Nearly 75 percent of parents help their adult children financially

Just because kids have reached adulthood, does not mean they stop being a financial burden on their parents. Nearly three in four (74%) parents with adult children say they help their grown kids with their finances, according to a new study from

Most of the parents offering financial support for their children who are over 18 have either helped with living expenses (84%) or given their child (or children) money to pay down debt (70%). This type of aid walks a fine line between being the right thing for a parent to do and setting children up for future problems, according to Senior Industry Analyst Matt Schulz.

"It's natural for parents to want to help their kids, but there's danger in doing too much," he said in a press release. "One of the greatest gifts a parent can give to their children is teaching them how to manage finances and to live within their means. Not only will it help mom and dad keep their savings for retirement, but it will also set junior on a steady course toward financial success."

Helping your child pay off debts is not always the right thing to do.

Where is the money going?

It's easy to see why parents are offering their children financial aid. In most cases, the money is going for basic necessities and day-to-day expenses. These include cellphone bills (39%), transportation (car repairs, gas, tickets, etc.) (36%), rent (24%), and utilities (21%).

On the debt side, in most cases, it's a similar story with parents helping their kids pay bills that are either required purchases or unavoidable expenses. Student loans (20%), auto loans (19%), and medical debt (17%) generally fit that description. Credit card debt, which 16% of parents help their kids with, could, of course, be incurred paying for basic needs or for more frivolous reasons.

What should parents be doing?

As a parent, in most cases, your instincts say to help your child. With debt, however, helping out could create further problems. That does not mean you should turn your back on a child in need. Instead, you need to consider the cause of the debt.

Helping with student loans or paying off medical debt is different than giving your child money because he or she made poor financial decisions. That can also be true when it comes to paying for basic needs including food, shelter or even transportation, but again, the parent has a responsibility to examine why the help is needed.

If a parent supports a child who could meet his or her own needs, then the parent is simply reinforcing bad behavior. In those cases, it's not that the parent should not help, but that aid should come with a caveat that the adult child examine his or her spending, adopt a budget, and get some education as to how to live within their means.

Saying no is never easy, and even offering conditions on money given to a child can be difficult. Sometimes, however, as all parents know, doing the right thing for your child's long-term success can involve some short-term pain and even anger.

The $16,122 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known "Social Security secrets" could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. For example: one easy trick could pay you as much as $16,122 more... each year! Once you learn how to maximize your Social Security benefits, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after. Simply click here to discover how to learn more about these strategies.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.