LIZ WESTON

LIZ WESTON

Financial planners and credit counselors see plenty of examples. The grown son who lost a job, moved home and stopped looking for work. The daughter who constantly mismanaged her checking account—and turned to payday lenders when parents stopped covering her overdrafts. The father working into his 70s to support spendthrift children in their 40s and 50s.

Kristi Sullivan, a certified financial planner in Denver, once worked with an elderly couple whose offspring constantly turned to them for help.

“The clients couldn’t understand why their grandchildren had all the latest iPads and phones, but when a car or home repair came up, their adult children always had to ask them for money,” Sullivan said.

Giving adult children money is the norm in the U.S. Six out of 10 parents with adult children said they had given those children financial help in the previous 12 months, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey .

Parents usually give because it feels good. Eight out of 10 parents who help adult children—with money, child care, housework or home repairs—said doing so was rewarding, Pew found.

But the toll can be steep, advisers say. Supporting able-bodied children or repeatedly bailing them out of debt creates dependency when parents should help them become self-sufficient. The unwise spending also can:

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