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How to Mind the Parental Spend Gap
3 min read
Being a woman is expensive.

The gender pay gap costs women 21 cents on every dollar[1] and the "motherhood penalty"2 was recently priced at $16,000 a year. But what about the parental spend gap?

Our most recent research project found that women are spending an enormous amount of money helping their adult children. And that spending takes a toll on the financial health of mothers. While the number of women and men who say they have supported or are supporting their adult children financially is similar — 93% of women vs. 92% of men — digging into the details of who’s spending on what reveals a striking difference.

For instance, women are far more likely than men to have an adult child living with them — 43% of women vs. 28% of men — and slightly more likely to have had that child living with them for 5 years or longer (55% vs. 50% of men).

Among married women with adult children, 92% have supported or are supporting their adult child financially, but that rate is slightly higher among single women at 95%.

More than half — 58% — of female homeowners surveyed currently provide some form of financial support to their adult children, while only 46% of men give money to their adult children. Married women are more likely than single women to be providing support (64% vs. 32%). While men are more likely than women to have helped someone else purchase a home (27% of men vs 17% of women), women are more likely to help with a range of ongoing monthly expenses:

- General expenses (71% vs 63% of men)
- Groceries (63% vs. 46% of men)
- Car insurance (57%, vs. 47% of men)
- Medical insurance (55% vs 48% of men)
- Cellphone plan (62% vs 51% of men)
- Streaming plan (28% of women vs 20% of men) Not surprisingly, 55% of women who help their adult children financially say doing so has adversely affected their own personal finances and retirement planning vs. 44% of men. Among single women who help their adult children financially, 32% say helping their children has adversely affected their finances compared to 55% among married women.

“These findings are worrisome because this is a relatively well-off group, compared to the general population,” said Bill Walker, Chief Revenue Officer at Unison. “They’ve owned homes for at least 10 years, aren’t yet retired, and have a household income of at least $50,000 - and yet we’re still seeing how much they are stretching their own financial resources and future to help their kids.”

From August 16 to 23, 2019 Unison conducted an online survey with data collection and sample provided by Dynata. The survey questioned 2,000 US adults from a national sample who are current homeowners. Respondents were required to have a household income of at least $50k or above, to have been a homeowner for at least 10 years, and to have not yet retired.

[1] Gender Pay Gap - Payscale
[2] The Motherhood Penalty Costs Women $16,000 a year in lost wages - CNBC

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