Posted in on February 22, 2010

Grandparent Economy

My Nana turns 98 today, and in her honor we present some facts about what’s been called the “grandparent economy.”  Mary Furlong describes grandparents as “wealthy and willing to spend.”  And, while Nana is a card-carrying member of the Greatest Generation, marketing to grandparents today can’t be done without a better understanding of marketing to Baby Boomers.  Read on for some spending stats and a resource for those curious to learn more.

Baby Boomers are Grandparents, Too

According to, roughly half of all Boomers are grandparents and the other half are soon to follow.  Their April 2009 report, authored by demographer Peter Francese, looked at the spending habits and economic impact of grandparents and found that “in aggregate, they buy $2 trillion worth of goods and services annually.”  Francese/ also found that grandparents are younger than ever before:

* “Parents first become grandparents at the median age of 50 for women and 54 for men.
* 54% of grandparents, almost 38 million, are younger than 65 years old.
* By 2010, more than half of the grandparent population (51%) will be Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) — nearly 60% by 2015.”

What Grandparents Spend … and Spend On

 Mary Furlong reports that grandparents possess $2 Trillion in spending power, and spend $52 billion on their grandkids.  They also make 45% of all non-profit contributions; their generosity is not limited to their own family.

The White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group has reported the average grandparent spends $1,027 total per year on grandchildren.  Those in the West are bigger spenders ($1,300 a year) while those in the East (including my Nana) spend less ($821).  Granddads spend 14% more than grandmoms! 

While spending typically rises with the age of the child, those Baby Boomer Nonnies, Mims and Gigis with grandkids under 12 are most likely to eat at fast food joints, per Experian Simmons. 

25% of all toy purchases are made by grandparents, but it’s not all toys & games.  Education (collectively, our grandmas and granddads spend $32 billion on tuition and other education-related expenses each year) and travel (more than 1/3 of grandparents traveled with grandchildren in the last year) get a healthy share of grandparent dollars.

An estimated 4.5 million US children are living in homes headed by grandparents, who often dip into their own retirements to cover the daily living expenses of their grandchildren.  Per the 2000 Census, 57% percent of grandparents raising grandchildren are still in the work force.  As notes, “It will be interesting to learn what the 2010 Census will show.” 

(Want to learn more about grandparents who are raising grandchildren? In 2007, AARP produced a series of state-by-state fact sheets – they’re a  little dated but available here:

Learning More About Marketing to Grandparents

Beyond what they spend on their grandkids, grandparents are important consumers and should be thoughtfully targeted.  This chart from Mary Furlong shows why:


Want the inside skinny on how to reach out to and motivate grandparents who are Baby Boomers or beyond? CEO Jerry Shereshewsky will be the luncheon speaker at a May 14 workshop in New York City, sharing tips and insights.  (Creating Results’ Todd Harff is another featured speaker at the conference, “How to Build Your Business With the Mature Consumer.”)  To find out more and register, follow this link.

Hmmm, Manhattan in May.  Maybe I should bring my Nana!


3/13/12 UPDATE: Thanks to Sarah Lancaster at for alerting us to a broken link (now fixed) and sharing a new resource with us – this post on their site about Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.

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