/ Money

Should parents be paying for their adult children?

Family finances

The financial impact of having kids is well documented, but it appears supporting children well into adulthood is becoming the norm.

A new survey by Nationwide suggests that 85% of parents pay towards the cost of easing their offspring out of the family home, shelling out as much as £2,500. This includes the cost of helping children to buy items for university, or contributing towards a deposit on a property.

A fair portion of parents also fork out money on a regular basis thereafter, with 18% saying they hand over cash twice a month or more. Some even put themselves into debt to do so, with 6% using a credit card, 5% dipping into an overdraft and 3% taking out a personal loan.

Are you still supporting your children into adulthood? How long do you expect to be doing it for?

Doing it for the kids

It’s often suggested that millennials have it tougher than previous generations to secure themselves a stable financial footing.

Many find it tougher to reach the first rung of the property ladder than their parents did. The stats suggest that more parents are giving their children a leg-up as a result.

Last week, a Social Mobility Commission report suggested that one in three first-time buyers now receive a financial gift from family members.

Spiralling tuition fees might also be a reason why more parents are helping finance their children’s university studies too.

On the other hand, many parents may feel they’ve paid their dues for the first 18 years of their child’s life, and it’s now up to their offspring to support themselves. After all, learning to manage your own finances is an important part of becoming an adult.

Empty nest

The survey also touched on the emotional side of children fleeing the nest – 10% of parents surveyed felt distraught and a further 13% reported feeling lonely. In some cases, these handouts may double up as a bribe to ensure the kids still visit.

For me, a free meal or two was always enough motivation for me to go home when I was a struggling undergraduate.

What’s your attitude towards passing on money to your children? Is it ever worth putting yourself into debt? Are there are any reasons you wouldn’t support your kids, even if you could afford to?


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Children are family whatever their age. Ours have worked hard at their education, their jobs, and made their way in life in responsible ways. We care about them and they also care about us. We’d rather give them any help now if they need it, and if we can do it, rather than have them wait until we are dead and buried. That way we can enjoy it with them.

Family support is important, we believe. You never know – we might need them to support us one day 🙂

The generation with children in the 18-30 range are the last generation to have good pensions, good equity in our properties and our University education was largely free. Many of us will have already inherited from our baby boomer parents. Meanwhile our adult children are leaving University with £50k of debt, much less prospect of a long term career and with an impossible task to get on the housing ladder.

Of course we should be helping them out.

I think Nick A has summed it up very well. I cannot think of a single reason not to help one’s offspring and others in the family if resources are available. It doesn’t necessarily have to be money. Practical and material help can be just as useful. From personal experience I know this can be challenging in some circumstances, especially if people are wanting some emotional response in return or feel uncomfortable propping up what they consider to be an uncongenial lifestyle, but anything other than unconditional support is likely to lead to greater tensions and anxieties in due course.

It would have been clearer if I had written “parents” instead of “people” in line 4 of my comment above.

Be careful of tax implications before helping your children out by making sure you read the link provided in red in the header above ie Inheritance Tax Planning and Tax Free Gifts. Also useful: saga.plc – Tax and Giving Money to Children.

If you have to bribe to ensure the kids still visit, stop the payments right now and organise your will to ensure that everything you have goes to charity.

Interesting question, should parents be paying for their adult children? Does it say something about our society that we’re asking it at all?

I don’t see why children should be helped financially after they leave the nest it’s up to them to finance their careers their parents have taken care of them from infancy now they must sand on their own two feet. They should not expect their parents to continue to fund them once they have decided what they want to do with their lives

It is surely for many not a question of what children expect, but of what parents choose to do. I don’t see family ties suddenly terminating when they reach a particular point in their lives, whether by age or independence. However, I am probably coloured by liking our children, seeing them as friends as well as offspring, and finding helping them a pleasure. As John intimates above, it may be money, emotional support, physical help, diy, lending a car…….

As long as those choices are reciprocal in the event of your own impending physical and mental decline.

I believe one key aspect of family love is that there is no expectation of anything in return That should just happen, but may take many different forms. Why have children if you are not prepared to form a family unit and the support that entails?

Unfortunately it doesn’t always “just happen”. The reality being, children are essential to help fund our pension pots!

I am not sure I understand that, Beryl. I think most people would be better off financially, and able to secure their long-term well-being, if they did not have children. But I agree with, Malcolm; having a family of three generations hopefully leads to an understanding of reciprocal support where possible but I don’t think one part should ever be conditional on another. Bringing up the younger generation is the opportunity to create the right responses at the relevant time; but we still need to make provision in case it doesn’t happen [like they all choose to emigrate to Australia].

I was wondering about the reasons people have children. If s*x is the driver, you can prevent the results. We don’t need to produce any more simply to populate the Earth. If they are to continue our genes, would we not like to keep the family bond to both protect the legacy and see how they develop? But I must admit, I had not considered the purely mercenary option of providing us with a pension; I think it would be cheaper not to have them in the first place but to save up all the money they would otherwise have cost.

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“Why do people choose to have children?”. A question debated long and hard by almost every Child Protection specialist. In our case my wife’s propensity for becoming pregnant (seemingly whenever I sneezed) dovetailed nicely into the simple fact that we both wanted a family. Thirty years on and our two both hold senior positions in Engineering and Psychological research. We both enjoy being with them, whenever they arrive and we’re glad to be part of their lives.

Yes – we have helped them out a lot and are more than happy to do so in the future. We all went on holiday together last year and had a great time. Sadly, that’s not, it seems, a typical family, however.

Your children are not clones of one another. They are all individual and different. Some are more caring than their immediate siblings when emotional and practical support is needed in later years.

Some monozygotic twins are effectively clones, although epigenetic differences can increase as they become older .

In terms of parents helping their adult children, it is sadly the case that many people in their later twenties onwards, and well into middle age, can experience various misfortunes for which parental support is valuable and natural. Divorce or relationship difficulties; unemployment or redundancy; death or serious illness or injury of a spouse, partner or child; debt or fraudulent loss of money; burglary; flooding, fire and other perils; personal assault or threats; road collisions; company failure. I hope most parents would wish to help their adult children through these circumstances to the best of their ability in an entirely altruistic way without wondering whether or not they would get a pay-back in the future.

And I started off feeing quite positive today…

Yes, I’m sorry, Ian. I was getting a bit depressed by the emerging attitudes towards helping one’s grown-up offspring so I decided to put forward the positive points. I desisted to mention plague, pestilence, earthquakes, coastal erosion, bombing, hair loss, and other calamities that give parents golden opportunities to support their adult children uncomplainingly in their time of need.

And plague’s not covered by household insurance, either…

I agree wholeheartedly John and see no reason why adult children should not reciprocate in times of need; that is if you have brought them up to be altruistic and responsible adults.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness.. And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.”

Karhlil Gibran (The Prophet – 1883-1931)

There is no reason, in my opinion, why adult children should not reciprocate in times of need, but the question is more about whether parents should assist their offspring at difficult times. I happen to think they should do so, unconditionally, without any resistance or resentment, and without any expectation of any reward. Judiciously it might be best to wait until asked for help, but then give it generously.

Briefly put, from an evolutionary point of view, parents don’t help their older kids altruistically but to help pass on their genes. We beautifully may call it love.

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Sophie – By the time they have older kids the parents have already passed on their genes; the additional value of helping their offspring in difficult times is to civilise them in the hope that it might be reflected in their grandchildren’s attitudes and behaviour. So it is a form of genetic inheritance but at a second generational level with the inclusion of an additional gene stream from the second first-generation parent. [I hope that makes sense]

Translating Duncan’s point into human life, idealistically the mother’s new partner would treat the step-children as if they were his own, and vice versa, but realistically there are boundaries in our expectations. Adult children can probably anticipate and accept that but care needs to be exercised with step grand-children.

Which brings me to the point that, for many parents, it is concern for their grandchildren’s welfare rather than for their adult children’s that prompts their financial or other help and that, were it not for the grandchildren, their assistance might be much more limited.

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Katharine says:
15 April 2017

I never intended to support my kids once they were through uni, but when confronted by the realities of their lives – student debt, impossible rents, continuing training (one has decided to train as a nurse), gig economy jobs – I couldn’t help it. Their position bears no resemblance to mine at their age. They need their inheritance now, and we just need to keep hold of enough to pay for our residential care. Oh dear.

Let’s hope your kids, with your support, will have established their own residences and can then give you their care when you need it 🙂

I could not agree with Katharine more. I was in a better position at my child’s age not having had to pay for University and with more reasonable house prices as a multiplier of income. I also bitterly resent the fact that my son will have to pay inheritance tax if it all has not been spent on my care. Apart from house price inflation I have already paid tax on such money as there will be left over, so I am happy to help him and his family now – within the regulations of course. He has learned financial management – I taught him!

To me it is just natural that my son and daughter both got an equal legacy from the money left by their (intestate) father, as they have from my mother’s legacy. In so far as I can, I share the money that comes from others in the Family. Both live abroad, in different countries and visiting does cost too, but so far so good.

We are in our 60s and have two grownup kids who had the same opportunities growing up. Son has a good job, happy marriage, two kids and needed occasional help in the past which we gladly gave. Daughter, now divorced, won’t work, up to her neck in debt, threatened with house repo, two of her kids live with their dad, the oldest lives with us. Has needed emotional, practical and financial support all her life and resorts to emotional blackmail if we refuse. She’s irresponsible, feckless , self centred and blames everyone else for her problems. So should we continue to give support, thereby enabling this behaviour, or withdraw, risking the inevitable fallout that we know will ensue? Easy to make judgements when not directly affected but so much more difficult when faced with this reality on a daily basis.

There is a limit to what more you can give, Rose, financially, practically, and emotionally, without detrimentally affecting your own well-being. You might now have reached that point and could justifiably withdraw support. You could lose contact with your daughter due to her alienation and estrangement but that would not be due to any lack of compassion on your part so you should not reproach yourself. Try not to give in to emotional blackmail. I think the extent of your attachment to your grandchildren could be the complicating factor but if two are already ‘outside’ the family unit and you are already looking after the eldest that can be rationalised leaving only the situation between you and your daughter. She has no right to pull your life down into the vortex that she has made of her own. It sounds as though you have very little sympathy for your daughter so a clean break might be the best solution. There will be consequences, and possible psychiatric problems, but if you and her ex-husband are protecting her children you can have a clear conscience. Taking continuing responsibility for your eldest grandchild is a considerable and demanding contribution in itself which should assuage any bad feelings you might have over such a step.

M K says:
16 April 2017

Our family has been Which members since 1957. This is my 93-year-old Mother’s comment when, in her final month in a lovely Care Home that she saved to afford, I said that, IF I were to receive the legacy in her will (the Which Will Writing service under her clear instructions), then I would pass it on equally to my 3 adult children: “I would expect nothing else of you!” Rest In Peace, Mum, you are sorely missed.

There is nothing new about supporting your children when they have grown up. Read any of the classics of English literature, and you will find grown-up offspring being paid allowances, having their debts paid off, and getting hand-outs from generous parents. What is new is that more people are in the position of having enough cash to do so, like the usually rich gentry who were the subject of the classics. However, as ever there is great inequality, with many families unable to even consider passing money to children once they are grown up, and others having to decide how much support is reasonable to encourage their children to mae their own way in life. It is not a fair world.

Tim says:
16 April 2017

What an interesting discussion. Family is all about caring for each other – in all phases in our life. Our needs shift as we go through the life stages, but as each generation is able to, it is good and right that it should look to the needs of the generations – above and below – and seek to balance those needs with those of its own. Sometimes that should involve money; sometimes care and concern is best expressed in other ways.

I will never forget the remarks of my mother in the late ’60s – she had been deprived of education beyond her mid teens by the advent of WWII – that she would willingly go out and scrub floors to fund my university education. It wasn’t necessary, but her commitment to my good and my future prospects stays with me. It can be easy to forget the sacrifices made by the generations before us for our good as we judge the needs of our children and grandchildren.