Wealth Management

47% of parents still financially support adult children, study finds. Here’s how much they spend

Many argue it’s harder today for young adults to make it on their own.

In addition to soaring food and housing costsmillennials and Generation Z face other financial challenges their parents did not at that age. Not only are their wages lower than their parents’ earnings when they were in their 20s and 30s, after adjusting for inflation, but they are also carrying larger student loan balances, recent reports show.

So parents are stepping in to help. From buying food to paying for a cell phone plan or covering health and auto insurance, nearly half, or 47%, of parents with a child over 18 provide them with at least some financial support, according to a report by Savings.com.

These parents are shelling out $1,384 a month, on average, the report found.

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By other measures, young adults are doing well.

Compared with their parents at this age, Gen Zers are more likely to have a college degree and work full time — particularly women, who are not only achieving increasing levels of education but also earning more.   

And yet, 61% of adult children still living at home don’t contribute to household expenses at all, Savings.com found. 

‘Create boundaries and figure out a balance’

For parents, however, supporting grown children can be a substantial drain at a time when their own retirement security is at risk. 

In fact, 58% of parents said they have sacrificed their own financial security for the sake of their adult children, a jump from 37% of parents a year earlier, Savings.com also found.

Parents should “have a good financial plan for themselves, then budget how much they can give their kids,” said Carolyn McClanahan, a certified financial planner and founder of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida.

McClanahan, who also is a member of CNBC’s Advisor Council, suggests parents set parameters and a time frame before providing financial support that takes into account their own retirement plans or other financial goals, such as paying off debt or saving for long-term health-care costs.

“You need to create boundaries and figure out a balance.”

As a general rule, you should set aside money for your retirement and emergency fund first, she said.

Isabel Barrow, the director of financial planning at Edelman Financial Engines, advises clients to agree on a deal: Parents will offer some financial support to their children, if their kids are also making decisions that support their own financial future in other ways, such as contributing 10% of their salary to a 401(k) at work.

“If they have income, they have a job, they can save. That needs to be their commitment to you,” Barrow said.

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