Pew Research is always an interesting source of statistics on just about everything in American life. Today I saw a statistic from their report on the sandwich generation that just about knocked me over. I’ve reported time and time again on statistics that show that large numbers of adults are providing financial support to their adult children. But I’d never before seen a stat capturing how many of those parents are providing the primary support for their adult kids. That means these parents aren’t just topping up an adult child’s measly earnings at an entry-level job, or providing occasional assistance when things get tough. Primary support means that these parents are still the biggest source of income in their adult children’s lives — maybe even the only source. Here’s the statistic exactly as it appears in the Pew report — and note that they define an adult child as a child aged 18+:
Roughly half (48%) of adults ages 40 to 59 have provided some financial support to at least one grown child in the past year, with 27% providing the primary support.
I have to say, even after all the work I’ve done on this subject, that shocks me. Primary support is not just a few dollars here and there — it’s a massive financial commitment for parents who are in the age range that they need to be thinking about saving for their own retirement.
Here’s an interesting new stat for you: More than 40% of parents pay the cell phone bills for their adult kids aged 18 to 35. Twenty-nine percent of them do so even after the adult child has moved away from from home.
I have to say, this one really shocked me. I just find it hard to understand this one — and I can only imagine what my parents’ faces would have looked like if I had ever asked them to pay for my cell phone. I can tell you this — they would have said no. And I really think they would have been right to do so. It’s one thing for an adult child to benefit from the family landline while living at home (I certainly did this). It’s entirely different for a parent to pay a bill that is clearly not a household expense. Even if the adult child’s phone is part of a family plan, they should still be responsible for their portion of the bill.
And how about this? It doesn’t end at the cell phone bill. Some parents are paying for all the digital goodies that keep their adult children entertained:
17% pay for mobile wifi access
12% pay for streaming video accounts like Hulu and Netflix
10% pay for music services like iTunes and Spotify
All of this (including the cell phone) adds up to about $108 every month, or almost $1,300 per year. That may not sound like a huge amount of money, but it’s certainly not insignificant.
I have to say, none of these services are necessities of life. If a 30-year-old can’t afford these services, maybe he or she should learn to live without them for a few years. When I was in my early twenties, some of these services didn’t exist. But I did pay for my own cell phone — and I had my own account at the video rental place (remember those?), even when I was living at home.
Check out this great infographic from CBC’s Doc Zone to go with their documentary Generation Jobless. It shows some of the challenges young people face today as they make their way through university and try to find a job — key steps to getting them out of the parental home. You can find an interactive version that shows the costs of everyday items in 1980 versus 2012 at http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/episode/generation-jobless.html
I wanted to share this excellent infographic from BillShrink.com. It provides a great look at Americans’ spending and saving habits, along with some thoughts on why it’s become so easy to spend and so hard to save. Some of these reasons (lifestyle maintenance, instant gratification, using plastic instead of real money, avoiding the truth, and keeping up with the Joneses) often combine to leave young adults in a bit of a financial mess… which is one reason why they may end up back on their parents’ doorstep. Some great food for thought here, and some potential topics to discuss with your adult kids as part of your budgeting process for their stay at home.
In 2011, I appeared in the documentary Generation Boomerang about, well, the boomerang generation. Tonight, the makers of that film are premiering their new documentary — Generation Jobless — on CBC’s DocZone at 9 p.m. PT/ET. I know I’ll be watching, and if you’re in Canada, I’d suggest you watch, too, especially if your adult kids are struggling with unemployment or underemployment. Here’s some information about the new documentary from the filmmakers’ press release.
Today, the unemployment rate for Canada’s twenty-somethings hovers just under 15%, which is nearly double the national average. Why are so many of today’s college and university graduates unable to forge their way into the job market? The new CBC documentary Generation Jobless takes a critical look at the growing problem and the serious ramifications it will have on the lives of every Canadian regardless of age, gender, education or income. Can we fix a broken system or are we destined to betray an entire generation?
Generation Jobless explores the harsh realities Canada’s twenty-somethings face when they try to gain a toehold in the workplace: unprecedented competition from their parents’ generation, and an economy that is being transformed by globalization and automation. Generation Jobless also looks to Switzerland for a solution, where youth unemployment is 2.8% — the lowest in the developed world. In this country, a strategic alliance between government, educators and employers ensures that almost all young people find their place in the job market. If Switzerland can achieve this, why can’t Canada?
Several experts weigh in on what many are calling the most important social issue of our time.
You can watch the trailer for Generation Jobless below.
40% of employers had dealt with parents contacting the company to obtain information
31% had dealt with parents submitting resumes on behalf of their children
15% had dealt with parents complaining if the company did not hire their child
12% had dealt with parents trying to negotiate their children’s salary and benefits
4% had seen parents attend their children’s job interviews!
As part of the survey, one employer even felt compelled to offer the following advice to parents: “Please tell your student that you have submitted a resume to a company. We have called a student from our resume pool only to find they did not know anything about our company and were not interested in a position with us.”
A note from the report to those parents who think they are helping by being directly involved in their adult children’s job search: “Many [employers] responded that they take parental presence in the job search as a negative and would like to see less parental ‘interference.’”
I do a lot of reading about adult children living at home. In the last little while, I’ve seen more and more journalists referring to the phenomenon of adult kids living at home in their twenties and even early thirties as the “new normal.” Is it the new normal? This doesn’t quite site right with me for a couple of reasons.
First, while the numbers of adult children living at home are increasing, for all age groups over 25, they are still in the minority. Adult children over age 25 are living at home in increasing numbers, but that number is firmly in the minority category. Even for the 18- to 24-year-old age group, the number just squeaks into majority territory (52.8% of 18 to 24-year-olds live with their parents according to researchers at Columbia University in New York based on data from the U.S. Current Population Survey). Fifty-two percent is not a large enough number to say “everybody’s doing it.” In fact, it’s only just over half. Is this the new normal?
Second, when things become “normal,” that generally means we know how to deal with them as a society. But the trend of young adults moving back in with their parents is not yet something we are equipped to deal with in North American society. The rules about financial support are especially unclear. In societies where it really is normal (and expected) for adult children to live at home, there is also an expectation of reciprocal support. Adult children live with their parents and may receive financial support, but they have defined roles within the household that may include looking after younger siblings or cousins, or contributing to the household work and cooking. When parents are elderly, their children are expected to return the favor through financial and emotional support. It’s a balanced system that is not currently in place in the broader North American society.
And third, calling adult kids living at home the new normal minimizes the emotional and financial impact it can have on parents, both of which are very real — and very challenging.
Adult children living at home may be a growing trend, but it is not (yet) the new normal. Both parents and adult kids living in this situation need to plan for the emotional and financial challenges and work hard to make the situation function well for both generations.
These infographic from The Globe and Mail show two things. First the huge drop in employment for young people aged 15-24 over the last five years. And second, how the average cost of housing compares to the median household income. They are part of a very interesting story looking at the challenges young people in Canada are facing today. You can see the whole piece here.
Business Insider has created a great post with a list of the 10 cities in the United States with the highest percentage of adult children aged 20 – 34 living at home. Their post provides great insight into what might be happening in each city, including the median income for young adults, youth employment rate, and percentage of this age group that remains unmarried. It’s definitely worth a read. Here’s their list of the top 10 cities. Is yours here?
1. Bridgeport, CT
2. Honolulu, HI
3. McAllen, TX
4. Miami, FL
5. New York, NY
6. Oxnard, CA
7. Los Angeles, CA
8. El Paso, TX
9. Scranton, PA
10. Riverside, CA