The Sydney Morning Herald's Adele Horin unpicked the data in her article “Generation IOU parents fork out $22 billion a year to help their children”. (www.smh.com.au)
Horin makes the telling point that parents spend about as much on their adult children as the federal government spends on the health system. $22 billion given to their adult children and $1 billion given to elderly parents.
Moreover, the baby boomer generation give four to five hours a week giving practical help to elderly parents or minding grandchildren - though Horin highlights from the report that some do much more and some do little. The practical help was valued at $30 billion a year based on an hourly average wage.
Almost 70 per cent of the money is given as a gift, not a loan by these parents whose median age is 58. In addition 40% of those over 80 give $1 billion to their grand children unassociated with their Wills which is another matter altogether.
Horin also pointed out that Dr O'Dwyer who presented the findings to the Australian Institute of Family Studies conference, said whether people were rich or poor made no difference to the amount of practical help they gave their elderly parents.
The conclusions drawn are that family solidarity is very strong in Australia but that elderly parents were seen as an obligation where giving to their children is seen as a pleasure. The downside is that minding the grand children should be a choice not a duty.
None of us should be surprised by any of these findings. As a father of four adult children and grand father everything about these findings ring true to our situation and our associates of similar age.
The Australian baby boomer generation has been the beneficiaries of an economic era of astonishing benefits which have included superannuation, long service leave, sickness benefits, healthy incomes, health care, Centrelink family benefits, bank accounts, investments and remarkably high percentages of home ownership.
There has never been a generation in history so wealthy, so abundantly catered for and with so much disposable income.
My wife of 35 years and I were financially assisted by our respective parents before marriage in that we each purchased a first home. When we married those properties were sold and our own first home was purchased with a very small mortgage paid off when I was 33 and thus allowing us to move into “faith financial ministry”.
This kind of story was not uncommon in various measures however baby boomers have been home owners with mortgages paid off by their '50s or shortly thereafter. They in turn have been able to help their own children, particularly in the light of some difficult economic situations associated with the GFC.
But the overwhelming emphasis has been on getting that first property whether it be a home on the quarter acre block in the suburbs or a town house or unit of some description. The baby boomer generation has impressed this upon their children.
But it is not all sweet and delicious. A recent report from News.com suggests that there will be nothing left for Generation Z to inherit. It is being given away now. (www.news.com.au)
There is also a section of the community who have not had such good role models or have made poor investment or business decisions finding themselves in embarrassingly difficult financial straits. This group have not been able to help their children or their elderly parents.
As a Baptist minister of 35 years I'm able to recount innumerable such situations. The most common is where an elderly parent, now a widow, sold their family home and the funds were mishandled by well meaning children with poor financial decisions. The nest egg for their elderly parent's later nursing home needs has been greatly diminished or lost. Family relationships between siblings become strained over such issues.
On a brighter note, Christian churches and missions have likewise benefited as there has been so much disposable income available. Major building projects have been generously funded along with many missionary endeavours to the four quarters of the earth.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html