life so far and life really does being at 60 – what more evidence do you need?!"
Ray of hope?
It offers some hope to parents who read LV='s report into the cost of having a child and realised that each of their offspring are going to cost them an astonishing £231,843 by the age of 21 - more than a typical semi-detached house. In London this shocking cost rises to £253,638 each - which has opened many parents' eyes to why they always find themselves with too much month at the end of the money.
Marc Caulfield from Warner Leisure Hotels, comments: "We hope the 40 something parents can see the light at the end of the tunnel with our report findings and won't be too disheartened by the recent Cost of a Child figures. It is reassuring to hear that once the purse strings have been cut, this could be the best stage of life not only for your income, but also for socialising with friends and your partner and trying a new activity."
Not for everyone
Unfortunately, these golden 60s are not within everyone's grasp. The study assumes for example, that once children hit the age of 21 they are able to stand on their own two feet. A recent study showed that many young people don't expect to be able to afford to move out until they are 35. Even once they have left, millions of them will continue to rely on their parents for everything from paying bills to buying them a house. Many thousands will end up in debt in order to help their adult children.
Even once the children have finally stopped relying on you, the position you find yourself in depends on whether the kids have eaten into your opportunity to put money aside for the long term. If you managed to sacrifice every bit of spending on your lifestyle in order to fund the children's education and childcare whilst simultaneously putting aside money for retirement, then you're set for some particularly golden years in your 60s - followed by even more in retirement.
If, however, your family have forced you to sacrifice your savings for retirement, it's another story entirely. Rory Stuart, Wealth Planner at Sanlam points out: "The rising cost of childcare and school fees can sometimes overshadow longer term saving goals, such as putting money away towards retirement. Whilst this is understandable, it is also concerning, especially when you consider the rapidly changing retirement landscape in the UK, where future generations are expected to end up with significantly smaller pension pots to live on during their retirement."
In the worst case, you will be funding the kids in your 60s, desperately paying money into your pension in your 70s and only in your 80s will you finally be able to give up work for good.
That is, of course, unless you decide it's time to cash in on all that cash you paid out to the children, and get them to stump up the kind of income you offered to them while they were growing up.