Most of us assumed (or hoped) our children would be independent when they entered adulthood....
5 Reasons Your Adult Children May Need Help Financially
Student Loan Load
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), average undergraduate college tuition cost more than tripled from 1963 ($4,336 in 2020 dollars) to 2020 ($13,777). When federally guaranteed student loans debuted in 1965, many Boomers with college degrees were often able to cover higher education costs through employment earnings, help from their families, scholarships, etc. Their children were not so fortunate since these money sources were not enough to keep up with runaway tuition inflation.
This has had a profound impact on the financial stability and wealth-building ability of student loan borrowers, who generally range from 20-40 years. As author Anya Kamenetz (Generation Debt, 2006) states, these borrowers are "waiting longer to get married and have children, making people less likely to own a home, start a business or leave their hometowns."
Credit Card and Other Debt Burdens
America's love affair with credit cards and other forms of debt has grown to record levels across all generations. For example, the Federal Reserve reported that credit card debt stands at nearly a trillion dollars ($988 billion) as of June 2023.
It's not just credit cards. Averages for the other major non-mortgage debt types show that households of all ages are carrying a significant amount of debt.
Average non-mortgage debt balances by generation:
|Debt type (balances)||Gen Z||Millennials||Gen X||Boomers|
Source: LendingTree analysis of more than 150,000 anonymized credit reports on the LendingTree platform
Not surprisingly, Gen X and Millennials carry the biggest load. They are the ones most likely to be simultaneously saddled with both looming college costs and caring for aging parents. Members of Gen Z, on the other hand, are early in their financial journey, so they have had less time to experience the financial burdens faced by their older siblings.
In any case, paying off debt restricts opportunities to amass wealth. As noted above, Boomers have paid off more of their debt load, so they potentially have more financial flexibility to help their adult children with their debts.
Adult children with children of their own shoulder a significant cost burden. According to 2020 figures from the Economic Policy Institute, U.S. households with children spend between 19% to 29% of their income on child care. The actual amounts vary based on location, number of children, and type of care.
Young workers depend on stable employment as one of the top ways to build wealth. Yet, a 2022 study by the bipartisan Council for a Strong America found that problems resulting from expensive and difficult-to-find childcare resources were hurting young working parents at their jobs. These parents were experiencing:
- Less time at work
- Lower effort and productivity at work
- Work disruptions
- Diminished career pathways
|Been late for work||64%|
|Left work early||64%|
|Missed a full day of work||58%|
|Been distracted to the point of being less productive||53%|
|Missed part of the middle of work shift||44%|
|Reduced your regular work hours||44%|
|Turned down a new job offer||41%|
|Had your pay or hours reduced||37%|
|Turned down further education/training||36%|
|Had problems participating in work-related education/training||33%|
|Changed from full-time to part-time work||33%|
|Been reprimanded by a supervisor||30%|
|Turned down a promotion/ reassignment||28%|
|Quit a job||26%|
|Been let go or fired||23%|
|Been demoted or transferred to a less desirable position||17%|
Retirement Savings Barriers
With income failing to keep pace with rising costs, it's no wonder post-Boomer generations are struggling to achieve financial independence. This pressure is also negatively impacting retirement savings. The Goldman Sachs Retirement Survey & Insights Report 2022 showed that post-Boomer generations perceive significantly more impediments to saving for retirement.
What Affected Your Ability to Save for Retirement?
|Impacted Savings Ability||Boomers
|Too many monthly expenses||56%||72%||84%||82%|
|Caring for or financially supporting family members||38%||63%||79%||75%|
|Paying down existing loans, including student loans||36%||59%||76%||75%|
|Time out of the workforce for child or elder care||31%||55%||72%||75%|
|Credit card debt||40%||55%||71%||58%|
|Saving for college||14%||43%||67%||63%|
|Other financial hardships||51%||67%||76%||79%|
One piece of good news is that many members of the post-Boomer generations are saving for retirement. Also, of those saving, the younger they are, the sooner they started. However, given the median amount saved so far, many members of all three generations have a long way to go before they accumulate meaningful savings to achieve a comfortable retirement. Sadly, about one in ten of each generation have $0 in retirement savings.
|Generation||Age Started Saving*
|No Retirement Savings|
|Gen X (1964-1978)||30||$82K||11%|
|Gen Z (1996-2012)||19||$29K||9%|
The Bottom Line: The Kids Could Use Some Help
The financial obstacles faced by the post-Boomer generations are significant. Boomer parents who are lucky enough to have some free financial resources to help their adult children would be addressing some real needs. However, it's important to make an objective assessment of your own resources before you throw out a lifeline. In an upcoming post, we'll explore some ideas to ensure you preserve your own financial health as you consider helping your adult children. Subscribe now so you don't miss it!