Philanthropy begins at home for under 21s

Article date: 18 April 2011

  • One in three people would give at least 10% of their salary to support parents / grandparents in retirement
  • Under-21s would sacrifice higher proportions of their income to retired parents than any other age group
  • But a third of people cannot afford to financially support parents struggling in retirement

One in three people would sacrifice at least 10% of their income to support their parents in retirement, research from Aviva reveals today. This is roughly double the amount that savers in the UK are currently investing in their company pension arrangements on average [5% of gross salary(1)].

The study also shows that it is the younger generation who feel the greatest sense of financial responsibility to their parents, with all under-21s questioned prepared to give up a proportion of their income for older family generations, if they could afford to do so.

However, while nearly two thirds of UK adults (64%) would be prepared to financially support parents and grandparents struggling to make ends meet, one in three (33%) are actually unable to, due to their own financial pressures.

The under-21s are more likely to sacrifice a higher proportion of their income for their parents than any other age group, with nearly one in five (19%) stating they would donate more than a quarter of their income to help mum and dad cope. 

Highlighting a gulf between those starting out in their working lives and those approaching retirement, over 40% of under-21s said they would sacrifice at least 10% of their income to help their parents, compared to fewer than 5% of 61-65 year-olds.

However, younger people are the least happy to support retirees more generally through tax and national insurance contributions. Nearly half (44%) of under-21s believe the system of paying for state pensions is unfair as young people today have to pay more and will have more debt; while 34% believe the system is unfair as today’s workers won’t receive the same type of good deal when they come to retire.

High (as well as low) earners unable to support parents financially

Unsurprisingly, the largest proportion of people of all ages who cannot afford to help their parents financially are those on the lowest wages: 50% of people earning up to £15,000, and 28% earning between £15001-25,000, cannot offer any support. Yet higher earners too don’t feel able to support struggling parents, with around 7% of people earning upwards of £85,000 claiming they cannot afford to sacrifice any of their earnings.

The research also reveals that the highest proportion of people (15%) who feel able to sacrifice more than a quarter of their income to their parents are those on more modest incomes between £35,000 and £45,000.

Concerns of those about to enter retirement

Although most people would be willing to help out if they could, significantly 18% of 61-65 year-olds don’t think it’s their responsibility to financially support their parents, perhaps indicative of the concerns this age group has about the cost of living and managing finances as they approach their own retirement years.

Clive Bolton, ‘at retirement’ director at Aviva comments: “There is quite a contradiction in younger people’s financial attitudes towards today’s retirees. They appear to be particularly generous towards their own families, but more reluctant to support the state as a whole. 

“Interestingly, our research shows that family philanthropy is also generally higher amongst those on more modest incomes. And those who earn more or who have their own retirement in their sights are less able or willing to help out as they struggle with their own finances.

“We know from Aviva’s Real Retirement Report series that many over 55s are struggling to clear long-term debts(2) before retirement and that that there is a significant pensions gap in the UK(3). In this period of change, as we work towards a more sustainable way of funding retirement, any solution needs to make sense to all generations – not just those approaching retirement – in order for it to be perceived as fair and to get the support it requires.”


If you are a journalist and would like further information on a specific family group, please contact:

Aviva Press Office:

Sarah Poulter: 01904 452828 / 07800 691569:


All data from a study of 1,219 UK adults conducted by Wriglesworth research in February-March 2011, unless otherwise stated.

1. Aviva data.
2. Aviva’s fifth Real Retirement Report, (March 2011)
3. Aviva UK Pensions Gap report (September 2010).

Notes to editors:

About Aviva

Aviva is one of the world's largest insurance groups* with 53 million customers worldwide and 46,000 employees.

Aviva’s main activities are long-term savings, fund management and general insurance, with worldwide total sales of £45.1 billion and funds under management of £379 billion*.

In the UK, Aviva takes care of its 19.2 million customers by helping them look after their future, protecting what’s important – from their health to their homes, their cars to their business – and saving for the future.

Aviva has a 10.5%** share of the UK life and pensions market and insures one in six homes and one in ten cars in the UK. It is also one of the oldest UK insurers, with a heritage stretching back more than 300 years.

RAC, which is owned by Aviva, provides breakdown and insurance services for individuals and businesses and has around seven million customers.

Aviva is carbon neutral worldwide, and is ranked in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally by the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In the UK, Aviva invested £3.8 million into local communities in 2009. Read our corporate responsibility report at

Aviva’s global Street to School programme is working in partnership with Railway Children in the UK to get children living on the streets back into education and everyday life. Find out more at

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