When it comes to good old parenting it looks like affluent Americans are attempting to balance expenses, set limits, and leave a legacy — much like all parents.

This according to a report called the Affluent Family Financial Support Survey, conducted by digital wealth manager Personal Capital that surveyed individuals in the U.S. with household investable assets of at least $500,000. It examined how affluent parents balance the needs and expectations of their families with their ability to live comfortably in retirement and leave a legacy.

Cost of raising children: grade school to graduation

The study reports affluent parents have a realistic idea of what it costs to raise and support a child in today’s America. The Department of Agriculture estimates the average cost of raising a child over their lifetime to be $233,610, and 65 percent of affluent families reported planning to spend $250,000 or more.

Overall, parents anticipate the cost of raising a child over the course of their lifetime, excluding inheritance, to be $711,000, on average. That’s more than three times the Department of Agriculture’s estimates for the average American. Parents in the Northeast anticipate this figure to be even higher at $996,000, versus parents in the Midwest, South and West, who expect to spend less at $667,000, $581,000 and $579,000, respectively.

Higher education is a priority for affluent families, too according to the survey. Seven in 10 parents reported paying or planning to pay for their child’s college. When it comes to spending for K-12 education, only 36 percent of parents didn’t spend or don’t plan to spend anything to fund their child’s education. 

Affluent parents in the Northeast have spent or plan to spend significantly more on average for their child’s grade school education with $96,800 on average versus $57,400 and $64,200 in the Midwest and West, respectively.

Cutting the purse strings: expectations vs. reality

Half of affluent parents reported that they stopped, or plan to stop, supporting their children following college graduation, but first, four in 10 (39 percent) of respondents said they plan to help or helped their child get his or her first post-graduate job. That number jumps for affluent millennial parents, who are significantly more likely (86 percent) to have helped or plan to help their child get their first post-graduate job.

Despite planning to stop supporting their children post-college, 71 percent of affluent parents believe their child expected or will expect them to pay for big ticket purchases including undergraduate school (54 percent), a car (42 percent) and a wedding (40 percent). In reality, parents report they’re planning to pay more. Respondents indicated that they have helped or will help their child pay for any or all of their undergraduate school (70 percent), a car (51 percent) and a wedding (68 percent), significantly more than what they believe their children expect.

Emphasizing the focus on planning and preparing for their own retirement, two-thirds (66 percent) would choose to spend their money on themselves in retirement versus passing on an inheritance to their child. What’s more, while only one in five (19 percent) affluent parents indicated they do not expect to have to change their retirement plans in order to support their children, 66 percent of affluent Millennials anticipate they will need to make an adjustment.

When it comes to education specifically, over half (54 percent) of affluent parents put a priority on saving for their own retirement versus their child’s education. Again, Millennial parents buck the trend as 64 percent prioritize their child’s college cost over their own retirement, the survey found.

Leaving a legacy

Three quarters of affluent parents (71 percent) expect their children to be as wealthy or wealthier than themselves. To prepare their children for the future, 77 percent of affluent parents say they have talked to their kids about saving and investing. Other popular topics for discussion include earning and working hard (75 percent), budgeting and spending (70 percent), the family’s net worth (38 percent) and philanthropy and giving (36 percent). Perhaps that’s why most affluent parents (85 percent) do not consider their child a risk to their own financial wellness, such as being overly financial dependent on them or irresponsible with money, the survey discovered.

Regarding their estates, almost all affluent parents (98 percent) plan to leave something for their children. Thirty-nine percent plan to leave assets to their grandchildren and 32 percent plan to leave something to charity.

Affluent parents use varying financial products to make their money work for them and to create a financial legacy for their children. Three in four (74 percent) are invested in the stock market. Most respondents use checking accounts (86 percent) and Roth IRAs/IRAs (76 percent). Although 72 percent of affluent adults have savings accounts, only 41 percent have a high-yield savings account, the survey said.

In the end, when trying to raise children — whether you’ve got a lot of money or you don’t — parents from all ends of the spectrum seem to worry about the same issues!