A majority of millennials get by with a little help from their ’rents.
More than half (53 percent) of American millennials have received financial assistance from their parents, guardians or family members on expenses like a cellphone (41 percent), rent (40 percent), gas and groceries (32 percent) and health insurance (32 percent) since turning 21, according to the new Country Financial Security Index. (The report defined millennials as those ages 21 to 37.)
About a third (37 percent) said they get cash assistance monthly, while nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) said they receive it a couple of times a year. And 35 percent of millennials said they were still living with their parents.
“Young people are graduating with a debt load that generations before them just didn’t have — that’s one big issue,” Doyle Williams, an executive vice president at Country Financial, told Moneyish. “And then you also have … kind of the middle of that millennial generation, (which is) still probably dealing with the aftereffects of the Great Recession.”
The median student debt load is $41,200, according to a 2017 report from the National Association of Realtors and the nonprofit American Student Assistance — outstripping their median annual income of $38,800.
Millennials are unique in regarding their parents as friends, Williams added. “(In) generations before … you respected Mom and Dad, but you just never referred to them as your friend,” he said. “For the first time, we’re seeing something different.” (More than half of millennials do indeed call one of their parents their best friend, according to Fusion’s 2015 Massive Millennial Poll.)
The Country Financial report also captured how respondents perceived adulting: 23 percent believed adulthood started at the legal age of 18 and 19 percent thought it began at 21. But nearly 2 in 5 (38 percent) still didn’t think they should be totally financially independent until at least age 25.
Colleen W., a 29-year-old freelance copywriter, left her job at a Fortune 500 company and moved back in with her parents in Ohio in October. She orchestrated the move to cut costs and start her own business teaching small-business owners copywriting and marketing; pay off debt ($70,000 in student loans, plus some credit card debt); and save up for European travel in the fall, she said.
While her parents handle the cooking, pay for her cellphone and cover her auto insurance, Colleen said, she also pays $200 a month toward rent and groceries and helps out around the house by taking care of the two family dogs and “cleaning here and there.”
Her father, who used to work in the steel industry, currently drives for Uber; her mother is a furniture saleswoman. “It’s a struggle for all of us,” Colleen said. “Honestly, me moving in with them is kind of maybe helping their finances a little bit, because I’m paying them rent now.”
But since moving back in with her folks, she added, “I’ve definitely made progress with my financial goals.” While she used to spend around $4,000 a month living in Los Angeles, she said, she now spends less than $1,500.
“I really value my independence,” she said, “but sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.”
Aulani, a 22-year-old recent college grad working in public relations in San Diego — the ninth-most expensive rental market in March, by one estimate — says she’s “in the process of trying to establish (her) financial stability.” In the lead-up to that, however, her mom “would help with little things” while Aulani, who asked that Moneyish withhold her last name, worked a part-time cashier job at a burger joint throughout college. (She’ll start making payments on her $25,000 student loan debt next month.)
“It’s not that I want to be dependent on my parents’ income,” Aulani said. “Situationally, it just happens that way sometimes.” Her mom, a paralegal, currently pays her phone bill and is helping her with a down payment on her next apartment, she said.
Fortunately, Aulani said, her newfound full-time employment at a marketing agency has improved her cash flow considerably. “I feel like next month is going to be the last month that she will be providing this for me,” she said, “and I’m hoping from then forward I’m able to just pick up my own expenses.”
“I don’t think (millennials) should be stigmatized that we seek that support, if it’s a viable option … as opposed to externally seeking that support and potentially putting ourselves in a worse position,” Aulani added, pointing to friends who took out payday loans and wound up paying enormous interest rates. “Things like that are preventable if you’re able to just handle that with your family.”
Meanwhile, 29-year-old Eric, a Jersey City-based finance associate at a major bank, says his parents have “always kind of supported (him) financially.”
“Growing up, the expectation was that I focus and do well academically,” said Eric, who also asked that his last name be withheld. “My parents had discouraged me from having a part-time job or anything, because they really wanted me to focus on my studies — so I never really tried to get a part-time job in high school or in college. I was also on the fencing team.” So Eric’s parents’ attitude, he said, was, “We’ll help you if you need some money. Just be a student; be an athlete … If you need money, we’ll see how much money you need and we’ll figure it out.” The money went mostly to necessities like food and gas, he said, as well as the occasional luxury item.
Eric, who graduated college in December 2011 without student loans and landed a job a month later, moved back in with his parents to save money. But even since he moved out in 2014, he said, they still kick him about $200 toward gas and food when he visits once or twice a month. “I think it’s because they worry about me and they just want to make sure I’m not hurting for money,” he said. “They do it out of just wanting to take care of me — I don’t want to take advantage of that. Because I do make a salary now; I can take care of myself.”
So why continue accepting the cash? “It’s free money,” Eric said. “I don’t see anyone else offering me free money.” Sometimes he accepts a portion of what his parents offer; other times he takes it all. But he tends to tuck the money away, he said: “If there’s an emergency, I know I’ll have some cash off to the side,” he said. “Or maybe I can buy my parents a gift with that money over time.”