Groceries, housing costs, and medical expenses top the list of expenses that nearly a third of midlife adults contribute toward as they provide financial support to aging parents.
While 32 percent of midlife adults ages 40–64 provided regular financial support to their parents in the past year, four in ten midlife adults (42 percent) expect to be doing so in the future, according to a recent AARP telephone survey. Most often the money is going for basic living expenses.
Meanwhile, meeting the needs of older parents is not the only financial burden that midlife adults are shouldering. Half of midlife adults are still providing money to their adult children age 25 or older (51%) for basic expenses.
This reality creates a financial strain on their own family finances and places particular pressure on retirement savings during a crucial point for building wealth.
About a quarter of midlife adults say their parents or adult children rely on the money they provide to a great extent. This money is used most often to buy food, with groceries topping the list for aging parents as well as adult children.
The sums contributed, meanwhile, hardly constitutes spare change. The AARP survey found that over half, 54 percent, have given $1,000 or more to a parent in the last 12 months, and 20 percent have provided $5,000 or more. Financial support to adult children was equally striking, with 56 percent of midlife adults having provided $1,000 or more in the last year and 25 percent having contributed $5,000 or more.
While groceries lead the list of necessities provided, midlife adults are also providing significant support for other basic needs. In other words, rarely is the financial support going toward leisure or vacation.
In comparison with financial support for adult children, support for parents is more likely to help cover medical expenses. Financial help for adult children, on the other hand, is more likely to be used for paying transportation costs. Other common cost areas being covered both for older parents and adult children include personal items; utility costs; and phone, internet and television bills.
A telephone survey of 1,508 adults ages 40–64 was conducted between September 30 and October 7, 2019. The data are unweighted because the demographics of this sample very closely matched the population of adults ages 40–64, according to the Current Population Survey (CPS) and American Community Survey (ACS).
Skufca, Laura. A Survey of Midlife Adults Providing Financial Support to Family Members. Washington, DC: AARP Research, January 2020. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00366.001