How Some Parents Spend $10K a Year Supporting Adult Children — And How To Stop

It seems logical that you should be able to support yourself and not depend on your parents any longer for financial support once you become an adult; however, that’s not always the case.

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A recent study by USA Today, which surveyed 5,000 American parents, across the majority of U.S. states, found that 65% of parents give their adult children — ages 22-40 — some sort of financial support. And one in three of those parents reported that doing so puts them under financial strain, which can also whittle away retirement funds.

Below, you’ll find a breakdown of some of the key findings of the study, such as the average amount of financial support these parents offer their adult children and what type of support is provided. Plus, get some tips on how to wean adult children off the financial support cycle.

When Should Children Be Financially Independent?

The age that parents expect their adult children to be financially independent differs by state, according to the study. In New York, it’s around 26 years of age, while in California, it’s 24.5.

  • New York: 25.9
  • Massachusetts: 25.8
  • New Jersey: 25.4
  • Ohio: 25.3
  • Maryland: 25.0
  • Washington: 24.8
  • Mississippi: 24.7
  • Colorado: 24.6
  • Illinois: 24.6
  • California: 24.5

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How Much Money Parents Give Their Adult Children

According to the study, the average monthly amount that parents contribute to their adult children is $718, which adds up to $8,616 per year. However, the actual amount varies by state. Here’s a breakdown of the states that ranked in the top 10 for average dollars provided per month.

  • California: $870
  • Washington: $853
  • Virginia: $841
  • New York: $761
  • Ohio: $759
  • Massachusetts: $705
  • Illinois: $697
  • South Carolina: $683
  • Texas: $671
  • Utah: $667

Types of Support Parents Offer Their Adult Children

You might wonder what types of support parents offer their adult children — in other words, what their children need (or want) the money for. Here’s a list of the top types of support, with percentages, according to the study.

  • Groceries: 27%
  • Housing, including living with parent rent-free: 23%
  • Smartphone or phone plan: 21%
  • Basic needs: 19%
  • Utilities: 19%
  • Money to use as they please: 19%
  • Dining out or takeout: 18%
  • Transportation, including free use of a car the parent owns: 17%
  • Entertainment subscriptions: 15%
  • Health insurance or medical bill payments: 13%

Conditions That Are Put on Financial Support by Parents

Some parents give their financial support to their adult children with no strings attached. However, the study shows that 74% of parents do put contingencies on the help they provide, such as their child having a job, avoiding risky behaviors or attending therapy.

Even so, less than one-third — 31% — of the parents surveyed said they impose a time limit on how long they will continue to offer financial support.

How To Break the Financial Support Cycle

If you’re a parent who has been providing financial support to your adult child, and you want to work your way out of it, here’s some expert advice.

“Like many things in life, a ‘courageous conversation’ should kick off this process,” said David Johnston, managing partner at Amwell Ridge Wealth Management. “Initiate the discussion by clarifying that your intention is not punitive but rather geared towards fostering their growth and independence.

“Parental instincts are always to try and provide assistance for our children. However, it becomes challenging when we need to establish clear boundaries — especially if we haven’t consistently done so in the past.

“It’s crucial to communicate [that] we can’t continue to supplement their lifestyle — and it’s crucial for them to grasp the concept of living within their means. It shouldn’t, however, be akin to immediately turning off the light switch. Suddenly severing this financial support can be rather abrupt and difficult to adjust to. Allowing your children the time to manage their finances and mentally prepare for the transition is a more constructive approach — and also has a higher probability of success.”

Are There Any Instances Where It Would Be OK To Offer Financial Support?

According to Johnston, there are some situations that would warrant a parent offering temporary financial support. 

“Certainly, should children face a critical situation — such as a health crisis or divorce — that requires immediate financial assistance, it’s acceptable to consider making an exception,” said Johnston. “However, it’s crucial to distinguish between providing support during emergencies and consistently funding a lifestyle that the adult child cannot sustain independently.”

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This article originally appeared on How Some Parents Spend $10K a Year Supporting Adult Children — And How To Stop

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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