Women like to talk. Men prefer action. That stereotype seems to hold up in a recent study of family dynamics and money released by Ameriprise Financial this week.
More than 90% of baby boomers say they provide financial support to their adult children. While Mom is more likely to discuss money matters with the kids, it's Dad who is primed to dip into his wallet to give them a handout, according to the Money Across the Generations Survey II.
I feel as if the survey takers were peering in my window as they tallied their statistics. I am certainly the one in my family who discusses the importance of early retirement savings and the value of adequate health insurance with my two twenty-something sons. Of course, it's a largely academic discussion as they, like millions of their generation, are underemployed, working hard at jobs that offer neither a retirement savings plan, nor health insurance.
But it's their tough-talking Dad who is more likely to slip them a crisp fifty-dollar bill—a testament to one of his quirks that he proudly defends: never having used an ATM that dispenses those ubiquitous twenty-dollar bills. He says he wants tellers to look him in the eye when they hand him his money.
Fathers are much more likely mothers to help an adult child buy a car (58% vs. 48%) or co-sign a loan or lease agreement (42% vs. 32%), according to the Ameriprise survey. Likewise, men are more likely to have paid for their adult children's car insurance (51% vs. 43%) or helped with car payments (37% vs. 29%), even if it came at the expense of saving for their own retirement.
My husband prefers to act as his own Bank of Dad and likes to throw in some accumulated wisdom along with a cash infusion—the way banks used to hand out toasters as an incentive to new customers. He relishes passing on his hard-won knowledge of how to shop for a trusty used car and negotiate a good price—even if it means he has to lend them a chunk of the money to seal the deal.
While credit may be tight elsewhere, the Bank of Dad is open for business. As we celebrate Fathers' Day this Sunday, it's a great time to offer a big thank you to all the dads who are helping their kids get by in this tough economy.
This past week, we were all reminded just how tough it is. Median household net worth in the U.S. plunged a jaw-dropping 38% during the Great Recession, wiping out nearly two decades of gains, according to the Federal Reserve Board. Median net worth declined to $77,300 in 2010, the lowest level seen since 1992, according to the latest Survey of Consumer Finances that the Fed releases every three years.
Perhaps more disturbing than the declining net worth, which was fueled by flagging home values, is the fact that median family income, adjusted for inflation, fell more than 7% during the 2007-2010 period.
And don't think your well-to-do clients were immune. Almost every demographic group suffered losses, according to the survey, but the decline was most pronounced among more highly educated families and households headed by someone age 55 or younger. Ironically, despite record-low interest rates on savings and volatile stock prices, the median income of retirees, who were not dependent on wages, increased slightly. Thank you, Social Security.
Americans have soldiered through some tough times over the past few years, and things probably won't improve for a while. Sticking together as a family can make it a little easier. Remember to say thank you to all the dads in your life. And if you need a handout--or as asked to give one--you can bet that the conversation won't begin with those three little words that initate most other family discussions: Ask your mother.