Bank of Mum and Dad is booming like never before
Steve Madden, 28, is a manager in the NHS and is buying a flat in Croydon, south London, close to the hospital where he works.
The trouble is that Steve spends a lot on his social life and does not know when to say ‘No’ when he is enjoying himself. “I’m useless at budgeting and always overdo things,” he says. “I need a firm hand to bring me into line, but until someone does that for me I will keep spending money like water.”
So are the debt collectors and bailiffs beating a path to Madden’s door to demand the arrears he must have inevitably run up? No – and the reason they are not is that his parents keep bailing him out when things get really tight.
“I know it sounds pathetic for a man of my age but I’m reliant on my parents to keep me afloat,” he confesses. “I will repay the cash eventually but until then – or my parents put their foot down and don’t give me any more – I will keep spending.”
Whatever you think of this approach – and even his friends are critical of Madden’s profligate lifestyle – he is not alone, far from it, as a new report from Scottish Widows illustrates.
The report reveals that over 10 million adult children have ‘sapped’ their parents’ savings, and 39% of parents have dipped into money, put by for themselves, to help their children, either as a loan or a gift.
The average amount given by parents to their offspring is £12,300, making a total ‘savings sap’ of £55bn, approximately 6% of the UK’s cash savings market.
The research also shows a steadily increasing savings sap over the past 15 years, implying that adult children may plunder the older generation even more in the future. Around £11bn, or 20% of the total savings sap, was given in just the past year alone.
The figures make dismal reading for anyone who thinks adults should be largely self-reliant in financial terms. Half of all parents who have already given their adult children money expect to have to do so again; three-quarters have given a substantial sum more than once and 30% are forking out four or five times.
Anne Young, savings expert at Scottish Widows, says: “Our research shows that parental responsibility no longer ends when your children reach adulthood but lasts for many years after that.
“Parents may be shocked to learn that their savings could be ‘sapped’ by about £12,000 after their children leave home. We recommend that they try to prepare for the possibility of this happening by creating their own ‘savings sap fund’ – but they might want to keep it a secret from their children until they need to use it.”
Children use their sap gifts for a number of reasons, the main one being a helping hand on to the property ladder (29%), followed by a new car (23%), new household furnishings (15%) and paying off debt (14%).
Leading economist Merlin Stone says: “For over a decade, economists have been concerned about whether baby boomers, those born in the years immediately after the Second World War and now mostly retired or entering retirement have saved enough to fund that retirement.
“In general, it seems that they did, but now they face a financial Shirley Valentine situation. The same generation of children that came home to roost after university, before leaving to set up their own household, is now coming back with hands open for help with housing and furniture, car purchase and even holidays.”
And, in the case of Steve Madden and the other 14% of saving sappers, paying off their debts. For the sake of encouraging true adult self-sufficiency, perhaps there is some truth in that old saying: you can be cruel to be kind.