The need for a financial boost from the Bank of Mom and Dad–it seems endless. They may be twenty-somethings not yet able to establish an independent-life beachhead, thirty-somethings buying their first home, forty-ish kids with unexpected and uncovered medical bills. Do we help? If we can afford it and we’re asked, do we loan or gift them money for something we consider important or approve of?
Study after survey tells us that more and more of us continue to help out our grown children. A July 2014 survey by American Consumer Credit Counseling, a Boston nonprofit, found that one in three U.S. households assist adult children financially, compared with one in five supporting elderly parents.
A November 2014 survey by Bank of America reported that more than a third of adult millennials receive regular financial support from their parents, and one in five still live at home rent- or expense-free. The support goes not just to those struggling to get started. The poll, which had 1,000 respondents ages 18 to 34, found that among those earning more than $75,000 a year, 25 percent were getting help from their parents to pay for some groceries and 21 percent for clothing.
We also dole out cash to cover rent, cell phones, cars and vacations. Some of us invade our retirement accounts to pay for a child’s wedding or down payment for a home. One financial adviser reports that cash supplements run the gamut from regular allowances (to those not earning enough to cover rent and food), to help with legal bills if a child is going through a divorce, to occasional payments for a coat or plane ticket.
One concern, of course, is what it’s doing to the money we’ll have available when we retire or, if we’re retired, whether it will deplete our nest egg while we’re still tottering around in our old age. Unless we’re expecting our kids to take care of us –most of us do not have that on our Wish List!–we need the wherewithal to pay our bills as we age into our 80s and 90s.
Then there’s the question of what this continual support is doing to our children’s ability to reach financial independence. An indulgence here and there is one thing–it’s one of the pleasures of having a little extra money in the bank and does no harm to the receiver. But barring unusual circumstances, covering their rent, paying their credit card bills, picking up the tab for their cell phone may send the message that mom and dad will pay for a life style they can’t afford on their own. In which case, there’s no way they’ll be ready, willing or able to help us out (sound that Beatle’s beat) when we’re 94.
You can find more from Penelope on her blog, http://www.grownchildren.net/