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The financial squeeze is a generational squeeze for many adults between the ages of 40 and 59, Pew reports. In that group, 47 percent have a parent aged 65 or older and are either raising a child under 18 or supporting a grown child, up from 45 percent in 2005. Meanwhile, in the past year, 15 percent of people in that group have provided financial support both to a parent aged 65 or older and to a child, whether a minor child they're raising or a grown child. That's up from 12 percent in 2005.
Going from 12 percent to 15 percent over seven years isn't a huge jump; it's the kind of number that could turn out to have been a blip from the recession. But if it's a trend that persists, it signals big trouble as the generations in a strong enough financial position to give help age out.
People are much more likely to say it's a responsibility to give financial help to aging parents who need it than to adult children who need it—yet people are more likely to be supporting their adult children than their aging parents:
Among those who have at least one living parent age 65 or older, roughly one-third (32%) say they have given their parent or parents financial support in the past year. [...]
Among adults ages 40 to 59 with at least one grown child, 73% say they have provided financial support in the past year. Among those ages 60 and older with a grown child, only about half (49%) say they have given that child financial support.
Why the disconnect between the responsibility people say they feel to their aging parents and their adult children and the levels at which they actually give money to parents and children? Quite possibly because the children are more likely to need the help. Lower-income people are more likely than higher-income people to be helping their aging parents and less likely than higher-income people to be helping their adult children, for instance, suggesting that when resources are strained, assistance does go to the people toward whom more responsibility is felt. Higher-income people, by contrast, are much more likely to be helping their grown kids. This isn't proof, but it's suggestive that, rather than being hypocrites who say they feel responsibility to their parents while actually helping their kids, middle-aged people are simply more likely to have kids than parents who need help.
That fits, too, with what we know about the direction of wages and the economy. Young adults are struggling to find work, let alone full-time work, still more full-time work with good pay and benefits. Not that the economy of recent years has been easy for everyone over 65, but many of them had the chance to get established before wages stagnated, or got their jobs during years when average working people still had a decent shot at a pension. That's a chance today's young adults haven't had and don't look likely to get, leaving them in a hole for years to come.