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All the family under one roof

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He urges adult children and their spouses to talk about money, space, time management, and the role of family members. "A lot of times, finances aren't discussed," Mr. Hager says. "That can be sticky. What is [the parent's] financial situation and what will they contribute to the budget? What if they need paid care?"

For the McCourts, Spatola's presence offers mutual benefits. "Since he moved in, he seems to have a little kick in his step and a purpose," Mrs. McCourt says. "He picks up the kids at school and does some food shopping." He also cooks spaghetti and meatballs weekly for the family's dinner.

Spatola adds, "Being here is a plus for the grandchildren. I exert a lot of influence on them."

Giving children time with a grandparent is one reason Nikki Maxwell and her husband encouraged her divorced father to move from Seattle to their house in Los Angeles. A computer programmer in his early 60s, he works from home. "He saw that we needed help – help with the children, help with the finances," Mrs. Maxwell says. "He wanted to get closer to his three grandchildren. He's out there on the bike with them, and he plays with techie toys. I'm indoors cleaning and cooking, and they're at the park. We really value that."

Even so, challenges arise. "It's awkward when you are trying to redefine your relationship with your parent," she says. "We have a lot of control issues. Especially with the financial issues, it's hard to tell where there are strings and where there aren't. He won't lend us money, but he'll give it."

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