Do We Owe Other Generations?

Money-who pays for what-in U.S families, is something not often discussed with others. Which is why I found the new MetLife study Multi-Generational Views on Family Financial Obligations a revealing peek inside others’  living rooms.

Baby Boomers (ages 48-66 in 2012), Gen Xers (ages 36-47) and Gen Yers (ages 22–35 this year) were asked their attitudes about supporting either their adult children or their aging parents or grandparents. The online study of more than 2,000 ages 21-65 shows that all generations want to be able to provide financially for their children and grandkids. Makes sense, right?

Not so fast: There are differences in how the various groups studied want to spend their money.

It comes down to this: Boomers, as they approach retirement, are most concerned about being able to fund and enjoy their later years. They don’t want to end up taking “handouts” from their kids or being dependent on them in other ways. And, they also don’t want to bankroll them forever. This mind-set is reflected in the MetLife study.

Stripped of dense statistics, here are the results I found most fascinating:

  • Almost all of those studied from all three generations believe they should help pay college tuition for their kids as well as when there’s a financial emergency not created by the child. It is the younger group, however, who feel parents should be even more generous to their children and grandchildren.
  • Fewer Boomers than Gen X or Y’s say that parents with health or financial woes should live with them-hmmm, could it be that independence thing, again? But all generations agree relatively proportionately (Gen Xers trail slightly): Parents or in-laws who need financial support from adult children should get it.

What do these findings mean?  That Boomers, a.k.a. the “Me” generation, are more selfish than the next generations?  That they’re just scared they haven’t saved adequately? Or, do they think they’ve sacrificed enough already?  Might it be that when X and Y get older, they’ll see the situation differently?

I’m also wondering why parents who financially support their kids as they grow up (that’s double digit years or beyond) are so reluctant to take money (or housing) from their grown children-their replacement as earners? Mom, Dad, and Grandpa somehow regard it as unnatural.

I’m banking that part of it may be a reluctance to acknowledge the role reversals that they’ve seen with their own parents.  Your thoughts?

View more from Sally Abrahms at www.sallyabrahms.com.