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2010 Families & Money Surveys

Our latest survey reveals strong financial ties between the sandwich generation and their young children

The road to financial independence for today’s youth stretches out farther than ever before, with 41 percent of so-called "sandwich generation" parents continuing to provide at least some financial support to their young adult children, according to the 2010 Families & Money Survey released by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. The survey polled adults who have at least one child between the ages of 23-28, as well as at least one living parent.

Kids may need to adopt new money behaviors

More than a third of parents (38 percent) say their adult kids are more reliant on them today than they were on their parents when they were young, and at least one in five of those believe that today’s 20-somethings have more of a sense of entitlement about money than previous generations. Interestingly, the majority of parents may be willing to help subsidize their kids indefinitely. For example, more than two-thirds (69 percent) express a strong preference for their kids to choose a profession they love even if it means they’ll have difficulty paying the bills, over choosing a profession they don’t love but that pays them well (31 percent). Moreover, when choosing between priorities, parents report that saving for retirement (56 percent) and helping their children financially (44 percent) are near-equivalent priorities.

Interestingly, despite the ongoing financial support they provide their adult children, nearly half of survey respondents (49 percent) believe their kids will eventually be even more successful than they themselves are today, and another third (33 percent) believe their kids will be equally as successful. 

Parents cite college debt (32 percent) and unemployment (31 percent) as top reasons their children are relying on them more. However, they also believe that some contributing financial pressures fall squarely within the kids’ control. Parents also cite overspending (25 percent) and consumer debt (19 percent) as reasons for their kids’ delayed independence. 

Why today's young adults lean on their parents

"Most of the people we polled told us they were fully independent from their parents by the age of 25, yet many of their kids today aren’t achieving independence until they’re 30 or even older," said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation. "While this is largely due to the economic pressures and complexities of our times, it has major implications for those parents who are simultaneously trying to prepare for their own retirement."

»Get tips for helping young people as they leave the nest. 
»Point young adults to the new Starting Out section of our website.

A connection between taking out the trash and managing cash?

The survey found that parents whose children regularly did more household chores growing up were more likely to view their young adult children as "very financially responsible" (53 percent) as compared to those whose children did fewer or no household chores (46 percent and 39 percent, respectively). Parents of children who didn’t do any regular chores also see themselves as having been poorer financial role models.

"There’s a connection here we shouldn’t miss," said Schwab-Pomerantz. "More than just sharing our financial knowledge as parents, fostering a spirit of personal accountability can inspire the right financial behaviors in our kids."

Parents of 20-somethings recognize that they could perhaps have done more to foster their children’s independence by teaching them about saving and budgeting and not helping them as much financially. And while 57 percent of parents see themselves as a "good financial role model to their children," they also admit that their children’s spending habits don’t necessarily reflect this perception.

Parents believe the top three areas of money management where their children need to improve are:

  • How to stick to a budget and live within their means (48 percent)
  • How to save money (42 percent)
  • How to invest wisely (33 percent)

They also worry that their kids will repeat some of their own financial missteps, most notably not starting to save for retirement early enough (43 percent), not saving money for emergencies (42 percent) and carrying credit card debt from month to month (30 percent).

»Get ideas for helping kids at any age.

The sandwich generation's financial relationship with their parents

Baby Boomer parents have often been referred to as the "sandwich generation," reflecting the combined pressures of raising children and caring for aging parents, yet the Schwab survey found that the most significant layers of the sandwich seem to be the pressures of retirement planning combined with helping adult children.

While a significant percentage of this population (41 percent) currently provides at least some financial support to their adult kids, only 1 in 16 (6 percent) provides financial support to both an adult child and an aging parent. And only 1 percent worry about supporting their own parents(s) out of the vast majority (85 percent) who say they are at least a little worried about their financial future. Not surprisingly, the biggest worries for mid-life parents are not being able to retire (29 percent), outliving their retirement money (22 percent) as well as not saving enough (22 percent), followed by the worry that their children won’t become financially independent (11 percent).

»Learn how to help aging parents—emotionally and financially.
»Make planning for your retirement a priority.

Lessons learned: it's back to money basics

While major financial concerns persist, two-thirds of people surveyed (66 percent) believe there was a silver lining to the recent economic recession. Top lessons learned include "learning to live within my means" (49 percent) and being "much more involved now with my finances" (43 percent). 

The recession's silver lining? Better financial habits.

Among the top behavioral changes people made were:

  • Being more cautious about credit card use (62 percent)
  • Asking more questions when it comes to financial decisions (59 percent)
  • Reviewing financial statements more closely (59 percent)
  • Reading the fine print in financial documents more closely (54 percent)
  • Talking to kids more about money management (54 percent)

In fact, the survey found that these parents are having more frequent discussions with their kids about financial fitness and personal responsibility than conversations about physical fitness, spirituality, alcohol and drug use, marriage, or sex.  

"To my mind, this is a significant and encouraging shift," said Schwab-Pomerantz. "Ten years ago we found that parents rarely—if ever—had conversations with their children about money and finance."

»It's never too late to learn the basics of money management.

Women vs. men

The survey also revealed some significant differences in the relative outlook of women vs. men. For instance, more women than men believe their kids' ultimate financial success will surpass their own (56 percent vs. 42 percent, respectively). Conversely, more men than women believe their kids will be less successful (23 percent vs. 14 percent).

Women are also more likely than men to have made recent, positive changes in their financial behaviors and habits, including talking to their children more about money management (59 percent vs. 47 percent, respectively). Men are more likely than women to say there hasn’t been any silver lining to the economic recession (38 percent vs. 29 percent).

Ironically, among those worried about their financial future, fewer women than men are worried about outliving their retirement money (19 percent vs. 26 percent).


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About the Survey
The 2010 Families & Money survey was conducted by Lieberman Research Worldwide on behalf of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. in February 2010. The nationally representative online survey polled 1,000 people who are parents of at least one child, age 23-28, and who have at least one living parent. The average age of survey respondents was 53. The survey findings have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points at the 90 percent confidence level.

About Charles Schwab
The Charles Schwab Corporation (NYSE: SCHW) is a leading provider of financial services, with more than 300 offices and 7.8 million client brokerage accounts, 1.5 million corporate retirement plan participants, 768,000 banking accounts, and $1.49 trillion in client assets. Through its operating subsidiaries, the company provides a full range of securities brokerage, banking, money management and financial advisory services to individual investors and independent investment advisors. Named “Highest in Investor Satisfaction with Self-Directed Services” by J.D. Power and Associates in 2009, its broker-dealer subsidiary, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (member SIPC), and affiliates offer a complete range of investment services and products including an extensive selection of mutual funds; financial planning and investment advice; retirement plan and equity compensation plan services; referrals to independent fee-based investment advisors; and custodial, operational and trading support for independent, fee-based investment advisors through its Advisor Services division. Its banking subsidiary, Charles Schwab Bank (member FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender), provides banking and mortgage services and products. More information is available at


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