We Give $ To Kids And Help To Parents

New Study Shows How We Support Our Families

We Give $ To Kids And Help To Parents
November 26, 2015

America is aging rapidly. While 13.1% of Americans were aged 65 and older in 2010, a study from the Pew Research Center estimates that 21.5% of us will be over age 65 by 2050. However, two other countries have an even larger aging problem — Germany and Italy will have nearly one-third of their population over age 65 by 2050 (32.7% and 33% respectively).

With greater numbers of retirees supported by fewer workers in all three countries, the Pew study looks at the assistance provided by the working generation — not only to seniors, but also to adult children who are having difficulty making it on their own. The so-called "sandwich" generation is faced with obligations in both generational directions, and the study investigates how all three countries handle assistance.

When it comes to financial assistance, we devote more of those resources to adult children than to elderly parents. In the U.S., 61% of survey respondents said that they had helped an adult child financially in the past twelve months, but only 28% provided financial help to a parent aged 65 or over. The numbers are similar in Italy (60% to 20%), with a bit less discrepancy in Germany (48% to 18%).

Other forms of assistance were split far more evenly among the generations. When the form of assistance over the last twelve months was errands, housework, home repairs, childcare, or personal care, 54% gave assistance to their children and 60% to their parents. Germans gave assistance to 62% of children and 69% of parents, while Italians gave 72% to both generations.

The study reveals other interesting data about attitudes on assistance — some are complementary to the above findings, but several are contradictory.

On the contradictory side, even though most people don’t do it, there is strong support for providing financial assistance to aging parents as a personal responsibility. 87% of Italians, 76% of Americans, and 58% of Germans believe that's the case.

Perhaps that's because most people don’t expect Social Security or the overseas equivalents to stay fully solvent. Believe it or not, Americans are the optimists here, with 20% expecting benefits to stay intact and 31% expecting reduced benefits. In Germany, the numbers are 11% and 45% respectively; in Italy, it's even worse at 7% and 29% respectively.

Given that result, Italians should be saving for retirement, right? Think again. Only 23% are saving for retirement compared to 56% in the U.S. and 61% in Germany.

Strangely, the numbers are lower for considering financial help to adult children as a responsibility. 73% of Italians, 63% of Germans and 50% of Americans feel that way. So more of us feel that it's responsible to help our parents financially, yet we tend to help our children instead. However, when it comes to inheritances — forget it. Only 36% of Americans, 27% of Italians, and 16% of Germans plan to leave savings for their children when they die.

Does this result in stress for the Sandwich generation? Apparently it doesn't. The study found that most lead generally happy lives, with well over 80% in each country saying that helping either parents or children is rewarding. As for why we prefer time to money with our parents, it may be that we prefer giving our time to our parents just because we understand there is less of it left. The older we (and our parents) are, the more that point is driven home.

The upshot of the Pew report seems to be that the burden of caring for adult children and parents is likely to increase in the short term, and that there will be limited help from government in the future — but families should support each other and somehow we will get by. Not only that, but we'll enjoy ourselves in the process. We'll take that optimistic view any day.

For more results, see the report summary here.

Photo ©iStock.com/laflor

  Conversation   |   12 Comments

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Nancy | 11.26.15 @ 17:08
I think the younger generation is a lot more willing to accept help than the older generation is. I also think the older generation for the most part is already set and doesn't need as much help. They prepared hopefully for where they are today.
Alec | 11.26.15 @ 17:16
My parents have done a lot to help me over the years and I will be ready and willing to help them if or when they need it. I also plan on leaving my daughter money when I die. Family should help family no matter which way up or down the bloodline they are. However, I think most all the older generation people I know are prepared or preparing for something like this.
Amanda | 11.26.15 @ 17:17
I have to agree with Nancy, most older people feel like they dont need the help or their pride prevents them from asking or receiving help. It was the way they were brought up, as in the younger generations helping, hand outs are more common so they expect those. Older generations thought well in advance where younger ones are day to day.
Britt | 11.26.15 @ 17:20
I think younger generations are totally more willing to help elderly generations just because there's so much more they can do. I know I see that a lot with my friends and family.
Bobbie | 11.26.15 @ 17:21
My mom still buys me stuff and I'm 40. I help her out in any way I can when it comes to small home repairs and small electronics, and making sure a car repair place is not ripping her off. It's a give and take.
Kailie | 11.26.15 @ 17:22
I can agree with this, I have always been willingly to help my grandparents when they need me.
Kyle | 11.26.15 @ 17:23
I can see how this would be true. I am never hesitant to help my grandparents/great grandparents when they need me for something, and they're always trying to help me financially, even if i don't need it
Steffanie | 11.26.15 @ 17:30
Helping other is a must. I know we have appreciated any help we have gotten. Pay it forward, I say.
Sarah | 11.26.15 @ 17:50
This is interesting, that other countries seem to have had a baby boom as well, which has resulted in an aging boom. Glad to see the help is going both ways.
Christina | 11.26.15 @ 17:53
I helped with my grandparents when they were here., and I also do what ever I can for my husbands and myself parents. Our kids still need help along the way even tho they are living on there on. Its always good to help out when you can.
Beverly | 11.26.15 @ 17:58
I think the older generation knew better how to save while the younger generation knows better how to be in debt. But this is what family is for to help each other out when they need it, whether it's older helper younger or vice versa.
gracie | 11.26.15 @ 17:58
Family used to be the "helping hand" we got in life as young adults starting out and having children or when times got rough and later when we became elderly. I think it is lucky to have family that is able to help each other through the ups and downs of life. Family may frustrate us many times but they are also the one's who pick us up and keep us going. It feels like when I look around there are many people who don't have that extra security of family and no one to help them with the struggles. Family and the help to get and stay financially secure in life can make a huge difference in peoples lives.
$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 01.17.21 @ 21:42