Most people have fond memories of generous grandparents willing to give them the world and then some. In fact, studies show that most grandparents contribute financially to their grandchildren’s lives. Sometimes, it is $20 in a Christmas card. Other times, grandparents become full-time guardians. Often, grandparents also contribute to college expenses.

In fact, CNBC reports that grandparents spend $179 billion on their grandchildren, in America, each year. Even though the average age to become a grandparent has increased, there are more grandparents alive now than there were in 2001. In fact, there is a 24% increase.

Education

Unfortunately, many parents cannot afford to pay for college. Thankfully, grandparents often step up in to help, sometimes taking on debt to contribute to college expenses. Roughly 21% of grandparents contribute more than $4,000 per year on average. To add to this, 7% of grandparents went the extra mile to cosign on student loans or take on credit card debt to help out with school.

Living Expenses

Many grandparents also chip in with living expenses. AARP reports that one in seven grandparents help with day-to-day living expenses. This is especially common in homes where parents become unable to care for children and duty falls onto the shoulders of grandparents. In these instances, grandparents might dip into retirement savings and take out high levels of debt to care for grandchildren.

Despite these sacrifices, laws respecting grandparents’ rights are slow in coming. This is because government agencies generally dislike the idea of separating children from parents unless they have to.

By allowing parents to retain rights, however, it becomes difficult for grandparents who act as full-time parents to make key decisions. As the opioid crisis brings more grandparents back into parenthood, the government will also need to address the financial hardships grandparents face in this reclaimed role.