What is "parental financial assistance"? - NYTimes article

This article was an interesting reflection on expectations and realities of financial help for millennials in their 30s. I thought it was interesting so I thought I’d drop it here.


Thanks for sharing. I was just thinking about some of this today, actually. I think the article is right that it’s not as talked about. We talk about parents paying for college, but not as often parents choosing to (or not) help with down payments or childcare or healthcare emergencies. All of which can hit in adulthood proper (rather than early adulthood).

I did take issue with the article talking about homeownership like it was semi-mandatory/expected. Lots of people will never own homes.

My brother and sister-in-law are trying to have kids (which is turning out to be expensive, and my parents are splitting the cost with them) and have already arranged with my mom for one day a week of childcare from her and my dad should they be successful. And my parents helped pay for their wedding last year.
I’m happy that my parents are able to do this for them; it takes so much stress and burden off a young couple just starting out!

In my case, parental financial assistance came in the form of a fully funded undergraduate degree, and a used car that was free to me.

My bootstraps had jetpacks. XD Hahahah.

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Interesting article, but pretty far from my experience. I think as the article noted, this is definitely an upper middle class problem. When I was 21, I was giving my mom money to help keep the lights on, and I wasn’t even living at home anymore. I think that’s more along the lines of reality for the majority of American families.


Hmm. I am from an upper middle class white background. This article definitely rings true for me. My parents paid for my college and have helped me with rent and health insurance/medical bills since then. I have probably gotten between $3-15k annually from them since I graduated college, depending on how they perceived my needs at the time.

This article is true for many people I went to college and graduate school with. I have friends who are entirely bankrolled by their parents, but these friends have parents who are millionaires. I currently work in the food industry, and it is definitely NOT true for many of the people I work with now.

I’m glad the article doesn’t make millennials out to be lazy entitled whiners. I do think that stories of millennials who don’t have parental support aren’t really talked about enough. I would definitely want to read the stories of millennials who are making it work without support or who support their parents, especially non-white millennials.


I’m from an upper middle class background, at least toward my teen years (my parents were military and both from working class backgrounds when I was born).

I definitely have benefited a lot from parental assistance, even if it hasn’t come in the form of direct money transfers. I moved 2,000 miles from home when I was 18, and made it work on a very low to low income ($5,000 with room/board - $20,000 a year), but I benefited a lot from doing two terms of service with the government in AmeriCorps, which helped me pay for college, along with choosing to go to a school that gave me full grant-based aid based on my income alone (once I was over the age of 24 when you’re considered independent from your parent’s income).

I wasn’t in school so I wasn’t able to be on my parent’s health insurance when I was younger and I only had it through work 2 years out of the 8 years before the ACA passed because I worked non-profit jobs without health insurance. Medicaid only covered kids and pregnant women in my state back then, otherwise I would’ve had it. (Yay medicaid expansion!)

I did slide in just in under the wire once the ACA passed and started allowing adult children on health insurance - I got on when I was 25, and then promptly broke my wrist and was staring down $28K of medical bills. I can’t imagine if I hadn’t had parental health insurance; I only ended up needing to spend about $4K out of pocket, which was as much as I earned the entire summer, and wiped out a lot of my emergency savings I’d built up since I started working at 14 years old. My parents paid for my physical therapy bills, which made it possible for me to go back to work.

My parents also still have me on a family phone plan, though I pay them for it every month (it’s a really good deal for what we get so I haven’t been motivated to get off). They used to pay for it when I was younger, because they knew I was cheap enough I wouldn’t buy a cell phone on my own and they didn’t want to not be able to get ahold of me.

Also, when living abroad (thanks fancy school for giving me a full ride including living abroad), I lost my wallet in a foreign country (not the one I lived in). I was able to call my parents at 3AM their time to get a wire transfer in the middle of the night so I could get back to Germany where I lived; I did reimburse them for it immediately (we use the same bank so transfers were easy) but it was only because they had access to liquidity and the ability to send a wire transfer that I could do that.


I’m from a lower middle class background. Aid I’ve received:

  • I was on my parents’ health insurance during college.
  • Every few months in college they would visit me and take me grocery shopping as part of the visit.
  • My parents had me on their cell phone plan until I turned 28 and got a smartphone-- so basically the entire time I was in undergrad and grad school.
  • They gave me $2000 to buy my first car when I was 27.

I would not have had a cell phone or a car without their assistance at the time. In undergrad I made $3k a year; in grad school, $18k in a VHCOLA. I could never have afforded it.

Other than that, I’ve been financially independent since the age of 18. I paid for college and my grad school fees, paid for rent and groceries, plane tickets home, etc. I plan to help my parents in turn when my father retires and they’re on SSI; it’s one reason that I’m working hard at retirement accounts now, because I anticipate that future cashflow may partially be directed towards my parents.

I definitely associate ongoing assistance with rent, groceries, etc with folks from upper middle class/upper class families, and also with VHCOLAs. I’ve love it if one of these articles ever did a statistically sound survery re: who gets assistance and what kinds.

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@anomalily, do you think you have been more able to take risks and try things because you had that parental safety net?

I’m not sure. I never really believed I had a parental safety net, as I was fairly convinced there was no way I would ever ask them for money, etc, so I didn’t operate under the assumption it was there - I always made decisions based on my own income and resources and network (a factor was my parents were an $800 flight away which wasn’t really an “easy” way to go home). I had a really tough relationship with them when I was in my teens and early 20’s (one of many reasons I left my hometown).

But later, as I got older, I definitely leaned on them as a resource for knowledge- trying to decide if I could afford certain things, like a new bike, or figuring out situations with landlords, I would call my parents for advice.

And they were pretty up to date on my going-to-college plans and how I was working out funding and we talked about (my lack of) health insurance a lot.

I’m not sure it encouraged me to take risks because I pretended it wasn’t there. That being said, I think now I take more risks (like quitting my well-paid job to start a business) due to a combination of my own savings + the fact my SSO has a high income. Like I know I won’t be destitute if I ran out of money, since I live with my SSO. I wouldn’t ever want it to come to that, but I probably take some risks because I know SSO wouldn’t let me starve.

My whole adult life I’ve chased stability, not passion or interest, and I think it’s because there was no safety net. I have no idea what my life would have looked like if I hadn’t had hunger and homelessness as distinct possibilities if I fucked up.
Now that I’ve achieved stability I am struggling with how to bring passion and interest into my life.


I’ve gotten a lot of parental assistance. My dad makes a lot of money and my parents seem to really like helping out their kids. Off the top of my head…

  • My college tuition was fully paid with a scholarship; they paid for room and board, books, and my car
  • I lived with them for several years after college and paid no or negligible rent
  • They loaned us a car and then the money for a new car when our car suddenly died
  • Eldan and I are both on their cell phone plan, though we do pay the bill ourselves
  • They pay for our EZ-Pass
  • They gave us a significant amount of money after we bought our house, though it wasn’t given directly as down payment assistance
  • My mom visits once a week or so to help with childcare

I feel that I’ve benefited a lot from their generosity!

Yup. And compare to previous generations, again in a statistically sound way. Because surely wealthy families have always helped out their kids? And all families, everywhere, have had the grandparent generation helping with children?

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I forgot the most important thing. I leech off my parents’ netflix account.

(I did pay for my own, cancelled it so that I could finish my freaking thesis and stop re-watching Buffy, and then they were like “oh hey we want you to watch this show use our netflix” and it’s been like 2 years… I should probably be giving them $6 a month for that).

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Ha! I use my parents’ Xfinity (rarely, though; I used it a lot more when I was on maternity leave).

They recently got Netflix and I want to use it, but somehow it’s through Comcast so they don’t know what their username and password are, so I can’t get it on my phone.

So something I’m noticing in this conversation we’re having is that many of us who have received “financial assistance” from our parents post age 18 feel like it is a gift.

When I hear financial assistance I think of regular help with bills, but what I’ve experienced (and what most people have described who have benefited from parental help in this thread) is more exceptional generosity from the generation above.

I’ve accepted almost all of what has been offered by my parents, despite the fact that I don’t “need” it. It makes my parents happy to be generous. :slight_smile: And I make sure to let them know that their generosity is not something I ever expect.
But this is 100% an upper middle class Thing.

And the observation that it’s an upper middle class thing, not a millennial thing (@diapasoun mentioned this) , is I think maybe the crux of the matter. I wonder if there is actually a generational shift here or not.


I was raised upper middle class but am older than most of you. My parents paid for college, then gave me a used car after college. They paid for my cell phone bill for the first 3 years of graduate school (at that time, cell phones weren’t necessary. They wanted me to have one for safety, so they paid for one). My graduate school expenses were covered with my stipend. Once I reached my 3 year of graduate school and got married, they did not pay for anything, but I inherited $13K from my grandfather which helped with the downpayment for our first house. We had a very modest wedding (10 people including us, no wedding dress etc…) and my parents did pay for that (maybe $2K).

My husband had the opposite upbringing. He was lower middle class, but his parents wouldn’t even do things to help facilitate his education. He is a veterinarian, and his parents would not fill out any financial aid forms, so he couldn’t even apply for financial aid, so he worked throughout vet school to help pay the bills.

In terms of our kids, my DH was married before to a woman from an extremely wealthy family. Their kids are 31 and 29. They had trust funds to pay for private school all the way through. The oldest, because of his personality, has been independent for some time, except we had him on our insurance until he was 26. The youngest has had much more significant help – her mother’s side basically paid for a condo for her + I don’t know what else they give her. We had her on my insurance until she was 26, we still pay her cellphone bill and we give her $200. She goes on luxurious trips etc, so she is not hurting.
We have twin boys who are 14. They have always gone to public school. We do plan to pay for college for them, and have about $180K saved up for each of them so far. We will keep them on my medical insurance for as long as we can. One of them has had significant medical issues, including epilepsy, and at a minimum I expect we will pay the out of pocket costs for medical care for him for quite a while. By not have undergraduate loans, my kids will definitely fit in the privileged class.


One of the most baffling experiences of my adult life was when we were purchasing our house and the RE agent asked MIL if she was “the money”. No, we are the money. We have earnt the money and saved the money and now we are spending the money on this house, thankyou.

I really like Oro’s point about the difference between subsidizing the basic costs of lifestyle versus generous, occasional gifts (Oro, tell me if I’ve paraphrased that wrong).

I come from financial instability (to put it mildly) and struggle with how much to help my own kid(s) down the track. I’m proud of having built up my own wealth and I want my kid(s) to gain that same independence but… They will be growing up in a wildly different family from my family of origin. They will have a safety net.

My MIL provides us with ~8 hours of free childcare a week, for which we are very thankful. We’re probably going to end up buying her a house in a decade or two, so I wouldn’t say it’s financial assistance she’s providing via free childcare, so much as it’s helping us parent in line with our values.


HM. You all have vastly different ideas and experiences about parental assistance than mine, and it’s making me think about the plan when my kids become adults.
My thought had been that I would charge them rent after they turn 18, but less than market rates. There would be a withdrawal of my cooking services, unless it was a special occasion.
I moved out the day after I finished high school. A place to live upon adulthood sounds luxurious to me.
Am I being a cold-hearted brute?


This might be something you change your mind on as your kids get closer to that point? But it’s also a path that is not that uncommon. My dad paid rent starting the day he graduated high school to his parents.
A spongy nest exit is what I had-- not a hard stop, but it was clearly expected that I move out and support myself. But I always knew (and still know) that if shit hits the fan, my parents will help me, or my brother would help me. And my brother knows the same. But that ripcord isn’t one to be pulled lightly. There absolutely are cases of kids (no longer kids now… I know a few) whose nest is so soft and the money keeps flowing that they never figure out how to make it on their own.

I don’t know Smacksters. I’m not a parent. <3 I know you’ll figure it out. You’ve had a harder run than I have; I grew up soft and left the nest softly, too.


Definitely don’t think you’re a cold-hearted brute. That’s what my parents did with me. I didn’t graduate high school but they charged me market rent from the day I turned 18, leading me to move out about ~1 month after that since I was able to get a place cheaper on my own. I think it’s also the kind of thing that can be different based on the situation and priorities of each kid.


It’s fascinating to see the range in folks’ experiences. I grew up middle class, but ended up with more assistance/gifts from my parents in adulthood due to some late career changes for both my parents leading to substantial increases in their income.

I didn’t have help for college but it’s because I was lucky enough to have a full ride to a state school - my sister had help from them equivalent to the cost of in-state tuition. I bought my car on my own, grad school was on my own, cell phone was on my own (for me, but not my sister), they didn’t help with our down payment. But they did pay for half our wedding (and my in laws paid for the other half)! And if we ever needed help I absolutely know we could call on them.

Oh, and I went to college at 17, but lived at home rent-free for three of those summers - I don’t think there was even a question of charging rent. I worked those summers and was able to save enough from that to buy a used car when I graduated, so that was definitely a subsidy there.


@Smacky not cold-hearted at all. I paid board from 16 and it was helpful for me in understanding the cost of rent, groceries etc. Plus, neither my mother (charged me board age 16 - 18) nor my Dad (charged me board age 18 - 21) could afford to keep me under their roof without some financial contribution on my part, but it was still cheaper for me than living independently.