A new life order

A new life order

If you were to ask people living in the UK which they did first - starting their career, getting married, moving out of the family home or getting a credit card - you’d get many different responses.

Through consumer research across the UK, MoneySuperMarket set out to discover what most makes us feel like adults and how this has changed over the last 60 years, to help put those major life events into perspective.

What does it mean to be an adult?

What are the key factors in making us feel like adults and how many of us actually feel grown up?

According to our analysis these are the things that most make us feel like an adult, listed in order of popularity:

Most important factors in making us feel like adults

However, nearly three-quarters of those born in the 2000s1 said they don’t feel like they are adults all the time or even at all. And over half of those born in the 80s and 90s think the same (52% and 56% respectively).

How most of us don't feel like an adult some or all of the time

Despite this, there appears to be more pressure to grow up now than ever before, with over two-fifths (43%) of those born in the 2000s1 feeling that they need to act more like an adult. This contrasts with those born 60 years prior, where only 12% said they have felt the same pressure.

Since the 1970s, those living in the UK have claimed that starting a career was the third major event in their adult lives, yet between 1940 and 1960 it was the first.

In another generational shift, just over one in five of those born in the 2000s (22%) got married between the ages of 18-19 – the highest percentage on record, with only 1950s coming close (16%).

A loan closer to home

In direct contrast with the pressure to grow up and as the cost of living continues to rise versus wages, it’s becoming the norm to rely on money lent by parents in order to make ends meet.

Despite two-fifths (40%) of all age groups living in the UK claiming financial independence to be key to making them feel grown up, over a third (36%) still rely on financial support from their parents.

In fact, 58% of 18-19 year-olds say that most of the time they feel like an adult, yet this age group is the least financially independent and rely on their parents the most.

Those living in Portsmouth are most likely to borrow from parents, with over half (54%) of residents claiming to do so.

Cities in the UK where people borrow money from their parents

The city in the UK where people are least likely to borrow money from their parents is Aberystwyth, where just under two in 10 have said that they do so (17%).

In fact, the majority of Welsh cities analysed tend to borrow money from their parents less often than usual, with Swansea (19%) and Cardiff (32%) both below the UK-wide average.

That is until Wrexham is taken into consideration, where half of those from the North Wales town claimed to supplement their income by borrowing cash from parents. Taking a closer look at the top 10 largest cities in the UK by population2, we can see that over five million people borrow money from their parents.

Total number of people borrowing money from their parents in the UK

It seems that more and more people are relying on their parents for financial support. This is perhaps not surprising given the disparity between the cost of living and the average salary.

How important is financial independence?

So, we’ve concluded that it’s becoming more common to borrow money from parents in order to meet basic needs, but how do we feel about that?

Being financially independent is important for people from various generations, but it seems to be holding less importance over time in terms of making people feel like an adult.

For those born in the 1940s, over half (52%) claimed that financial independence was important in feeling like an adult, with the number reducing every decade until the 2000s where less than a third (28%) consider it an important factor.

Importance of financial independence

Over half of those born between 1940 and 1999 claim that being responsible for paying the bills is the factor that makes them feel most like an adult.

On the other hand, 48% of those born in the 2000s consider doing the weekly shop makes them feel most like an adult. However, 46% said paying their bills made them feel like an adult.

Only those born in the 1940s consider being married to be one of the three most important factors in making them feel like an adult (52%).

Similarly, those born in the 1990s consider going to work to be one of the primary factors in making them feel like an adult, despite no other age group claiming this. Meanwhile, people born in the 2000s believe being asked for advice is a key indicator of having become an adult.

What age do we become financially independent?

The most common age to become financially independent is between 18 and 20, with 34% claiming to have done so at this point in their lives. However, nearly one in 10 (8%) adults said that they are not financially independent and rely on others to supplement their wage.

While this is more prevalent among younger generations, 6% of those born in the 70s and 5% from the 80s still claim this.

In terms of the order in which we live our lives and how this has changed across generations, factors involved with financial independence are often left until later in life. For example, we tend to get a credit card once we’ve moved out of the family home and started a career.

If you’re at this point in your life and need advice, take a look at our credit card comparison page.

Despite this, for those born in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, starting a career was the first major life event they expected to take place, dropping down to third by the 1980s and onwards, with moving out of the family home and falling in love expected to come first.

Taking control of your finances

Regardless of whether you feel like an “adult”, being in control of your finances is important, but it isn’t always easy to understand money matters.

For example, we know that 44% of people are unaware of their credit score, which is an important consideration if you’re applying for a credit card, loan or mortgage. The good news is there are various tools to help simplify your finances, making the process much more straightforward. Download the free MoneySuperMarket app to see your credit score and report, quotes and personalised reminders all in one place.

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1Research conducted between 18th April 2019 and 25th April 2019. All references of people born in the 2000s refer to adults born from 1 January 2000 up until 25 April 2001 i.e. over the age of 18 at the time the data was collected.


2UK’s largest cities according to ONS data for 2017, with number of people borrowing money in Bradford, the UK’s 10th largest city, unavailable: https://www.ons.gov.uk/

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