Joe*, 26, was hanging out at his girlfriend's house when they started talking about their university experiences. She had worked throughout her course to support herself, and wondered how Joe had managed to afford his law degree at Birmingham Uni – not to mention the subsequent £16,000 he spent on a masters in London, where he was also renting. That's when he told her about the money his parents give him, to help him out.
"She was really shocked," Joe tells me. "She said she didn't have me down as 'being from that rich a family', and that she was jealous, as she wants to do a masters but can't afford it. I felt really bad for her that she wasn't able to do what she really wanted, purely because of money."
Joe is one of many millennials whose parents help them out financially, well past the usual cut-off age for pocket money. A 2017 survey from Loans at Home found that 42 percent of parents still give pocket money to their children past the age of 18, while 2019 research from MoneySuperMarket showed that 58 percent of 25 to 35-year-olds had taken "loans" from their parents, with the average amount being £2,258. As our generation continues to face a higher cost of living than any other European country, frantically rising rents and the prospect of never owning a home, no wonder we're finding it harder than ever to become financially independent.
Joe has now graduated and works in a reasonably well-paid law job, but his parents still help him out annually. "Since I finished my postgrad," he tells me, "I don't really need any help – but dad gives me about £1,500 a year, just to 'help me along'."
"I don't broadcast it," he adds, "but my friends and I mostly had similar levels of support, so we're fairly open about it."
After talking to his girlfriend, however, it became clear how much of an advantage that kind of financial help can afford. "I think it made her feel a bit sad, to be honest, and we did end up talking for a bit about how much she had to work and how hard it was," Joe explains. "That was just the first time I'd had that chat with someone really close to me, I think."
Daisy Moloney, 23, has just graduated from a drama course and doesn't feel like it's that big of a deal if her parents give her some money. "It's not really a set allowance, and I don't call it an allowance, but my parents give me money quite a lot to help me with [my] situation," she tells me over the phone. "I just graduated uni and it left me in a lot of debt. I was really stupid with my money at uni and I didn't work out a budget, and I managed to get so far into my overdraft that it's going to take me a while to get out. I'm incredibly grateful for it, but at the same time it's really hard to be self-sufficient in your early twenties in this kind of career."
Currently, while Daisy lives at home, money from her parents can range from a tenner to spend in an evening, to £200 to £300 in a week. "But at uni it would be like, 'Here's £50 towards food shopping,'" she explains. "I'd say it's more frequent now because now I live with them and they can see how much money I'm earning."
Does she tell people about it? "I talk to my friends about it, and they make jokes about it," says Daisy. "Sometimes I get people saying I'm very spoilt because of the situation that I'm in."
Sally Francis-Miles, a spokesperson from MoneySuperMarket, says taking an allowance from your parents as an adult is becoming increasingly more necessary: "Increased living costs mean more young adults are spending longer at home and getting continued financial support from their parents and family," she tells me over email. "For students at university, this support is often essential to bridging the gap that student loans leave in terms of basic living costs."
So is it just privilege that dictates whether your parents send you money every month, or is it a universal necessity for a generation that has a higher cost of living, higher rents and less chance of getting a mortgage on a house?
Kristina Korbelova, 25, has had a monthly allowance since secondary school, but found it essential when she was living in London after university, having grown up in Slovakia. "My mum started sending me money when I was in high school," she tells me. "It was basically enough to survive, €160 (£134) – and that basically never stopped."
During university, Kristina used the monthly sum to top up her pay from jobs like being a Deliveroo driver. After graduating she got a job at a large startup, but her mum hasn't stopped the allowance. "[The salary] is enough to live, but it shouldn't just be about surviving," she tells me over the phone. "I can't save. Bills are still painful. When we found out that the council tax is twice as much as we thought, that was painful as hell. It still hurts. Pension [payments] hurt. I just don't have the heart to say, 'Hey, it's OK if you don't send me money every month,' because it still helps out."
But this doesn't come without a burden. "I'm kind of ashamed of talking about my struggle, then saying, 'My mum helps out,'" Kristina explains, "because so many people don't have that – so many people don't have the help."
While it used to be expected that, as an adult, you'd be helping your parents out, that dynamic has changed. The proliferation of zero-hour contracts and gig economy jobs has contributed to the reality that we will be one of the first generations in decades to be less well off than the one before us. If your parents are reasonably wealthy, this probably won't bother you too much. For those who never thought they wouldn't still be reliant on their parents for cash, it can weigh heavily.
"In Slovakia, we have this old tale, and the moral of it is: when you're a child, your parents help you and they pay for everything, and when you're an adult and they're old, you help them," says Kristina. "I always counted it as a failure, every time I had to ask my family for money, because I'm not supposed to do that anymore. I'm supposed to be the one who has a job and a good salary. It feels as if I'm a parasite."
*Some names have been changed.