Help From Family Part of Financial Planning

The majority of Americans think adult children should aid their aging parents financially, a survey finds.

Most Americans believe taking care of seniors is up to the senior or his or her family—not the government, according to a new study from Pew Research Center.

In contrast, almost twice as many adults in Germany and Italy think bureaucracy should bear most of the weight in supporting the elderly, says “Family Support in Graying Societies: How Americans, Germans and Italians Are Coping with an Aging Population.” The study compares intergenerational relationships and attitudes in these three countries, “the grayest of the West’s advanced economies,” Pew says.

Notable in the findings, many working Americans foresee themselves being the main source of their retirement well-being. Of the 1,692 Americans 18 or older who answered the survey, only 20% expect to receive a Social Security benefit equal to today’s; 31% expect a reduced benefit and 41% no benefit at all.

As that entitlement may be a secondary income stream at best, 56% of Americans have a private retirement savings account; even among those ages 18 through 29, 41% have begun to save.

Unsurprisingly, whether and how much people put toward retirement is “highly correlated with financial security,” the report says. Those who earn less are less likely to be saving for the future—even though they know they should—and those with the means to save for retirement, do.

Perhaps with an eye to their own future, the majority of Americans think adult children should aid their aging parents financially, if necessary—that is, a full 86% of 18- through 29-year-olds and 64% of those 18 and older in general.

Still, when it comes to putting words into practice, over the past year, about three in 10 (28%) respondents said they had helped an aging parent financially, and about six in 10 (58%) helped in other ways, running errands, doing housework or performing home repairs. More than eight in 10 (88%) called such acts of kindness rewarding.

Giving financial aid to adult children and whether, and how, this affects the sandwich generation were among other topics in the study. In the U.S., for example, 61% of respondents had helped an adult child financially in the previous year.

Pew conducted the survey between October 27 and December 18, 2014. Also included were 1,700 adults ages 18 and over in Germany and 1,516 in Italy.

The complete report can be found here.