It takes a village to pay the bills

More and more older Americans are giving money to their children and grandchildren, and the amount they’re giving is rising.

In 2010, nearly 45 percent of American households with at least one member who was 50 or older said they’d helped their children or grandchildren financially in the previous two years, compared to only 39 percent in 1998, according to a study published earlier this year.

During that same period, the amount of these gifts also rose substantially, and gifts from households with a member between the ages of 50 and 64 rose the most.

In 2010, households in that category reported that they’d given an average of $8,350 to their children or grandchildren in the previous two years, compared to $6,093 in 1998. (Dollar figures were adjusted for inflation.)

Households with a member who was 65 or older also reported giving more money in 2010 than in 1998, though gifts from these households tended to be smaller than gifts from households in the 50 to 64 age group.

In 2010, households with a member between the ages of 65 and 74 reported that they’d given an average of $5,300 to their younger family members in the previous two years; households with a member between 75 and 84 had given an average of $4,891; and households with a member who was 85 or older had given an average of $4,787.

And, contrary to popular belief, very few older households receive financial help from their families, according to the study, which was conducted by the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute. In both 1998 and 2010, fewer than 5 percent of older households reported receiving money from their children or grandchildren.

The study didn’t address why older households are helping their families more than in the past, but a report published by the Pew Research Center in 2011 showed that older households are wealthier than they used to be while younger households are poorer.

So, on the whole, grandparents are in a better position to help than they once were, and their help is more urgently needed.