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Study: Parents putting retirement at risk to help adult children

Half of the respondents in a recent survey say they have sacrificed or are sacrificing their own retirement savings so they can help their adult children financially.

Bankrate commissioned YouGov — an international internet-based market research and data analytics firm — to conduct the online survey. Of the 2,553 people who responded, 890 had at least one child 18 or older.

Seventeen percent of the respondents said they have sacrificed “a lot” to help their adult children, while 34% said they have sacrificed “somewhat.”

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Mark Hamrick, Bankrate’s senior economic analyst, said there are a variety of reasons parents might feel compelled to help their adult children financially. 

Two reasons, Hamrick said, are the rising cost of education and the rising popularity of higher degrees.  

“This is the ironic, unintended expense of people staying in school longer,” he said. “The way young people come of age has changed somewhat over the past 50 years or even longer — there’s no longer a sense of immediate need for young people to enter the workforce, even on a part-time basis.”

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Laura Dabney, a psychiatrist specializing in interpersonal relationships, told bankrate.com that parents should rethink their plan to sacrifice retirement to help their adult children.

Although the conversation won’t be easy, she said, the longer it’s put off the more difficult it will get. 

“You have to decide what works best for you and then present that,” Dabney said. “Start with being honest about that. And then, listen to the child — and maybe come up with a compromise. Take the two wants and needs from both sides and come up with a plan that works for everybody so there’s no resentment that eventually gets in the way.”

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