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Charity begins at home

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

Our retirement planning ought to insure that we can stand on our own two feet without relying on somebody else's help, but it's a good feeling to know that if things don't go as planned,  a family member will be willing to step in and help out.

It doesn't matter what generation they are, Americans still feel an obligation to take care of adult family members when they need assistance, according to a study released today by MetLife Mature Market Institute.

The study surveyed 2,123 Americans ages 21 to 65, examining the level of financial responsibility people feel in a variety of family roles, including those of grandparents, parents and children.

The findings included these insights:

  • Most people -- 78 percent -- no matter what their age, believe parents have a responsibility to help their children regain their financial footing after an unexpected setback. Some 73 percent of boomers believe that to be true, while 79 percent of Gen X (people between ages of 35 and 46) and 82 percent of Gen Y (people younger than 35) concur.
  • Almost identical numbers -- 75 percent -- believe they have an obligation to allow an adult child to live with them if that person is having financial difficulty.
  • It works the other way, too, with 77 percent of people believing they should provide financial support to their parents if they are having financial difficulty, and 77 percent say they believe they should let their financially needy parents live with them. There's not much point in breaking this out by generation, because the opinions are pretty universal.

At the same time, most people don't feel much of an obligation to leave their heirs much money. Seventy percent of boomers expect to enjoy their retirement, even if it means they don't have anything left to leave the kids. A majority of baby boomers -- 69 percent -- also don't feel they should provide financial support for adult grandchildren.

Still, it's clear that for most of us, charity does begin at home.

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