Is a Down Economy Good for Grandparents?


A reader named Joel Margolese of Andover, Mass., while on holiday vacation in Boca Raton, Fla., wrote the following:

Doing the annual pilgrimage to South Florida this holiday season, we’ve all been struck by how everywhere seems to be more crowded than usual. Parks, beaches, even stores are jammed. We could barely find a parking space at our favorite park, which is usually empty.

Could it be that with the down economy, people canceled or didn’t book expensive trips like cruises or ski vacations in favor of bunking with grandma and grandpa?

I’m curious if you or your readers have any evidence of this.

What do you say, readers? Let’s hear from those of you with youngish children especially: what did you do this holiday season versus past years and what are your plans for the upcoming spring break?

You may remember that Robert Frank once explained on this very blog that the reason some retirees move into such large houses is so that the house acts as grandchild bait.

If you don’t want to spend much on your vacation but don’t want a visit to the grandparents either, you could always give Iceland a try.


Even if they are being visited more, I have trouble agreeing that the recession is "good for grandparents". Most grandparents' welfare is heavily influenced by the stock market--if they haven't retired already, they are probably close to retirement, at which point their income becomes almost exclusively withdrawls from their retirement funds. As much as the market has deflated in the past year, I have trouble beleiving any amount of quality time could compensate for the loss in quality of life from that.


Instead of going to Europe, my husband and I are meeting my parents in NYC this year. They are thrilled.


This is slightly off-topic, but the grandparents that are living solely on social security and rent their homes have really benefited from the recession. Social security benefits increased by 5.8% while prices have dropped in the past 3 months. Purchasing power is up around 10% in the past 6 months for these individuals!

Eric M. Jones

" 'Tis an ill wind that bloweth no man good " John Heywood

This is obvious. But who wants be doing well when all about are suffering? There's no joy in that....except for Republicans I guess.

Mark Marshall

Isn't that the idea of the 2008 word of the year - staycation?

I certainly notice our local ski trails are more crowded than usual. People not doing downhill skiing because of the expense, and trying cross country instead.



Everyone should visit Iceland at least once just for the sheer beauty nad wonder of it all. An incredible place to see. Woth any money you spend and much more civilized than going to Alaska, Siberia or the Yukon.


We cancelled our planned trip to NYC due to cost. Going to visit Grandma instead!


My wife, 2 young kids, and I live in NJ and returned yesterday from a trip to see my grandparents in LA. We saved lodging by staying with them. However, the bottom-line cost (airfare, car rental, food, entertainment) was roughly comparable to that of the cruise my wife and I took to Bermuda 2 years ago.

I suppose our recent trip does not quite have a bottom-line figure yet as I don't know if I'll get extra socks from them for my birthday as a reward for visiting. Also, we might have medical expenses as a result of sitting in front of "Mr and Mrs Cough" on the plane.

Fred Anon

Grandparents tend to be invested conservatively, and are more likely to have a paid off house, so yes, I can see how that might work...


"Could it be that with the down economy, people canceled or didn't book expensive trips like cruises or ski vacations in favor of bunking with grandma and grandpa?"

Probably since it is the nouveau rich who consume the "look at how well we are doing" vacations. The exact people who are getting hammered by the stock market or financial industry going bonkers..

As an example of the wealthy cutting costs:
My wife and I trolled the local Home Depot Expo (Nashville TN market) which is shutting down. It was funny to see all the wealthy nimrods trying to get a "deal" on highly overpriced goods to start with. I mentioned to my wife that most of these folks probably do not ever set
foot in a Walmart/Kmart they send their maid or nanny- they might have gone to Target when they were in college but lower than that was slumming. In the Expo, we saw them asking about "where the on sale tubs were kept" when every single bathroom fixture had signs on it "Not for sale. Hold for vendor". The probably guessed that there was a "special place reserved" for those in the know. I guess if you thought that an under bar refrigerator should cost $550 versus $150 then you would like that the $550 refrig was now only $350!!!...

Those then are the folks who are deciding that a ski vacation in Vail or a $5,000 per person cruise is not a good investment so they are hanging with relatives etc. and only spending $5000 on the whole family.



I'd say that it is probably is. More grandparents are probably being visited now. This includes families who have traded going out to events for the free visit with extended families.

Of course, there may be a negative factor as well - less need for day care. For a few years when I was a kid, my single mother worked evenings and I spent every day at grandma's house. Now, if people in similar situations lose their jobs, there is no more need for grandparents to provide this type of family daycare.

On a side note - I agree with #3 in that some people have actually benefitted out of this. For example, my mother has a secure state unionized job. Her income has received the standard annual increase, despite low (or non-existent) inflation. Since she does not have a 401(k), she didn't lose any money in the market. Finally, the recession brought on lower gas prices, which has been a huge savings for her since she drives many miles to work. By contrast last year when the Dow was at 14,000 and gas was $140/bbl, she was struggling along.



It seems that people are staying closer to home in general and not just visiting grandparents and such. When my family and I went on our annual ski trip to Vermont over Christmas, the ski shop we frequent said that their business had been pretty stable given the economic situation. Our suspicion was that enough people, who in better times would have gone out west to ski, decided to stay closer to home to make up for the people who decided to go to local ski areas (think the Catskills) or just stayed home altogether.


i am no expert because i am too young to be a grandmother (lots of college educated people my age are just worrying about their teens getting driver's licences, plus I have only been grandparenting about four years–

but this I think I know:. Kid's think of large as high ceilings, moreso than square footage. So buy a small house with an open loft.

Marla Marla

We visit the grandparents regardless of what the market and economy do. It's the nature of the faustian bargain we've made with them.


I did the opposite...I figured I'll never have money again and I went to France for a month!