8 Tips on How to Help Your Grandchildren Financially

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

Once you have solidified your own retirement plan and know you have saved enough, you may find yourself wanting to help your children or grandchildren. You might want to lessen their financial burden by paying for their college, just giving them a treat, or rewarding them for meeting various goals.

1. Give Cash

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Simply giving your children or grandchildren cash is the simplest way to gift them money. Do you remember the feeling of opening an envelope of crisp bills? It is pretty exciting.

If you are in a financial situation where you want to simply give to your grandchildren in a way that they can use however they please, gifting money is a viable option. However, you should keep the federal gifting limit in mind while doing so, explains Michael Gross, CFP/CPA and the owner of Rising Tides Financial.

The annual gifting limit in 2022 is $16,000.

“If you gift over $16,000 a year you will start to encounter gift taxes,” Gross says. “This means both you and your spouse can each give $16,000 to one grandchild and not have to pay taxes on it. If you have five grandchildren, if you and your spouse each give them the maximum of $16,000, you can really lessen the amount in your estate.”

Giving away that much money at once may sound like a bad idea, but if you have all of what you need in retirement, you can lessen your own estate taxes by gifting excess funds to your grandchildren. (Although, you have to have a lot of money to worry about federal and most estate taxes.)

Some say that the disadvantage of giving cash is that you lose control over how and when it is used. If you want your beneficiary to use the money in a specific way, you might consider a trust, custodial account, or 529 plan.

2. 529 Plans

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A 529 plan, or a qualified tuition plan, allows you to help save money for your grandchildren’s education. Note that funds in a 529 plan may only be used for qualified education fees.

“The money you put into this account would not be taxed whatsoever, and once it comes time for your grandchild to apply for student financial aid, this money won’t be taken into account either, which could help them receive more in financial aid,” says Gross.

Another strategy you can use with a 529 plan is to front-load the account. This refers to the act of putting a large sum of money into an account at one time.

“You can make five years’ worth of payments in one year if you want,” Gross explains. “So, with the federal gifting limit at $16,000 per year, you could contribute a total of $80,000 at one time.”

Do keep in mind, though, that if you front-load your grandchild’s 529 plan for five years, you can’t make another contribution until the five-year time period has passed.

3. Trusts and Custodial Accounts

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You also have a couple of other options when it comes to helping grandchildren with their finances. You may open and fund accounts that you control while your grandchildren are young or until you decide to give them access.

One option is a trust.

“There are many different types of trust accounts; for example, you can choose to distribute the funds in installments or when they reach an accomplishment, such as a college degree or an income level, or some combination,” says Gross.

On the other hand, a custodial account is an account where you are considered to be the custodian, which means you have control over it until the grandchild is 18 or 21 (depending on which state you live in).

“A custodial account is similar to a savings account and the funds in it can be used for anything,” Gross points out.

4. Make Sure You Have Enough for Yourself

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You don’t want to help your children or grandchildren financially and then run out of money for yourself later on. In particular, consider your plan for covering a long-term care need in the future, and don’t gift unless you know you can fund your longevity.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to run out of money as you age. And, if you are caring for dependents it can happen quickly. Children and grandchildren that live with parents and grandparents can drain your savings.

Before you give to grandchildren, you should assess your own retirement plans.

Use the NewRetirement Retirement Planner to run a scenario where you gift money and assess your chance of success, cash flow, and net worth at longevity with the gift.

5. Use Monetary Gifting as an Opportunity to Share Your Financial Values

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Gifts can be an expression of what is important to you and financial gifts to children and grandchildren can be an opportunity to teach them about your financial values. Use the occasion to discuss why you are giving them money and how you came to the money yourself.

Talk about work, savings, and investing. Maybe accompany the gift with a book like “A Simple Path to Wealth,” by JL Collins. Collins wrote the book to help his daughter for life. She didn’t want to be a financial expert, so he kept things simple. People love this book. And, it delivers on the title by offering simple and sane advice that is easy to implement.

6. I Bonds

Retiree counting his coins
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Series I savings bonds are getting a lot of hype right now. These bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury have a high guaranteed rate of return. The downside? Individuals can only invest $10,000 a year (and convert an additional $5,000 from your tax return, if applicable).

However, if you think I bonds are a good investment and you are interested in gifting money to children or grandchildren, you can purchase an I bond for them, even if you have already bought one for yourself.

You will need the recipient’s name and Social Security number to complete the purchase. And, the recipient will need to open a Treasury Direct account to hold the funds. (Or, if they are under 18, you will need to hold the account until they come of age.)

The I bond purchase process can be cumbersome and I bonds are difficult to track, but they are certainly popular.

7. Gift Heirlooms While You Are Still Alive

Grandfather giving a gift to his surprised grandchild
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Whether it is your lemon meringue pie recipe or your revolutionary war musket, why wait until after you are gone to gift these items to your loved ones?

By sharing while you are still alive, you may gain the opportunity to have interesting conversations with your child or grandchild.

8. Money Aside, Give Them Your Time

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Sharing your time with your grandchildren will likely ensure a greater legacy for you than giving them money.

Share what is important to you by spending time with them doing what you (or they) love.

  • If you are still working, can they join you for a day at work?
  • Do you love to travel? Have you considered taking them on one of your trips?
  • Can’t afford very much? Baking cookies or reading books together at home are long-cherished grandparent traditions.
  • Live far away? Take advantage of technology for Skype video calls or a daily text — even if they don’t respond, they’ll know you are thinking of them.

What are their interests? And, how can you engage with them about what really matters to them?

  • I know one grandmother who unexpectedly got herself a video game console and plays online with her grandchildren. These games can be highly social sometimes and a great way to collaborate with kids.
  • Do you know they like skiing and mountain biking? Text them videos or articles you come across related to their interests.
  • Attend their games and recitals when possible.
  • Read or watch what they read or watch.

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