Be­hind the head­lines: I can’t help my chil­dren to buy a house

With one in four home buy­ers still re­ceiv­ing fi­nan­cial help from par­ents, Marion Mcgil­vary re­veals why her chil­dren aren’t among them

Woman's Own - - HELLO & WELCOME -

Sad but true: none of my four chil­dren will be able to buy a place of their own in Lon­don. When I men­tioned this to one of my col­leagues the other day, she looked aghast, ‘But can’t you help?’ I al­most choked on my cof­fee.

It’s not that I don’t want to help my chil­dren climb on the prop­erty lad­der, or that I wouldn’t saw off both arms for them, if me be­ing arm­less would pro­vide them with a home of their own. It’s sim­ply that I just can’t af­ford it.

This branch of the Bank of Mum and Dad has col­lapsed due to in­suf­fi­cient funds. It’s not open for busi­ness for more than the small­est un­re­paid loans.

It feels very self­ish not to be able to give them a leg-up, es­pe­cially as ev­ery­one else seems to be do­ing it. I have other friends with fewer chil­dren and steady mar­riages who can do just that – and I ad­mit I’m en­vi­ous.

Tough times

Fig­ures out ear­lier this year show the Bank of Mum and Dad will have doled out more than £5.7bn to chil­dren in 2018 and are now the 12th big­gest mort­gage lenders in Bri­tain.

But, as a 60-year-old di­vorcee near­ing re­tire­ment, I’m just as wor­ried about where I’m go­ing to live, as where my kids will end up. My youngest child, 26, still lives at home and can’t af­ford to move out. Who wants to still be house­shar­ing in their 30s? I had a mort­gage and four kids by then.

If I could have stayed hap­pily hitched it might all have been so dif­fer­ent. The mort­gage on the house we bought in west Lon­don all those years ago is fi­nally paid off, and the house is for sale. Its value has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally. It’s on the mar­ket for £750,000. In an­other era we would have been swan­ning around in a pink Cadil­lac, drink­ing Cham­pagne. If all had been well in the mar­riage of Mum and Dad, this is the mo­ment we might have been able to dole some­thing out to the kids, both to avoid death du­ties, and give them a bit to­wards a deposit. But in­stead, the pro­ceeds are be­ing di­vided with the ex-hus­band; we both get half – which is a nice sum if you want to live in ru­ral France, but not so great if you want to be within com­mut­ing dis­tance of Lon­don – and split any sur­plus four ways.

It cer­tainly doesn’t leave any­thing over to ‘buy’ my­self a grand­child by pro­vid­ing some cash for a two-bed­room flat.

My guilt is com­pounded by the fact that I ben­e­fit­ted greatly from the Bank of Mum and Dad my­self. My par­ents were sound work­ing-class peo­ple of slen­der means, who nev­er­the­less saved through­out their lives and were able to help me of­ten with money – to buy my first and third car, and leave me a small nest egg, which gave me a boost at a time in my life when I needed it.

‘it feels self­ish not to be able to give them a leg-up’

As a re­sult, I’ve been fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent most of my life. I left home and moved to Ox­ford at 17, where I worked as a li­brar­ian. I lived in a suc­ces­sion of grotty bed­sits with no heat and shared houses with one-bar elec­tric fires, pow­ered by me­ters I was too poor to feed. I could have moved back to Scot­land, but it was too

late to go back to ru­ral West Loth­ian – my life had changed.

As a girl, all I wanted was a place to call my own, so that’s some­thing I wish for my chil­dren, too. In the end I got the two-uptwo-down, but through no ef­fort of my own. My hus­band’s par­ents gave us the deposit – a gen­er­ous third of its value.

How­ever, that was 35 years ago. I could no more come up with the equiv­a­lent to­day than run for Pres­i­dent and beat Don­ald Trump. Prop­erty prices are just plain bonkers in most metropoli­tan ar­eas, with Lon­don lead­ing the mad­ness – the av­er­age deposit on a starter home is now £114,952. That’s all my re­tire­ment money.

Ridicu­lous rents

‘How did you even man­age to save?’ asked my 29-year-old son in­cred­u­lously the other day. He and his wife both have MAS and work hard for char­i­ties, but earn mod­est sums. Like many young grad­u­ates these days, most of their joint salary goes in rent for a bi­jou res­i­dence in north-west Lon­don.

I’m not sure how I ended up in this po­si­tion. I’ve put away my pen­nies as in­structed by my Pres­by­te­rian par­ents and have man­aged to pass on the the­ory of sav­ing for a rainy day, but liv­ing in Lon­don, I can’t see a way for them to put it into prac­tice.

Feel­ing the pinch

Mean­while, though I have sav­ings, af­ter years of child-rear­ing, house­wifery, part-time and free­lance jobs, no pen­sion and noth­ing from the State un­til I’m 68 (so an­other eight years to go), what lit­tle I’ve got in the bank is all that keeps me from the fear of hav­ing to eat cat food in my old age – or at least a lot of Tesco Econ­omy Baked Beans.

OK I’m slightly ex­ag­ger­at­ing. I’ve made what sen­si­ble pre­cau­tions I can on my lim­ited in­come. I just have to en­sure I don’t live too long.

I have had a com­fort­able and priv­i­leged life. As have my chil­dren. But, even with this, I don’t have much sur­plus to give the same help­ing hand to them that I had from my par­ents.

For many of my peers with grown-up kids, the Bank of Mum and Dad just doesn’t have the same sort of funds at its dis­posal as is gen­er­ally as­sumed.

My fa­ther had the strong con­vic­tion that he didn’t want any of us to wait till he was dead be­fore we got any money. He wanted to give us fi­nan­cial help when we needed it. I’d like to do the same, but be­yond the odd take­away and lump sum in times of dif­fi­culty, my purse strings are tied. I in­her­ited my par­ents’ thrift and a fear of debt. My mother wouldn’t buy on HP, or even from mail-or­der cat­a­logues. As a re­sult, I’m the only per­son I know who doesn’t use a credit card. And my chil­dren can stretch a pound till it squeals, and know how to live well for not very much, but they are still in debt, sad­dled with stu­dent loans as are most of their friends.

The only sort of fi­nan­cial ad­vice I’d give to my kids is, ‘Get out of town’, which is what I in­tend to do my­self when I re­tire. Of course, if I did buy the farm­house in France, they could all live with me. They love me, yes, but pos­si­bly not that much.

‘Prop­erty prices are just plain bonkers’

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