No gifts? Yes, really; it’s a good idea.

If you have elderly parents who may be struggling financially, now’s the time to suggest they don’t buy gifts for the grandchildren this holiday season. Sound radical? We think not.

Here’s why:

First, consider the reality of many older Canadians. In 2013, Statistics Canada found that about one-third of retirees have debt. Among those 55 and over who are not yet retired, two-thirds are in debt. While half of retirees with debt owe less than $25,000, Stats Can found that about one-sixth of them say they’re in hock to the tune of more than $100,000.

Blake Elyea, a senior vice-president with our team in Vancouver, says he sees a growing number of seniors as clients; those 65 and older made up 9.5% of all insolvency filings in 2013 (up from 9.2% in 2012 and 9.1% in 2011), according to Industry Canada. This trend is seen across Canada.

“The common thing that I see is either poor planning or no planning for retirement and maintaining your pre-retirement lifestyle. Then when your income changes, the shortfall is being backstopped with credit cards and a line of credit,” Mr. Elyea says.

Consider too that many seniors live on fixed incomes; they lack the means to aggressively address debt repayment. The knock-on effect can be that adult children have to pitch in and help their parents financially. That’s often a recipe for stress for both generations.

Secondly, do our children really need more video games or designer duds – and are the grandparents the ones that should be buying these expensive gifts?  We believe there are many more quality gifts we can give this year, the gift of time being the most valuable!

What we all crave over the holidays (including the kids) is rest and less stress. So, tell the grandparents they are off the hook for gifts. Their wallets will get a break and they can skip the shopping hassle. Instead, suggest some ‘old fashioned’ fun together as a family. Game nights, cookie-making or gingerbread house building together; share stories and family reminisces. Maybe start a family tree project together.

The holiday season at its heart is intended to be a time of togetherness and appreciation, and yes, even your kids – could be the happier for it.

http://business.financialpost.com/2014/12/06/indebted-seniors-need-to-discover-their-inner-scrooge/