Like many baby boomers, Colette Murphy has had it all: free university education, relatively cheap housing and a final salary pension.

Now, the 58-year-old teacher from Cheshire is looking forward to a golden retirement when she stops working this summer. She plans to spend time on voluntary work and looking after grandchildren with her 59-year-old husband, Phil, who retired from teaching last year. He has taken up archery as a new hobby.

Yet, one big worry weighs on their minds: the uncertain prospects facing their four grown-up children in an era of expensive housing and a sluggish economy.

“We will probably have a couple of really lovely holidays but I would like to secure the children’s future in a world which is much more uncertain than the one I grew up in,” says Mrs Murphy.

Once retired, she plans to give a lump sum from her pension to her daughter for a house deposit. Although she hopes to eventually get this money back, it is yet another expense after funding all four children through university.

The daughter, Alice, 28, works in publishing in London but commutes from Reading, where accommodation is cheaper. She is grateful for her parents’ help but worries she will not be able to support her children in the same way, or retire as young.

“My father retired after being a headmaster and he’s not even 60 yet. He’s got a new lease of life but we’ll be working into our 70s,” she says.

Other parents doubt their children will ever own a home, even those with degrees and professional jobs.

For years, Jane Beresford, a 52-year-old self-employed financial director from Surrey, has paid rent for her 24-year-old daughter, who works in public relations in London. When Mrs Beresford was her daughter’s age she already owned her own home but struggles to see how her children will get on the housing ladder.

“They need us to die early,” she jokes, adding that she fears for the next generation, her future grandchildren, even more.

Adult children who are unemployed, or are graduates in lower skilled jobs, increasingly struggle to get as far as leaving the nest.

Graeme Hawkins, partner in a Sussex architecture firm, has three sons in their 20s, who are all financially dependent to varying degrees.

One lives at home and has been working in a supermarket for two years, despite holding a degree in psychology. Another is studying building surveying but was unable to find work for his year out in industry and is moving back home.

Mr Hawkins thinks his children are fortunate. “My kids are lucky that they have a home to come back to, whereas, in other circumstances, somebody of their age who couldn’t get a job would be in really hard times.”

So far, parents who can afford it are putting up with dependent adult children and young people are becoming used to delaying their independence. But Mr Hawkins says policy changes are needed to narrow the generation gap. “I worry enormously about the way that government is structuring taxes. What you have is an awful lot of retired people who are extremely wealthy and don’t need the support like free bus passes and prescriptions.”

Get alerts on UK Budget when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article