Almost 37 per cent of parents with adult kids are helping with grocery costs, almost 25 per cent are helping with rent, 10 per cent are helping with mortgage payments and nearly half provide random cash infusions.

Welcome to parenting adult children in an age of expensive housing and high inflation. In an informal recent survey of parents with kids aged 21 and up, 91.5 per cent said they provided some level of support to their offspring.

The results are as much a commentary on millennial and Gen Z financial independence as they are a window on the thinking of parents about their role in supporting adult children. Where it’s financially feasible to help, a lot are doing so.

The survey was featured in the Carrick on Money e-mail newsletter and drew 3,095 responses that document both the amount and breadth of parental financial support.

Just 6.6 per cent of parents offering financial support pegged the amount at $1,000 or less. Close to 25 per cent said it totalled $1,000 to $5,000, 64 per cent said $5,000 to $50,000, and the remainder pegged the cost at more than $50,000 a year.

The most common type of financial support was room and board, with 47 per cent of parents saying they provide this. Asked for the primary reason why an adult child lives at home, 39 per cent of participants picked the high cost of home ownership or renting.

Eleven per cent of parents said their adult child living with them was saving for a home down payment. Other reasons cited included challenges finding work (7 per cent), health-related issues (6.6 per cent) and student debts (4.3 per cent). Close to 3 per cent said an adult child lived at home because it’s normal in their culture to reside with parents until marriage or buying a home.

The survey results document a big shift in the financial challenges faced by young adults and, in turn, their parents. After the Great Recession in 2008-2009, it was common for millennials to move home because of difficulties finding full-time work as opposed to temporary jobs. Today’s job market is strong: You can see this in the relatively small percentage of young adults living at home while they find work. The bigger problem is housing.

It has to be said that if a young person is struggling to afford rent or a home purchase, moving back home with parents is smart personal finance. Even if parents charge a modest amount of rent, living at home can clear room for saving.

But it’s clear that high housing costs are putting a burden on parents as well as millennials and members of Gen Z. The number of parents helping with rent and mortgage payments proves this, as does the survey data on parental money going into down payments for their adult kids.

Over all, 41 per cent of parents said they provided assistance with down payments. This may help explain why 34 per cent of survey participants said they have used their retirement savings to help their adult kids.

The results also show a sense of weary resignation from parents on when they expect their adult children to become financially independent. A little more than 12 per cent see this happening this year, while 56 per cent are looking ahead to the next few years. The rest say it will take many years or never happen.

Survey participants were invited to add comments, some of which add extra insight on the extent of financial support being provided. Here’s a sampling:

-”I also look after an elderly parent. Double whammy.”

-”We have three adult children, 39-44. We have and still help them out financially.”

-”This push to normalize parental financial support of adult children strikes me as very elitist. My family grew up poor, we got the help that mattered – good values and emotional support.”

-”I cover all vet bills. Pets are very expensive.”

-”I pay for all their meds and various therapies.”

Finally, a comment that likely applies to a lot of parents providing support: “My kids could survive on their own, but we have enough to be able to help them out.”

The Globe and Mail, April 10, 2023