Nearly half of those Americans who have retired are helping other members of their family, either by giving them money or managing their finances directly, according to the fourth Real Life Retirement quarterly survey from Charles Schwab.

The survey found that 44% of retired individuals are supporting at least one individual financially. Children (53%) and grandchildren (37%) top the list of such dependents. An additional 12% are contributing to their parents' finances.

The telephone survey was conducted by Kelton Research between July 29 and Aug. 5. Forty-four percent of respondents said that an unsteady economy had made them more frugal in the past six months. Thirty-seven percent who had yet to retire said that because of the economy they would be spending more conservatively during their retirement than they originally planned.

Another strategy is to work longer. According to the survey, 35% of unretired respondents plan to delay retirement and 17% of those retired are considering returning to work, at least part time, because of the economy.

“Whether it’s their children, grandchildren or their own parents, more and more retirees are finding themselves supporting family members and, simultaneously, witnessing portions of their hard-earned savings disappear,” said Mark Jamison, a vice president at Schwab. “This is just the sort of retirement reality that we really encourage clients to prepare for: the unexpected.”

Schwab recommends strongly that people begin to plan for their retirement, if they have not already, and realizes that helping parents comes in as “a very close second" to this important goal. But to avoid a parent being in a weak financial position, the firm suggests that people check to make sure their parents are receiving all the retirement income sources they are entitled to. If necessary, see it if makes sense for the parent to borrow against their house. Help them establish a realistic budget, and try to wisely invest whatever they do have saved, particularly with an eye to distributions and income.

As far as children are concerned, Schwab recommends that parents teach them financial independence and put them “last on your priority list financially.” Finally, Schwab recommends that people save as much as they possibly can for retirement.

Jamison said: “The economic downturn has reminded us how important it is to be financially prepared for just about any possible scenario. Adjustments can and must be made to accommodate this added financial weight in retirement. Concentrating on saving now can be the difference in achieving successful retirement.”

The average pre-retiree has $219,000 saved for retirement, well below the $1.8 million they say they believe they will need to retire comfortably.

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