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Women’s Views on Family Financial Obligations: A MetLife Survey of Intergenerational Findings of Baby Boomers and Generations X and Y – 2012


Providing financial support for family members is a value held by women across all generations. MetLife’s Mature Market Institute commissioned this study to better understand American women’s views on financial responsibilities when it comes to the family, including the extended family. For local planners, the key finding is that six in ten women say they feel an “absolutely/strong obligation” to have a parent live with them if they are “is not healthy enough to live without some caregiving.” This feeling is even stronger among the younger generations, suggesting that as Boomers grow older, their own children will help them live at “home” instead of in a nursing home.

Key Points

This study provides insights into cross-generational (Gen Y, Gen X and Boomers) attitudes and preferences among women regarding financial responsibilities to family members. The report is based on 1,060 responses to an online survey of American women ages 21 to 65. For many of the findings, the research firm cautions that the responses could be driven more by life stage factors than generational differences. However, overall, the study learned that while women feel a strong sense of financial obligation to their families, there are limits.

Note: The study defines the generations as Boomers, born 1946-64, Generation X, 1965–76, and Generation Y, 1977–1990. The birth years of the two younger generations used here are not universally accepted as the start and end dates by demographers. Most demographers define “generations” as lasting 18–20 years, or long enough for those born in the first year to reach adulthood.

Key findings include:

  1. Cross-generationally, 8 out of 10 women had the desire to give more financially to their children or grandchildren.
  2. Approximately half of women surveyed felt that it was their duty to help their children pay for college; however, approximately 80 percent of women did not feel like it was their responsibility to contribute to their children’s down payment on a house.
  3. An equal percentage of women across all generations said they would feel an obligation to help if their parents were having financial problems, but despite this willingness to help, the parents may not be comfortable with accepting this help.
    1. From the report: Among Boomers, 45% of women feel that, if they were to find themselves low on money after the age of 80, they would not accept financial help from their adult children. They are significantly more likely to report this than the Gen Xers (34%). In a similar vein, saving enough for retirement to avoid having to turn to family members for financial support is high on the list for women across generations. Eighty-nine percent of Boomers report this as a strong or absolute responsibility, as do 88% of Gen Xers and 84% of Gen Yers.
  4. In case of unexpected death, around 65 percent of Gen Y and Gen X women would like to ensure that surviving children have enough money. Only 37 percent of Boomers felt that this was their responsibility, which could be due to the fact that their children are older. Additionally, over 75 percent of women across generations feel a responsibility to ensure that a surviving spouse has enough money (which, considering that it is most likely they will be the surviving spouse, is not surprising).

How to Use

Understanding the current mindsets of women on issues related to family financial obligations is important for planners and local officials because it provides insight into who will care for older Boomers when the time comes. All studies show that nine out of ten Boomers plan to age in place — meaning in their community, not in a nursing home. Reports like this should help local officials gauge and manage the future need when many Boomers without financial resources to provide in-home care turn to family first, instead of the government, for solutions.

View full report: MetLife — How Multi Generational Women View Family Obligations — 2012 (PDF — 303 KB)

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