Parents Give Kids Shocking Amounts of Money

A new survey reveals that 20 and 30-somethings depend on their parents for money and support more than ever.

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We’ve all heard that today’s twenty-somethings are more dependent on their parents for financial help than ever. Some 85 percent of this year’s graduates plan to move back home after receiving their diplomas, according to the firm Twentysomething. Now, new numbers out from the National Endowment for Financial Education reveal just how heavily adult kids lean on their parents. Among the findings:

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  • 23 percent of adults between ages 18 and 39 who are not students currently live with their parents. Men are significantly more likely to live at home than women are (27 percent versus 19 percent). (See "The Best Graduation Gift: An Invitation to Move Home.")
  • Almost half of parents with adult children help pay for their living expenses.
  • 40 percent contribute to their adult children’s transportation costs.
  • One-third help with insurance coverage.
  • Three in ten provide spending money on occasion.
  • Two in ten made emergency deposits into their adult children’s checking or savings account.
  • 13 percent help their adult children pay down credit card debt.
  • One in ten contributed to a down payment for a home.
  • 28 percent help with medical bills.
  • Over 50 percent provide emotional support.
  • But adult children don’t just take; they also give. Three in four adult children living at home helped out with some of the household expenses. About half helped with groceries, one-third contributed to utility bills, and 29 percent paid rent. Four in ten contributed in non-financial ways, such as by cooking or cleaning. Again, there was a significant gender difference, with women being far more likely to contribute to household expenses than men (84 percent versus 69 percent).

    Despite the fact that over half of the parents said they are happy to provide the help, the survey revealed that parents are making some pretty big sacrifices in order to do so. Three in ten said they gave up private so adult children could move back home, one in four have taken on debt, and 13 percent delayed a life event such as marriage, taking a vacation, or buying a home. Seven percent delayed retirement.

    So how can parents support their grown children without going broke themselves? Here are four strategies:

    1. Budget in advance. Since most twentysomethings today rely on their parents for some form of help, try to anticipate any extra expenses ahead of time. Whether it’s budgeting for an extra mouth to feed or handing over spending money, plugging it into spending plans to avoid any shocks can keep parents from exceeding their own budgets.

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    2. Provide non-financial support to adult children. Long career talks, spur-of-the-moment brainstorming sessions, and homemade dinners after bad days all provide much-needed support to recent grads, and they’re virtually free.

    3. Set a date. If your adult children move back home, then having a move-out date can help both of you. It helps your kids know they won’t be mooching off you forever, and it lets you know when you’re getting your house back.

    4. Make it a two-way relationship. Even unemployed adult children can contribute to the household in some form, whether it’s by walking the dog or making dinner a couple times a week. Paying rent is another option.

    Parents, please share your own experiences below. What’s your advice to other parents?

    Kimberly Palmer (@alphaconsumer) is the author of the new book Generation Earn: The Young Professional's Guide to Spending, Investing, and Giving Back.