As a result of entering the workforce during a downturn and the concurrent large amount of student debt, most millennials are still receiving some kind of financial assistance from their parents. This holds true even as they begin to enter into their 30s. What are the most common kinds of assistance? And what is this help doing to those giving and to those receiving the financial help?
More than half of adults between the ages of 21 and 37 who are working full-time are receiving financial help from their parents. If you take into consideration all those age 18 or older who may or may not be working full-time, then the reliance on some kind of parental support broadens to 74 percent.
The reasons for needing help are well documented. Millennials entered the job market in a sluggish economy. And as a result of the recession, they were less likely to have the cost of their education paid for by their parents. Many took on additional educational costs in order to land jobs — 70 percent of millennials graduated with some debt, the average being more than $29,000. In addition, the cost of living in many parts of the country, especially those desirable areas with well-paying employment, is sky-high. Finally, although the job market has improved significantly, wages have stagnated, and millennials are earning about 20 percent less than baby boomers did at the same age (when the numbers are adjusted for inflation).
To get an idea of the magnitude of the situation, 87 percent of millennials said they had less than $900 in cash in the bank during the previous 12-month period. Those are the sad facts.
The most common form of support by parents of millennials is help with recurrent expenses. The most common bills picked up by parents are those for cell phones (53 percent) and car insurance (31 percent). Following that is car payments at 30 percent, utilities at 30 percent, rent or mortgage at 27 percent and health insurance and student loans, both at 18 percent. These numbers do not take into account the help that many millennials receive by living at home with parents. Nearly 23 percent of millennials live with their parents, and this is up from 2005 when 13 percent did. Finally, there is a percentage of millennials who don’t get help paying bills but receive help in the form of regular infusions of cash to use to support themselves. Another 37 percent of millennials receive cash on a monthly basis, and 59 percent receive cash episodically during the year.
Is one form of assistance better than another?
A new study conducted by Anna Manzoni, a sociology professor, sought to determine whether one form of assistance led to better results. The study, published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, looked at 7,500 millennials over the age of 18 in terms of job status. The results showed that those millennials who received cash assistance did better in terms of occupational status than those whose bills were paid or who lived at home. Manzoni theorized that this difference was the result of graduates being able to make better career decisions if they could use the money in ways they determined was best. Also, cash assistance gave graduates the opportunity to learn to make and keep to a budget and to think through financial decisions on their own. Finally, if assistance comes in the form of living at home, there is less incentive to move out, and job opportunities are limited to the area in which parents live which might not be the optimum area for career advancement.
The numbers show the sad truth, which is that the millennial generation has still not reached the levels of financial independence seen by their parents or even their grandparents at the same age. The reasons for this are well established and don’t include laziness or a sense of entitlement. Now, new information can help parents and adult children determine in what form assistance is most effective. However, financial assistance in the form of cash is not an option for all families, and generally only those in the upper-middle class can afford to provide this type of assistance. Comfort yourself by knowing that whatever form of assistance you are getting from the parental units, you are far from alone.
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