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Into their 30s, men get way more money from their parents than women

Graduating students
Reuters/Mike Blake
Sign of the times.
  • Jenny Anderson
By Jenny Anderson

Senior reporter, Editor of How to be Human

Published Last updated on This article is more than 2 years old.

Three-quarters of young adults say becoming financially independent from their parents is a key sign of becoming an adult. On this front, they appear to be failing.

According to a new report from Merrill Lynch, a whopping 70% of young adults in the US received financial support from their parents in the past year, and 58% of the 18-34 year olds said they would not be able to afford their current lifestyle without help from the Bank of Mom and Dad. In total, parents are spending more than $500 billion every year on their adult children.

But as they hit their 30s, men come to rely on the parental lifeline way more than women. Less than half of women in their early 30s get financial support from their parents, compared with 62% of men. The shares are roughly equal for men and women between the ages of 18 and 24.

In every category of spending, men ask for more—or get more—to get by. This is particularly notable for student debt. US student debt stands at a staggering $1.6 trillion, up 500% since 2003, a major impediment to young people’s ability to become financially independent. A majority of this debt (about two-thirds) is owned by women, who report getting less support from parents to pay it down.

Young adult women report that their highest financial priority is either saving for the future or paying down debt (72%, compared with 60% of men). By contrast, 40% of men said that their priority was to enjoy life now, versus 28% of women.

Parents, it seems, are pretty sanguine about all this. The overwhelming majority of parents who give money to their kids (83%) say they want to help their kids get ahead, with an equal share of kids saying they are grateful, not guilty, to take the funds. Indeed, the whole codependence thing seems to be going swimmingly for all: 79% of “boomerangs” (kids who move back home) say they enjoy living with their parents, and 87% of parents say they like it too. And, out of a sense of responsibility (or perhaps guilt), 89% of young adults say they would be willing to support their parents in the future.

This story is part of How We’ll Win 2019, a year-long exploration of the fight for gender equality. Read more stories here.

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