Should millennials stay on parents' cell phone plan?

Some millennials are slow to fully leave the nest, but there’s at least one instance in which that can work in their parents’ favor: the family cell phone plan.

Nearly half of smartphone or mobile phone owners with children 18 or older (49%) have kept their adult kids on the family cell phone plan. And 53% of those parents say that the child pays some or all of their bill, according to an online survey commissioned by NerdWallet and conducted by Harris Poll.

Key takeaways

  • 51% of parents who have an adult child on their plan say that they’ve chosen the arrangement because it saves both parties money.
  • 21% of parents who have or had an adult child on their family cell phone plan and pay/paid the entire bill say they offer no other financial support.
  • 65% of parents who previously had an adult child on their family plan said that the child chose to leave the plan.

Family plans save everyone money

Splitting the cost of a cell phone plan among family members can save everyone money — a lot of money.

Depending on the plan and the carrier, a family of four can save $15 to $25 per person, per month, on a shared plan versus an individual plan. That adds up to between $180 and $300 per year for each family member.

» MORE: Best cell phone plans

Finding financial independence

This isn’t a case of millennials mooching off their parents. More than half of parents who have or had an adult child on their plan (53%) said their child helps pay the bill.

When parents and their progeny do go separate cellular ways, it’s typically initiated by the child. Among parents who previously had a child age 18 or older on their family plan, 65% said the child chose to leave the plan. Reasons for leaving included wanting to pay for their own plan (24%), changing to a different mobile service provider (19%) and starting a plan with someone else, such as a significant other (17%).

Of the parents who previously had an adult child on their family plan, 17% said they removed their child from the plan to lower their cell phone bill, and 15% said it was because they wanted their adult child to be financially independent.

Other takeaways

  • The average age of adult children currently on a parent’s plan is 28.
  • Among parents with an adult child currently on their plan, 33% say that child is age 30 or older.
  • Midwestern parents let kids stay on their plans longer. The average adult child currently on a parent’s plan in the Midwest is 30. In the Northeast, the average age is 26.
  • Parents who are unemployed are twice as likely to have a child over 30 on their cell phone plan than those who are employed — 48%, compared with 24%.
  • Of the parents who pay or paid the entire bill, roughly 1 in 5 (21%) said they offered no other financial support to their adult child.

Note: Parents surveyed were asked to think of their youngest child when responding, if they had more than one child on their plan. So the average reported age is likely on the low side.

Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet May 19-23, 2016, among 3,010 U.S. smartphone owners ages 18 and older; of those, 730 have or previously had an adult child on their family shared cell phone plan. This online survey was not based on a probability sample, and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Maitri Jani.

Kelsey Sheehy is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ksheehy@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @KelseyLSheehy.

 


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