Page last updated at 07:52 GMT, Thursday, 9 June 2005 08:52 UK

Parents pay as children stay

By Amanda Austen
BBC Money Programme

Photo from the BBC TV series Life as we know it
Many parents make sacrifices to support grown-up children

When their children have grown up, most parents hope they will finally be able to use their cash for retirement savings or to buy a few home comforts.

Some hope!

Increasingly, parents are finding they have to bailout their children well into adulthood.

Not only that, but many are having to provide rent free accommodation, because their children are forced by lack of money to live at home into their twenties and even thirties.

As for the children, they have acquired a new name - Kippers, or Kids In Parents' Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings.

New financial pressures are making some parents feel that, one way or another, they just can't get rid of their children, a survey commissioned by the Money Programme has found.

The problem is widespread. One in four parents have grown-up children living at home, the survey found.

Sinking feeling

Sisters Holly and Rosie, from north London, who have both moved back home for financial reasons, typify the Kipper phenomenon.

Billy Jackson
Billy Jackson declared himself bankrupt

Rosie, 23, has accumulated debts of £14,000. Last year, she moved home after gaining a masters degree in history of art and architecture.

Rosie is keen to work in a museum, but cannot get a job without experience, so she works for free one day a week at the London Cartoon Museum.

To earn some money to pay off her debts, she works as a temp.

"If we didn't have this house to come back to we would be absolutely, completely stuck," says Rosie.

Her sister Holly, 25, has racked up debts of more than £18,000 while studying for a degree in performing arts.

She wants to be a dancer or actress, but with her debts she just could not afford to support herself.

Holly is currently temping and working behind a bar to chip away at her debts. "I can't do anything until I start paying off stuff," she says.

"It would just be irresponsible. I can't, no-one will lend me any money."

So parents Carol and Nick provide free board and lodging for both of them, and it is their own retirement plans that will suffer.

"I think it's very depressing," says Carol.

"If you've come out of university and you can't get a well paid job straight away, and you've got these huge debts, you must sort of feel like you're sinking."

Depressed and desperate

For some, the student debt problem is even worse.

Billy Jackson, 29, still lives at home after leaving university owing more than £28,000.

Greg Paine and Heather Anderson-Paine
Heather Anderson-Paine helped her son Greg buy a place

Not only do his parents provide him with accommodation, they have also helped him out with lump sums to keep him afloat.

But he was unable to keep up his own debt repayments and last year he took the radical step of declaring himself bankrupt.

"My mum and dad's reaction initially was fear for me because they're thinking 'how the hell is he gonna get out of this debt'," he says.

"I think they were quite scared for me - and scared of what maybe I would have done to myself if I'd carried on as depressed and as desperate as I was."

Socially acceptable

Pat Boyden from Price Waterhouse Coopers has analysed some recent figures and found that in the 20-29 age group, bankruptcy shot up by 65% last year to over 4,000 cases.

Photo from the BBC TV series Life as we know it
A familiar sight for many parents

"For the older age ranges, bankruptcy still has stigma, there's no doubt about that," she says.

"Younger people have grown up with availability of credit and they have seen their friends, availing themselves of bankruptcy.

"The more people who do it, the more it will spread and the more it will seem more socially acceptable."

Bleak future

But the really big issue is the astronomical cost of getting on the housing ladder.

Photo from the BBC TV series Life as we know it
Both children and parents find the situation difficult

The average age of the first time buyer is now 34, so parents often find it impossible for their children to buy without their help.

Heather Anderson-Paine watched her son Greg, 29, struggle to try to save up for a deposit for a couple of years.

"I'd spent the last couple of years watching him trying to get the deposit together and as fast as he got the money together the property market would take another jump up and he was chasing his tail", says Heather.

So she decided to increase her own mortgage to provide Greg with a lump sum he could use as a deposit.

Although Greg does pay her back in monthly instalments, if he was to find himself unable to make the repayments in the future it would be Heather who would be forced to sell her own house.

It seems like there is a bleak financial future both for the so-called kippers and for the parents who have to bail them out.

Money Programme: Honey, we can't get rid of the kids - broadcast Friday 10 June at 1900 on BBC Two.

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