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January 20, 2022

Parents play favourites when helping adult children

Several weeks ago, we talked about how much money some boomers spend on adult children no longer living at home.

Reportedly delivering a regular subsidy approaching $500 a month on average, parents describe down payments, weddings, cars, travel, gap years, and even supplementary pensions as just a few of the ways they deliver a wide variety of aid to their adult children. 

Not all grown children get the same support, and which children parents help most may surprise some people, suggests Purdue researcher Karen Fingerman.

She notes that these subsidies represent “a dramatic increase from 20 years ago, when young adults received much less support from their parents.”

Most people expect parents to help their youngest child or one that’s struggling, but her research suggests that parents are also quite eager to help the child they consider most successful, largely because their kids’ achievements reflect well upon them. It was these children that parents enjoyed helping the most, she reports.

In her study, younger children received more support than did their older siblings. Those who faced adversity – including job loss, divorce and health issues – got more money and practical support than those who were successful, who had to make do with advice and emotional help, but little in the way of actual cash.

Where do you draw the line with your adult kids? Do your parents make such distinctions within your family?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...