We often speak about the Bank of Mum and Dad, but the problem is far more nuanced in reality. In the past decade, as house prices have shot up, so have contributions from parents to help their children to get on the property ladder as first-time buyers.
However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have this experience – myself included. As a finance coach, I’ve come to realise that there are many others like me, with parents who depend on them financially.
Research from Loughborough University backs this phenomenon up, and a qualitative study found that in low to middle-income families, the contributions of young working adults “help keep their parents afloat” with some helping to support the family finances “rather than sav[ing]”. It can sometimes be a source of tension.
These young people, who I have dubbed the “Bank of Children”, are rarely accounted for in newspaper articles. Katherine Hill, a research associate who looked into this told i: “It’s definitely an issue that isn’t often considered – and given cost of living increases families will be experiencing more pressure on household budgets.”
When I spoke about the Bank of Children online, I received so many responses and felt less alone. I’ve had to contribute to my parental home since I started working full time, and even when I got my first job at 16 years old. In my family culture (Yoruba and Edo in Nigeria), there’s a tradition called “first fruits” where you share your money with your family. The concept means slightly different things in different African cultural contexts. For some, it’s giving your family your first paycheque. For others, it is allowing the head of the household to eat the first fruits after harvest. What my particular tradition taught me is that the cycle of giving should start with your loved ones.
People from Caribbean, Asian and European cultures have told me about having to help their parents financially. Some saw it as a cultural phenomenon and felt obliged to help family members who uprooted their lives and started again in new countries – where they often faced many difficulties – to give them better opportunities. One said: “It’s nice if your parents sacrifice for you, to bless them in return.” But others thought the issue was socioeconomic rather than cultural because wages haven’t risen in line with inflation.
It may take a village to raise a child, but especially as the cost of everything increases, it takes everyone going to work and bringing back an income to keep the family home running. Some people continue to give their parents money, even after they have left the nest. In the past, it seemed incredibly unfair to me, but I’ve grown to accept this rather than resent it.
My own mother worked really hard so that all her children could be successful. Though she was educated in Nigeria, her qualifications were not fully recognised in this country, and so I would describe myself as growing up working class. She’s taken on various jobs through the years, and if I am tired then she must be exhausted. By giving back, I can give her a bit of a break. That’s how I see it.
However, I hope that in the future we will make progress on equal pay and social mobility, so we can all live in better circumstances.
For other members of the Bank of Children, I would say that you should give what you can with compassion, but don’t forget to contribute towards your own future too.
Bola Sol is passionate about teaching people to have a healthy money mindset – she is a coach, content creator and author of How To Save It: Fix Your Finances