The Good News and the Bad News

Family With Adult Offspring Enjoying Meal At Home Together

The good news/bad news joke is one of the staples of comedy. What it brings home is that many situations contain a little of both, and one can offset the other in an ironic way.

That turns out to be the gist of a study into how children impact their parents’ retirements, conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

Seventy-two percent of older adults in its recent survey had adult children. The good news for those adult children—or the bad news for their parents, to look at it the other way—was that more than half, 52 percent, of the older generation are providing their adult children with financial support.

“The primary reason for this assistance is emergency help after a job loss, followed by help with tuition or a down payment on a house,” it said. Other reasons include providing for daily living expenses or help with car payments—which in many cases could be linked to job loss—and help in starting a business.

The good news for the parents is that overall, the help they have provided has had only moderate to no impact on their retirement security. But that was not the case across the board: a parent living in a single person household, as opposed to parents currently part of a couple, were more likely to report that helping their children has hurt their own security.

“With parents supporting adult children and grandchildren, and increasing numbers of individuals serving as caregivers to parents or other family members, the risk to a secure retirement may be greater than individuals realize,” the report said.

The good news for those in or near retirement who have adult children is that support can flow up to the older generation.

“Adult children can be a source of support for many parents in retirement, providing various forms of help. In fact, 24 percent of respondents agree that children are expected to help retired parents in need. While most people say they prefer not to rely on children (only 19 percent said they would turn to their children if they needed financial assistance), in fact many children become helpers when needed,” it said.