Catering to grandparents can make money

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Had two of my grandsons (ages 4 and 2) on the boat last Saturday. What a great day we shared. We swam, walked the beach, found shells, a couple of snails and even caught a small fish. Yes, one of the great privileges of growing older is having grandchildren. And, with so many Boomers active, healthy and mentally sharp, grandparents can throw themselves into these relationships rather than be emotionally passive or distant. (Boomers will comprise 51 percent of the grandparent population by 2010 and nearly 60 percent by 2015.)

But it’s not just Boomers I’m talking about. According to a recent study, these days older people feel they’re 13 years younger than they really are: 70 is the new 57, according to a recent study coauthored by University of Michigan psychologist Jacqui Smith at the Institute for Social Research.

“When people reach age 25, and certainly by age 30,” says Smith, “they start to feel younger. The gap between our subjective and real ages only gets wider as the years go by. Good health and a lower subjective age also go together."

In addition to being subjectively younger, a high priority for grandparents is spending money on the grandkids. Especially in a down economy, a grandchild’s smile looks like the most lasting and valuable currency, and that motivates purchases in an array of categories.

“When the economic history of this recession is written, it will likely show increased spending by grandparents on grandchildren to compensate for reduced incomes of their adult children,” states the first-ever study of The Grandparent Economy, commissioned by grandparents.com and conducted by Peter Francese, the founder of American Demographics.

“America’s grandparents are one of the most powerful and underestimated drivers of the United States economy. Grandparents control the majority of financial assets in the U.S. today,” the study revealed. By the end of this year, the U.S. will have more than 70 million grandparents. That number is increasing at more than double the rate of the overall population, the study reports. They lead 37 percent of U.S. households, and are at an all-time-high ratio of three out of every 10 adults. They have the highest average net worth of any age group at $254,000. And by 2010, households headed by 55- to 64-year-olds will earn the highest average income, surpassing that of families headed by 45- to 54-year-olds for the first time.

So how much do we grandparents shell out? Our spending on the grandkids has grown an average 7.6 percent annually since 2000—nearly twice the average growth rate for consumers overall. The report anticipates 2009 spending will be a cool $2 trillion!

The bottom line: While we, quite correctly, aim much of our boating marketing efforts at the Boomers, we should also target those “older” grandparents who have the health, desire and money to hit the water with their grandkids. Could dealers benefit from special grandparents events and promotions as well as Grandkidz Dayz? After all, grandparents represent a deep, deep reservoir of spending.

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