Talking about younger generations

Real stories about giving a helping hand

Family members talk about the help they have provided for their children and grandchildren, and the implications for their own finances.

Being able to help your family out can be incredibly rewarding, whether it’s passing on the things you’ve learnt over the years, giving financial support or offering practical help with childcare. Family members can be the first port of call when an extra pair of hands is needed to look after young ones but getting actively involved can also bring its own challenges. 

We asked grandparents and step-grandparents to lift the lid on their personal experiences1.


Around five million grandparents in the UK provide some kind of childcare, according to research by charity Age UK2, and it can be a great way of maintaining a close relationship with your children and your grandchildren, especially if they don’t live nearby.

Sarla Shah, 73, from London, travels to and from Oxfordshire once a week to look after her grandchildren while her daughter works. Sarla undertakes the 60-mile journey either by car or train with her daughter covering her costs.

Even though I live quite far away, I really want to be on hand if they need me – but getting that balance right is important.

Betty Haley, 74, from Yorkshire, also made the trip to London, looking after her two granddaughters for two days every week when they were small.

“I’d worked full time when my daughter, Emma, was little and I felt I’d missed out a bit,” she says. “I wanted to make up for it with my grandchildren.”

“It was really brilliant for me,” adds Emma.

And it made a big difference to my career, as I didn’t have to leave on the dot of 5.30. It’s also meant that the girls are very close to their grandmother; she’s like a second mum.

“Looking after your grandchildren is just the done thing for my generation,” continues Betty. “And I wanted to do it even though the family didn’t live round the corner. I didn’t want any money, but Emma insisted on paying for my weekly train fare.”

If you are planning to provide childcare for your grandchildren, it can help to agree the amount you will be providing in advance, so that everyone’s expectations are clear, says Simon Hewett-Avison, of Independent Age, a charity providing clear, free and impartial information for older people.

He says

Many parents rely on grandparents to look after children to some extent. Parents could contribute to the expenses of looking after grandchildren, such as meals or travel, if you’re looking after them regularly.

If you’re caring for a child under 12, you may also be entitled to receive a National Insurance (NI) credit – transferred from the Child Benefit recipient – to help you build up your NI contributions. You can find details at gov.uk

Treats and gifts

While spoiling the grandchildren might be seen as the grandparent’s prerogative, it’s important not to do anything that goes directly against their parents’ wishes.

It’s a good idea to get pre-clearance on what you can and can’t do. My children give me clear instructions when we’re looking after the kids, so we know what’s expected. Having said that, it’s fun to break the rules and indulge them a bit sometimes. The trouble is, the grandchildren are very honest with their parents and tell them exactly what happened… and then we get into trouble!

Simon Spencer, 69, who has four grandchildren, ranging in age from 18 months to 12 years.

Chris Hobley, 72, has found a way to treat the family and pass on valuable life lessons at the same time. When he married his wife, Maggie, three years ago, he became step-parent and step-grandparent to Maggie’s three adult children and three grandchildren aged two, four and 13. Instead of buying them expensive presents, the couple buys second-hand whenever they can.

Kids grow out of things so quickly, so buying second-hand items saves money. It’s also good to lead by example and show children that books, toys and clothes don’t need to be brand new. Buying second-hand is a form of recycling, which helps the environment.

“I think that grandparents are from a generation that knew how to be sensible and frugal with money,” adds Chris. “We can act as role models to younger generations.”

Giving money

Whether it’s pocket money or an occasional lump sum, many grandparents give their younger relatives a regular financial boost. Chris recently bought his four-year-old step grandson a piggy bank and encourages him to collect pennies in order to save up and buy something nice. “It’s a way of teaching the children the value of saving,” he says.

What children see and learn about money in childhood will influence how they manage their money as adults, according to the government-established Money and Pensions Service (MAPS). Its research found that children given regular pocket money, and encouraged to talk about money, tend to be better at managing their finances when they grow up.

“We’ve not set up a monthly allowance but we do give the grandchildren money for specific expenses,” says Simon. “Treating them all equally is important but, obviously, the older ones want very different things to the younger ones at the moment. I’m sure it will all even out at the end of the day.”

If you want to put some money aside for a child each month, there are plenty of options. Our Children’s Instant Saver account, owned and managed by you, offers a good rate of interest on balances from £1 to £10,000. Alternatively, if your grandchild has a BarclaysPlus account, you can make regular contributions into that.

Andrew Hall, a Barclays Wealth planner, says making cash gifts to your family could make a real difference to their immediate finances – and lower your inheritance tax (IHT) liability too. 

“If you want to make regular gifts, you can give away up to £3,000 a year, and it won’t be added to your estate for inheritance tax purposes. This is known as your ‘annual exemption’.

“As a grandparent, you can also give a wedding gift of up to £2,500 and as many gifts of up to £250 to anyone who hasn’t already benefited from any other tax exemption.”

Want to give away a larger, one-off sum? The rules are very different here, Andrew explains.

“Tax rules currently allow you to make a gift of any size and – as long as you live for seven years afterwards – it won’t be liable for IHT. However, these gift allowances can change, so do double-check the latest limits before you decide to do it.” 

Another option to consider is a trust – particularly if you want to hand over larger sums of money and have a say in what, and when, it’s used.

Andrew says

With changing family dynamics, a trust can provide further options for flexibility and control when making large cash gifts. In particular, it can help you to provide the type of financial support you want to give to loved ones in the future. However, this is a complex area and professional advice should be sought.

You may also like

Giving your loved ones financial gifts

Expert tips for passing on your money

Want to help give the younger generation a boost? Discover our expert tips on the most efficient ways of giving financial support without negatively impacting your own finances.

Being a grandparent

Helping out with the costs involved in raising a child

Being actively involved in your grandchildren’s lives can bring huge amounts of joy, but what impact could it have on you and your money? We commissioned an exclusive YouGov survey to find out how being a grandparent could affect your finances1.

Classroom calculations

Supporting younger generations from school to uni

From student text books to new uniforms, supporting a child at school or university can add up. We’ve highlighted some of the most common fees and expenses, and suggested ways you could help with the costs.