The sandwich generation. Not-so-empty nesters. Parents of boomerang kids.
Whatever you call it, the trend is undeniable. Parents are increasingly supporting their children financially through college and beyond: 48% of middle-aged adults with grown children gave them financial support last year, and 27% were the primary source of cash flow for their kids, according to Pew Research.
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For the kids themselves, it's become the norm. They're increasingly assuming that their parents will bankroll them into their mid-20s, according to a survey from Allstate and Junior Achievement USA. Nearly a quarter of teens think that they will rely on their parents financially until at least 25, a staggering increase from 12% two years ago.
Cathy Roberts, a Washington, D.C., counselor who has worked extensively with parents and adult children, says that the millennial generation receives a great deal more support than the boomers ever did.
Why? Well, the economy is bad, and it's tough for a lot of kids to find work in their chosen fields after college. But there's more to it than that, say some experts.
"Some parents, particularly those who live in wealthy, urban areas, can afford to support their adult children," Roberts says. "They either want or feel pressure to maintain the lifestyle their kids experienced while they were growing up once they reach an adult age."
She adds that this leaves some moms and dads feeling more like banks than parents, which can cause resentment and even rifts in families.
So, we asked our readers: When it comes to your grown kids and your cash, where do you draw the line?
Cliff, Las Vegas
"Raising kids is different today. It’s not like in my youth, where you raise your kids until they’re 18 and then cut them loose. I never looked to my parents for any kind of support, but the world out there is different now. Once your kids graduate from college, which you paid for, and with the loans you cosigned for them, you support them as they struggle their way up a ladder that is getting steeper and more expensive.
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My kids are 28 and 31, and I’m still paying off their college educations. My wife and I are currently looking for a new home, and the loans are affecting our search. There are the little things, too, that add up quick—just this year I took my kids off my car insurance, and just last month off my cell phone plan. My son was a manager at a warehouse, and he was running the place through my cell phone. I would get a reimbursement check from the company each month.
I was always very clear with my daughter that once she graduated from college, she was no longer my problem.
I thought I would be the kind of dad who just cut my kids off. But if you don’t continue to support your kids, there’s a big chance they could fail. I want them to succeed. And at the end of the day, you'll do whatever it takes for your kids to be well. Unfortunately, the colleges and employers know that."
June, Weymouth, Mass.
"I was always very clear with my daughter that once she graduated from college, she was no longer my problem. She’d be on her own then. My daughter is 23, and graduated from college last May. She had a contract job in public relations for six months, and now she is waitressing while she looks for something else.
I encouraged her to live at home for as long as she possibly could—ideally I’d love her to be able to move out owning something rather than renting. She pays us rent and covers all of her expenses—toiletries, car insurance and gas, her cell phone bill and her student loan payments. She is on our health insurance still because she doesn’t get it through her job, but she pays for all of her own prescriptions and copays.
We’ll occasionally take her out to dinner if she’s at home on a weeknight, but she takes my husband and I out just as often.
This is how we raised her .... You’re a grown-up now, you have a college degree, you are more than able to work a job—any job.
It wasn't a shock to her because we’ve been very open about discussing what would be expected after she graduated."
Holly, Burlington, Vt.
"We are still supporting our 25-year-old son. He lives with us, we feed him, although he doesn’t always eat at home, and he is still on our family cell phone plan. We also drive him to and from work right now, since he lost his license.
There are certain things that are expected of him, though. He works full time as a bank teller and gives us $200 per month from his paycheck, a type of “rent.” We use it to make the monthly payment on his remaining student loans. He also will sometimes bring dinner home for the family or cook for us on the grill.
We plan to support him until he gets a better job. Also, he has a history of substance abuse issues, but he’s been attending AA and has been doing better. He’s trying to get his life in order, and we want to help him. But we don’t know if we would support him if he went back to where he was."
"My 25-year-old niece has been living with me for the past eight years. She has a degree in education and is looking for a teaching position. She is currently employed as a paraeducator.
She pays no rent for her comfortable living quarters—including a TV in her bedroom that is an extra charge on my cable bill. She purchases some groceries, typically things I wouldn’t buy, and she eats anything I buy or cook. She also uses all the toiletry items I buy, like laundry soap, toilet paper, cleaning supplies and the like. If we go out to a restaurant, I pay the tab.
If I could start over, I would require her to pay rent, at least $150 per month. She would be responsible for her portion of the bill for all dinners out and would have to cover the cost of all of her own incidentals, but I feel like it's too late to change now.
This was a learning process for me. I thought I was helping her get established, but I know now that my generosity has set her back. Her independence has been delayed because I have enabled her to rely on others, and she has no idea how to manage without assistance."
Elisa, Portland, Ore.
I have two children, 21 and 23. Our younger son is still in college, and we cover the majority of his college tuition, books, food, rent and utilities. He is, however, responsible for a portion of those costs as well as any entertainment expenses and any food that falls outside his budget.
My 23-year-old son just graduated from college and is therefore on his own. He was among the lucky graduates to have a job shortly after school. He lives on his own and we do not support him financially—with a small exception. We keep him on our cell phone plan to keep his costs down, and he sends us a check for his portion of the bill each month.
Some names in this article have been changed to protect the identities of parents of boomerang kids.
LearnVest Planning Services is a registered investment adviser and subsidiary of LearnVest, Inc. that provides financial plans for its clients. Information shown is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended as investment, legal or tax planning advice. Please consult a financial adviser, attorney or tax specialist for advice specific to your financial situation. The individuals interviewed in this piece are neither clients, employees nor affiliates of LearnVest Planning Services. LearnVest Planning Services and any third-parties listed, discussed, identified or otherwise appearing herein are separate and unaffiliated and are not responsible for each other’s products, services or policies.