The Nest Is Finally Empty. Now What?

Your youngest child has moved out at last. Naturally, your feelings are mixed: a little regret and anxiety, probably some pride, and a flood of relief and exhilaration. After years of providing your kids with everything from Pampers to a postgraduate education, you’re financially free.

These years ought to offer a golden opportunity to pad your retirement savings. However, “out of the nest” doesn’t necessarily mean “out of the wallet.” In a 2015 Pew Research poll, 61% of U.S. parents admitted that they still provide financial support to their grown children.1

Also, empty-nesters tend to increase their spending on “nondurables” by an average of 51%, according to a 2010 survey by the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College.2 Think expensive trail bikes, deluxe weeks in French Polynesia, and classes in Moroccan cuisine… not to mention “durables” like a kitchen makeover or a 34-ft. cocktail cruiser. Splurges that can’t be paid out of cash flow often end up slicing into savings.

No wonder the CRR’s 2015 survey found that during this supposed sweet spot for saving, most parents managed to boost their savings by less than 1% of their income.3

Launching a new generation into the world is definitely an accomplishment worth celebrating. But it’s a good idea to prepare (maybe with the help of a certified financial planner) for how much you’ll save and spend in the years thereafter. Then when your fledglings leave the nest, you won’t risk your retirement nest egg toppling out too.

  1. “Family Support in Graying Societies: Helping Adult Children,” 5/21/15 (
  2. Missy Sullivan, “Can Empty Nesters Still Afford to Splurge?”, SmartMoney, 9/15/11 (
  3. Cybele Weisser, “Are You Ready for Retirement?”, Money, April 2016

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