More parents are using their retirement savings to help their adult kids because of the economy

Mom and adult daughter on laptop
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It’s no secret to, well, anyone that times are tougher now than they used to be. But new research shows that more and more parents are sacrificing their own retirement savings to financially support their adult kids.

A new study from Pew Research showed that three out of every five parents with adult children gave them financial help in the past year. And prior Pew research has shown that around half of adults under 30 now live with their parents — a huge increase over prior years. This coincides with other trends researchers have seen, like young adults waiting longer to get married and have kids. It’s led them to coin a new term for the life phase between adolescence and full adulthood that they now call “emerging adulthood.”

Considering all the economic challenges young adults face in 2024, though, it’s not really surprising. As inflation has soared, so has the cost of living in many parts of the U.S. College costs have exploded in the last few decades, causing student debt to balloon out of control. And housing costs and interest rates have both risen far out of reach of the average American, especially young ones, creating an affordability crisis with no end in sight.

These struggles have encouraged many older adults to take on what experts call “snowplow” parenting — where they attempt to clear obstacles out of their kids’ paths, even well into adulthood. According to Pew, 28% of adults ages 18 to 34 received help from their parents in the last year to pay for household expenses, like groceries or utilities. 25% got a parent’s help with a phone bill or to pay for streaming services. 17% got help from a parent to pay their rent or mortgage. 15% received help with medical bills, and 11% had their parents help pay for education expenses.

Meanwhile, fewer than half of young adults under 30 say they’re financially independent. Even past age 30, a third of adult children still rely on their parents for financial support in some way.

What’s worse is that more than a third of the parents who participated in the Pew study said that helping their adult kids was hurting their own finances — but many don’t see any other choice.

“They feel like the economy is different now, and the world is different, and it’s more difficult for somebody to be fully financially independent,” said Teresa Bailey, a certified financial planner in Nashville.