My friend Cathy's middle son graduates from a local college in May but he has a lease on an apartment that runs through August 1--at a cost of $1,000 a month for his share of the rent. Cathy has made it clear that he should find a sublet for his room and move back home to save the family the $2,000 in rent. Her son has countered that he doesn't want to live at home. She told him that was too bad but "we can't afford the rent and neither can you." He repeated his argument: "I don't want to live at home."
It's at this point in her "he said/she said" story that she tells me, "He'll probably tap his dad for the money. [The dad] can't afford it either but his pride will kick in and he'll do it."
Cathy does not say this with admiration for her husband. All through their child-rearing years this has been the pattern: She takes a tough stand on financial matters and he's a soft touch. It drives Cathy crazy.
She might find comfort in a recent Ameriprise survey, Money Across Generations II that reflects her family's dynamics: It found that mothers are more likely to chat with their grown kids about money, but the dad is more likely to dole out the cash--for certain things. The "certain things?" Anything having to do with a car.
Here are the numbers: Of the 93 percent of baby boomers who say they’ve provided financial support to their adult children, 58 percent of fathers (versus 48 percent of mothers) have helped by putting up cash for a car; 51 percent of dads (versus 43 percent of moms) have paid for their grown kid’s car insurance; and 37 percent of fathers (versus 29 percent of mothers) helped with car payments.
There was one outlier: 42 percent of dads (versus 32 percent of moms) co-signed a loan or lease agreement.
Cold comfort, but there you have it: Dad's are likely to pony up the cash, especially if it has anything to do with a car or their adult child's ability to live on their own. The mom: She gets to talk about why she's saying No.