Breaking News: “Some Parents Help Their Adult Children Financially, While Others Do Not.”

The New York Times covers a hot new development:

From Parents, a Living Inheritance 

Some parents help their adult children financially, while others do not. 

Really?

… In certain respects, it’s bewildering that this is our current state of affairs. How can it be that the more tuition costs rise, the fewer opportunities there seem to be for educated people in their 20s and 30s to move seamlessly into jobs that offer health insurance and pay enough to cover their living expenses? … 

When I suggested to Mr. O’Brien that all of this parental assistance might strike people as so much coddling, he responded swiftly with a barnyard epithet. Things are different now, he noted. When he went to work for Bell Labs in 1969, his $16,000 salary was enough to afford a $32,000 family-size home in New Jersey. Today, that home would cost $500,000. 

These parents don’t deliver the usual platitudes about the next generation doing better than the last. They’re merely trying to guard against downward mobility, which is a natural instinct. 

But many young adults don’t have families that can cushion their entry into adulthood. … 

Alexandra Kimball, a 34-year-old Canadian writer, has seen this predicament from two starkly different sides. Her essay in the online magazine Hazlitt about trying to make it as a young journalist has been ricocheting around the Web for the last month, and reading it forever changed the way I will look at every résumé I see. 

… A surprise inheritance allowed her to retire her debt and pursue her chosen field. In an instant, everything changed. 

Reviewing a recent adaptation of Jane Eyre (which has a happy ending when Jane receives a surprise inheritance, allowing her to marry Mr. Rochester on equal terms),, I noted that this kind of thing comes up in contemporary movies and novels a lot less than it does in either 19th Century novels or in real life. If you read Dear Abby-type advice columns, however, you`ll see that most of the letters are from people in family squabbles, either over weddings or over resource divvying issues.

But, our fictional and inspirational lives instead seem to be still dominated by a dream of rugged individualism that is increasingly out of date in a crowded, expensive country.