How Many Adults Get Help From Their Parents

Do your parents help you with money? Are you on their cell phone plan, or do they help pay your insurance? If so, you’re not alone. The number of adults who get financial help from their parents is a lot higher than you might think — which may be comforting to you (or not, depending on your financial status, the relationship you have with your parents, and how you feel about taking money from them).

Recently, the Society of Grownups, a for-profit service that helps young adults gain “financial literacy,” did a study about financial independence (and interdependence) among U.S. adults. Partnering with Wakefield Research, the Society surveyed 1,000 people between the ages of 21 and 45 to see how they’re approaching their finances and how their families impact their financial lives. The study found that more than a third (35 percent) of respondents receive some kind of financial help from parents. This help can take a variety of forms, from paying for insurance to contributing to food or rent money. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common way that parents of adult kids help out financially is by paying their children’s cell phone bills. (It's also fair to say that it's often cheaper to be on a family plan than to have your own account.)

Although you might think that most of this help is directed toward people in their early 20s, the survey found that almost 30 percent of respondents in their 30s and 21 percent in their early 40s “receiv[e] significant, ongoing financial support from their parents.” The survey made clear, furthermore, that this financial help is sorely needed: almost 70 percent of people who receive support from their parents said they couldn’t live without it.

Money isn’t the only way that many adult children are depending on their parents these days. The Pew Research Center reported in May of 2016 that, for the first time in more than a century, the most common living arrangement among 18 to 34 year olds is living at home with parents. The Pew Research Center ties much of this trend to the fact that adults are marrying and starting their own families later than in the past. However, the Center further suggests that the fallout from the Great Recession and poor job prospects are a factor, particularly for young men. I think we can assume that these same issues — including a bad job market and soaring student loan debt — also contribute to the reliance of so many young adults on their parents’ financial support.

It’s easy to use this data to reinforce the (false) “Millennials are all entitled, lazy narcissists” narrative, but the Society of Grownups found that adults under 45 do feel a sense of responsibility for their parents, and see themselves helping their parents in the future. In fact, 34 percent of adults who currently get financial aid from their parents said that they expect to be helping their parents financially within seven years.

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