Financially helping adult children? Don’t make it a loan

Almost half of parents with adult children have given them money since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to help them cover emergency expenses, often sacrificing themselves to do so, according to a recent survey conducted by

The average is more than $4,100, and it is twice that for parents with higher household incomes.

For almost 8-in-10 who did, it was money that would have otherwise gone to their own bills, paying down their own debt, or contributing to their retirement savings.

For parents who have been able to do it, recommends not treating it as a loan.

“While I think it’s very admirable to help out your adult kids in a tough time, don’t let it hurt the relationship. We’ve found that about half the time, lending to family and friends can go wrong. Somebody loses money, somebody’s feelings get hurt, something like that,” said Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at

He says helping out adult children in a pinch is perfectly fine. That’s what family is for. But not if it’s a chronic issue.

“Don’t make this a pattern though. If your adult kid is constantly running short of funds at the end of the month, there might be a deeper spending or income problem here. Helping through a tough time is one thing, but helping each and every month is another problem,” Rossman said.

The majority of emergency financial assistance parents have given their adult children during the pandemic has gone to food and housing expenses, though 13% of parents surveyed who have given their adult children money in the last year admit they don’t know how the money was used. commissioned YouGov PLC to conduct the survey of nearly 4,000 adults online April 7-12. Its survey results are posted online.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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