The BBC’s ‘Your Money and Your Life’ Finishes Up Its Series by Talking to Sixtysomethings

Are the Baby Boomers the last generation that will experience retirement?

Photo credit: Philip Brewer, CC BY 2.0.

Here are the very last sentences spoken in the BBC’s “Your Money and Your Life” four-part series:

Sixties and Beyond, Your Money and Your Life – BBC Radio 4

Our personal lives are much more complex. Longer, with multiple partners, producing multiple children—and yet for many, without safe and secure careers to provide a stable family income. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the fundamentals of family finances need to change dramatically. Well, maybe that will happen when the Bank of Mom and Dad, of Grandma and Granddad, finally runs out of money.

That is rich (PUN INTENDED), considering that both this episode and the one preceding it deal primarily with how children can provide care for their aging parents. Do we not have The Bank of Son and Daughter? The Emotional Labor and Financial Strain Placed on Caretakers? The previous episode—the one dealing with forty- and fifty-somethings—included an interview with a woman who quit her job so she could provide care for her special-needs son and her 97-year-old father.

The BBC’s ‘Your Money and Your Life’ Checks In With the Sandwich Generation

Sorry. I’m a little angry at the BBC’s conclusion. (FUMINGLY ANGRY.)

The BBC’s “sixty-something” episode features three big interviews:

  1. A woman who was told, at a young age, that she wouldn’t need to worry about money or retirement, because her husband would take care of all of that. She didn’t marry, but she didn’t save for retirement either—and now, in her sixties, she anticipates working for many years to come.
  2. A retired couple receiving public sector “platinum-plated” pensions, which the BBC notes makes them “extremely wealthy” compared to their retired peers. They are spending a lot of their money on their children and grandchildren because they want the next generation to have, as the woman says about her son, “the sort of lifestyle that he had when he was with us.” The children are never interviewed. We do not know how they feel about their parents’ financial gifts, or whether they want Grandma and Grandpa to buy their grandchildren a tablet (which is one of the examples in the interview). All we know is that this couple represents The Bank of Mom and Dad, and we already know the BBC’s opinion on that.
  3. A son managing his retired father’s health and finances. The father is in a care home, and the son is currently using his father’s money to pay for the home, but he knows that money will eventually run out and he will become financially responsible for his father.

So. One of these situations describes the Bank of Mom and Dad. Another situation is kind of “Dad and son pool their resources and abilities to make sure Dad is taken care of,” and the third situation—and I would have loved to hear a longer interview with this woman—deals with a person who is worried about supporting herself because she does not have a husband or children to help.

Here are a few more items of note in the BBC’s discussion of sixty-somethings:

  • This is the first generation where “owning your own home became the norm.”
  • This is the first generation with access to credit cards (and credit card debt).
  • This is the first generation who is experiencing a long and extended retirement.
  • This may be the last generation that experiences retirement at all.

If I were writing a conclusion to this series, it might be something about how life is interdependent—parents taking care of children, children taking care of parents, families blending and working to meet each other’s needs.

I could write about how the more people you have in your life, the more complicated your finances become—which is something the BBC has touched on in nearly every episode—but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I could write about the bigger problems, the ones that are tossed off as facts: people in their 30s earning less than their parents did at the same age, rising rent and real estate prices, the part where a financial advisor says that you need to save 15 percent of your income from the day you start working to be able to afford retirement (and if you don’t start saving until you’re in your 30s, you need to save 30 percent).

But I’ll end on this: the “extremely wealthy” couple has already identified their future nursing home, and they visit every year to make sure it still meets their criteria. Why? Because all of their children are sons. “Daughters might be different,” the man explains. “But sons do not look after their parents.”

That isn’t completely true—the BBC features a son taking care of his father, after all—but it’s proof that the Bank of Mom and Dad can include both dividends and deposits.

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