Grandparents are not just doting oldsters who spoil their children’s children; they are an active economic and social force that’s on the rise.
In 1978 when President Jimmy Carter signed a federal proclamation establishing the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day, there were roughly 40 million grandparents in America. Today, thanks to aging baby boomers and longer life spans, they are about 65 million strong, representing more than one in four American adults. By 2020, the “MetLife Report on American Grandparents” indicates those numbers will swell to around 80 million – one in three adults.
In fact, grandparents today are wealthier, healthier and even younger than you might think. A recent AARP study, “Insights and Spending Habits of Modern Grandparents,” found a majority of grandparents are baby boomers (aged 46-66) and nearly half (49 percent) were under 50 when their first grandchild was born.
A Consumer Force to Be Reckoned With
If you’re not marketing to grandparents, you’re missing a demographic that not only buys and invests for themselves, but makes important consumer choices for their grandchildren that fuel the economy.
AARP says that consumer spending by households ages 55 and older – the vast majority of which are grandparents – exceeded $2 trillion in 2010. Metlife found consumer spending by this group has been rising at rates well above inflation over the last decade and faster by far than any other age category.
Grandkids are driving much of this spending. AARP’s study revealed that 53 percent of grandparents spend money on their grandkids’ education, 37 percent help out with everyday expenses and 23 percent provide support health and dental expenses. MetLife’s study has similar findings and showed that grandparents’ spending on primary and secondary school tuition and supplies increased almost three-fold since 1999.
And grandparents are not just opening their wallets, they are opening their homes. According to AARP, almost 40 percent of grandparents provide or have provided day care for their grandkids and about 5 percent are the primary caregivers for at least one grandchild.
Today’s grandparents are much more likely to be in the workforce than prior generations. In the early 1990s, about 30 percent of people 55 and older were working. That number is now over 40 percent or roughly 30 million Americans. And by 2020 this will rise to almost 42 million.
Grandparents are becoming a key source of workplace talent. A recent study of independent workers by MBO Partners found that more than 70 percent of mature independent workers had unique expertise and training that were sought after in the marketplace. Businesses will need to adjust their hiring and management practices to attract, retain and collaborate with these experienced workers.
Many grandparents don’t turn off the office lights when they hit 65. Grandparents are increasingly starting their own small businesses or becoming solopreneurs, a trend discussed in the 2007 Intuit Future of Small Business Report. Most often driven by passion and interest – but sometimes by financial need – grandparents turn to entrepreneurship to continue working on their own terms. In fact, 8 percent of all solo and micro businesses in the U.S. are currently run by solopreneurs 67 years of age and older.
Grandparents Day is a great day to celebrate those we love and recognize the vital role grandparents play in the U.S. economy.