Parents have lower expectations for kids becoming financially independent

by Grace

Parents have lowered their expectations about when adulthood should begin, according to a recent Pew survey.

… The survey finds that today two-thirds (67%) of parents of children age 16 or younger say children should have to become financially independent from their parents by the age of 22—down from 80% who felt this way in 1993.

The increased expectation that graduate school will be part of their education may be partly responsible for this change.

Most everyone thinks young adults have it harder these days.

… Young adults themselves feel things are more difficult now. And middle-aged and older adults agree it’s much harder to be a young adult today than it was a generation ago.

Strong majorities of all adults say it’s harder for today’s young people than it was for their parents to find a job (82%), save for the future (75%), pay for college (71%) or buy a home (69%). In some cases, middle-aged and older adults are even more likely than their younger counterparts to say today’s young people have it harder.

With the exception of paying for college, I’m not convinced young adults have it harder today.  Getting a job, saving, and buying a home were not all that easy for many of my generation.  At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old codger, I believe many young people feel more entitled today than in years past.  When it comes to “delayed gratification” today’s kids tend to think in terms of hours and days, not years.  Is this the result of technology and over-attentive parenting?

All that being said, there’s a good possibility my oldest will return to live at home after graduating college and therefore will not be financially independent by age 22.

Related:  No shame in living at home after college (usually)

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5 Comments to “Parents have lower expectations for kids becoming financially independent”

  1. “but I couldn’t think of saving or buying a house until many years later. I think that was surprising for my parents generation.”

    I’m of a somewhat younger generation than you, but I’m not sure that’s true. My grandparents (WWII generation) bought a house and farm very soon after marrying (thanks to grandpa’s Army savings) but the house was tiny and old (I haven’t been in there for a while, but my dad once said that the entire square footage of the little house is the same as that of the living room in the newer house they built). They lived there while building a much bigger 1950s house on the same lot, by which time my grandpa was nearly 38. He did even the plumbing and wiring himself (with advice from tradesmen). Of course (and this is very important), the 1959 house never ever had a mortgage. While it’s technically true that my grandparents bought that first house in their 20s, it must have been barely tolerable for a family of five. They’ve now had the little house as a rental for as long as I can remember.

    Likewise, my parents built their first and only house in their mid/late 30s.

    My husband and I are in our mid and late 30s and are buying our first house next year.

    The ages of homeownership (or at least ownership of a permanent home) are actually pretty consistent from generation to generation in my family. Income and education levels have risen quite a lot, but at the same time, you can see a steady drop in DIY ability and desire. My parents spent five years building their house (we moved in as soon as there was a roof), but I have no desire at all to repeat that myself, as interesting as it was at the time. I’m not even that keen on renovations, having seen several friends through that painful process.

    “My generation, however, has not expectations that our kids will become financially independent anytime soon because WE were not able to.”

    I graduated from college just before turning 20 and was responsible for myself from there on (that was the mid-90s). Of course, I went into the Peace Corps for two years, which is a sort of intermediary step. On the one hand, I was half a day from headquarters and almost never saw my American supervisors, on the other hand, I had my rent and medical care and other necessities provided, so it was a sort of well-padded introduction to adulthood. My husband, likewise, launched at 23. We got married in our early/mid 20s and have been paddling our own boat ever since. The occasional check (for instance to help pay for plane tickets to see grandparents) is very helpful and appreciated, but we wouldn’t go down in flames without it.

    5-10 years ago, I would probably have been a lot more hard core on the virtues of financial independence for adult children and I make sure my school age kids understand the value of a dollar and that mommy and daddy do not own a magic money tree. However, my current thinking is that it’s not terribly harmful to provide financial assistance if adult children are moving in the right direction. I wouldn’t mind having a single student or employed child living at home, as long as they make a contribution at home, follow house rules, are saving money and are preparing for independent life.

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  2. I would not be sympathetic to an adult child who wanted to live at home and be taken care of and was spending their entire earnings on la dolce vita. That would be annoying.

    I grabbed a funny quote on the subject from a commentor at The Simple Dollar:

    http://xantippesblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/failure-to-launch.html

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  3. Geography and mobility is a big factor. I couldn’t have lived at home and gone to a 4-year college without a four-hour one-way commute, and likewise, I couldn’t have found any kind of tolerable employment if I’d stayed at home. My husband, likewise, was eventually pulled out of the parental orbit by school and employment.

    Our kids could stay at home for college if they wanted to, but employment options would probably be limited. There are many good employment opportunities 1-3 hours away. Although that would make for relatively easy holiday get-togethers, that distance doesn’t lend itself to being totally enmeshed in each others affairs.

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  4. “My generation, however, has not expectations that our kids will become financially independent anytime soon because WE were not able to.”

    I’m probably slightly older than both of you, but my experience was that many of were financially independent by around age 22. However, I suppose that these expectations and actual experiences may vary a bit by class and other factors. If you’re not necessarily expecting your child to attend college and even go for an advanced degree, it’s natural to expect financial independence by age 22. Most parents today expect their children to attend college.

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  5. Historically, the expectation that children will live at home even as adults might have been more common in lower-income families, but I’m not sure. I know this view is common among certain ethnic groups that have carried this idea over from the “old country”.

    I strongly suspect that higher expectations of living standards keeps many kids at home. Why give up expensive partying, vacations, and electronic gadgets when you can live at home and still afford to indulge in all those?

    “5-10 years ago, I would probably have been a lot more hard core on the virtues of financial independence for adult children and I make sure my school age kids understand the value of a dollar and that mommy and daddy do not own a magic money tree. However, my current thinking is that it’s not terribly harmful to provide financial assistance if adult children are moving in the right direction. I wouldn’t mind having a single student or employed child living at home, as long as they make a contribution at home, follow house rules, are saving money and are preparing for independent life.”

    ^ This pretty much describes my evolution of thinking on this topic. But I confess to also wanting a kid who is more independent and wants to do it on his own, willing to tough it out and forego typical luxuries.

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