You may have cut them off after college (or thrown them to the adult world even earlier), but when time’s are tough, chances are you’re willing to dig into your pockets for them.
According to a recent survey, 90 percent of parents, whether or not they expect to be repaid, will provide some level of debt assistance to their child—on average, $5,705 without reimbursement. And if they know they’re getting their bail-out money back: $7,936.
The study was conducted by CreditCards.com, a card information hub, marketplace and news site. Ted Rossman, an industry analyst for the site, told Men’s Health he was surprised by such parental generosity. “We see all these studies that something like 40 percent of Americans have no emergency savings or can’t afford a $500 car repair—and then we see that parents are still really generous with their kids. It was definitely eye-popping.”
Parental altruism also appears widespread across income levels. Whether their annual household income was under $30,000 or between $50,000 and $70,000, parents were about as likely to extend a helping hand.
Generosity does, of course, have its limits, and the type of debt a child accrued mattered a lot. Fifty-seven percent of parents would never help their child pay off gambling debt, while 68 percent would happily aid in medical expenses and 52 percent with student loans.
CreditCards.com conducted a similar study back in 2009 (immediately following the Great Recession), finding similar values of aid for various debt sources (parents then were also willing to chip in over $7,000). But for credit card debt, parents’ willingness to help has shifted.
“Back in 2009, 28 percent of parents said that they would never help their kid with credit card debt, and now it’s only 16 percent that would never help,” notes Rossman. “What I think this shows is that credit card debt has become a lot less stigmatized. There used to be this conception that if you have credit card debt, it’s because you were irresponsible, and you overspent online or at the mall.”
Rossman believes that since the Great Recession, many Americans have become more understanding when it comes to carrying a balance on a credit card–knowing now that those excess expenditures might be on things like student loans, and not merely reckless shopping sprees.
But for all you generous parents this holiday season, remember one golden rule: Only ever give what you can afford.
“We don’t want parents to help their kids so much that it jeopardizes their own retirement and their own financial well-being,” says Rossman. “That’s just going to be a vicious cycle and that’s not good for anybody. You can’t really get a loan for retirement in the same way you can for a medical debt, or with a student loan, or with a car loan. So if parents give too much and jeopardize their own financial security, they might find themselves going right back to their kids and asking them for help.”
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