Canada’s “Sponge Society”

10 December 2018

With increasing interest rates and the cost of property through the roof, it’s no wonder Canadians are feeling under pressure when it comes to their budget. One quarter of Canadians cite money as their biggest stress. What might come as a surprise, is how many of us are relying on our parents to help out with the burden of extra expenses. Introducing Canada’s “Sponge Society”.

A new study of 2,000 Canadian adults, commissioned by Finder and conducted by OnePoll, has found that 67.7% of Canadian parents help out their adult children financially.

Interestingly, of the children surveyed, just 47.3%, or 13.6 million people, admitted to receiving financial help from their parents. The study also delves into how we generally feel about receiving financial help. With the overwhelming majority (58.3%) of Canadians saying they’re grateful for their parents help, the results might surprise you.

What are Canadian parents helping with?

From the big expenses, such as a home deposit, to ongoing costs such as bills and rent, Canadian adults are sponging off their parents across the board. The majority of Canadian parents are helping their kids by lending them money (38.3%), followed by handing out cash (38.1%), and paying free or low rent (29.3%). A smaller portion are helping out with significant purchases, such as a holiday, cost of college, or even a house (20.99%).

How often do Canadian parents help their kids out?

It’s one thing to pick up the odd bill here and there, but it’s quite another when these “one-off” payments become a regular appearance. The majority of Canadian parents say they help out their kids on an infrequent basis, with 38.5% of Canadians saying they only help their kids once a year or less. The next most common frequency categories are several times a year (29.2%), monthly (17.9%), everyday (8.8%), and weekly (5.7%).

Only 47.3% of Canadian adults admit to receiving help from their parents

Despite 67.7% of Canadian parents helping out their adult children financially, only 47.3% of Canadian adults admit to receiving help.

Let’s break it down


Overall, women are significantly more likely than men to receive financial help, with 50.9% of Canadian women saying their parents had helped out, compared to just 43.1% of men.

In terms of frequency, men are more likely to receive financial help once a year or less, with 71.8% of admitting to receiving occasional help, compared to 69.2% of women. Women are more likely to receive more frequent financial help, with 15.8% of women receiving help several time per year, compared to just 13.5% of men saying the same. Women (7.4%) are also more likely than men (4.6%) to receive help on a monthly basis, while men (5.8%) are slightly more likely than women (4.2%) to receive money on a daily basis.

Women are significantly more likely than men to have their parents pay their bills, with 15.8% of women giving this response, compared to just 9.4% of men.

For more significant purchases – such as a home or car – women are still more likely to receive help from parents, with 28.6% of women having help from their parents for these types of purchases, compared to just 20.1% of men.

The results are more equal for both men and women when it comes to other expenditures, such as lending money (44.2% for men / 43.7% for women), handing out cash (32.5% for men / 34.1% for women), and paying free or low rent (16.5% for men / 17.4% for women).


When broken down by generation, paying rent was in the top three categories of types of expenses millennials receive help for, with nearly one in three (29.96%) saying their parents have helped with this kind of expenditure. This is perhaps due to the age range of the generation, and their increased likelihood of only recently moving out of the family home.

Paying rent didn’t make the top three for Gen X, nor for baby boomers. Those generations were topped by the ‘significant purchases’ category, with 21.1% of Gen Xers and 25.6% of baby boomers receiving financial help for these kinds of purchases.

In terms of frequency, millennials (10.9%) are more likely to receive help everyday, while only 4.3% of Gen Xers and just 0.6% of baby boomers receive help at this frequency – perhaps because people are, generally speaking, more financially self-sufficient at this stage of life.

Guilty or Grateful?

Given only 47.3% of Canadian adults admit to receiving help, there appears to a stigma attached to the phenomenon. While we might think receiving help from our parents is the worst thing that could ever possibly happen, the overwhelming majority of Canadians actually expressed a very different sentiment.

Most Canadians who are still relying on the “bank of mom and dad” say they are grateful to receive their help, with 58.3% of Canadian adults saying this was their position. Women are more likely than men to express their gratitude, with 60.7% of women saying they are grateful, compared to just 54.8% of men. There appears to be a greater stigma for men, as the next most common emotion felt by men was being “unhappy to admit to receiving help”, with 15.7% of men citing this as their response, compared to just 12.7% of women.

Baby boomers are overwhelming more grateful than any other generation for receiving financial help, at 70.4%, compared to Gen Xers at 53.6%, and millennials at 49.4%.


This data is from a survey of 2,000 Canadian adults commissioned by and conducted by OnePoll in June 2018. Due to not having enough respondents, the North region (Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon Territory) was not included.
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