Data Shows 68% of Parents Make Financial Sacrifice for Adult Children

Among parents helping their adult children, 43% of parents have made dipped into their retirement savings.  

Nearly half of parents may have made some sacrifice to their retirement savings to help out their adult children, according to a survey conducted by Bankrate LLC. 

When considering retirement savings, 43% of parents have made a financial sacrifice to help their children, and 18% said the decision was significant, according to the findings. 

“[Paying for your child’s bills] can enable bad behavior or stunt an adult child’s development,” Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate, said in a statement. “It can also put your own retirement and other financial goals at risk. You can get loans for a lot of things, but retirement isn’t one of them.”

Among parents with adult children, 68% have made or are currently making a financial sacrifice to help their kids, and 31% said it was a significant financial sacrifice.

“Remember that saying about putting your oxygen mask on before helping others,” Rossman said in a statement. “While we of course want to be empathetic and help our kids, sometimes financial assistance goes too far.”

A slight majority of parents (51%) said they have reached into their emergency savings to help their adult children, and 20% reported it being a significant loss.

Lower-income households are more likely to sacrifice their emergency savings. Among households with a yearly income less than $50,000, 58% reported dipping into their emergency savings to help their children. In contrast, for households earning $100,000 or more, 46% of people did the same.

To help their children, 49% of parents are sacrificing making payments on their own debt, and 55% report they are risking reaching a financial milestone.

The study from Bankrate surveyed 2,346 U.S. adults, 773 of whom have children aged 18 or older. Conducted from March 14 to 16, the investigation examined how parents were helping their adult children financially.

On average, American adults believe 20 is the age that people should begin paying their own bills for items such as subscription services and credit card bills. Respondents said age 23 is when people should start paying for their own health insurance and student loans.

Those in Generation Z and Baby Boomers held the most contrasting attitudes toward when adults should independently pay their bills. Gen Zers think people should begin making payments around one to three years later than Baby Boomers.