‘I put my family before myself’ — Gen Z Muslims providing financial help to their parents

Falling spending power and spiralling costs are placing increasing pressure on young Muslims

Gen Z Muslims Hyphen Poll 2023 cost of living parents feature Saman Javed
Photograph by We Are/Getty Images

“Sometimes I go weeks without doing a proper food shop for myself,” says Amira, a final-year student at the University of Sheffield. She works two jobs alongside her degree, but after sending money home to her family, still doesn’t make enough to comfortably cover her own living costs.

A part-time youth worker and support worker, Amira, 20, grew up in a single-parent household. Amira recalls her mother’s determination to make sure all five of her daughters had every chance of success. 

“There was a time when she couldn’t speak English, she had no job and she couldn’t drive, and I saw how hard it was for her,” Amira says “That’s why it’s only fair that I do my part now.” 

Amira is among more than half of young Muslims (53%) across the UK who are providing financial support to their parents, according to a new Hyphen poll published in conjunction with Savanta. The survey of 2,073 people aged 16-24 also found that young Muslims were significantly more likely to have contributed to their households in the form of bills, rent or living expenses in the past 12 months compared with the general population (43%).

The oldest cohort, 22 to 24-year-olds, were most likely to have helped with household expenses (73%), compared with 61% of 19 to 21-year-olds. Almost one third (30%) of 16 to 18-year-olds are also supporting their parents financially.

For Aaminah Amin, a former financial consultant turned finance coach, Hyphen’s findings are consistent with what she sees in her own work. Around 50% of her clients, who range between 21 and 26, say they want to grow their own wealth so they can help their parents. Amin believes that this stems from an Islamic belief that children are obligated to take care of their parents. 

“Some people will say their primary goal is to be able to pay off their parents’ mortgage, even though they haven’t actually been asked to do that,” she says. “The reason for that is either, ‘I really need to do this because my parents are struggling’, or ‘I want to do this because my parents previously struggled for me and I want to give back’.”

While Amira takes home a combined wage of around £700 per month from her two jobs, she sends one third of that home to her family. 

Experts say the ongoing cost of living crisis has highlighted the effects of poor financial planning in some Muslim communities

“I do put my family before myself. I just sort of overlook my own struggles. It’s hard, but if you know you have to do something, you just do it,” she says.

The survey findings come amid an ongoing cost of living crisis, which Amin says has highlighted the effects of poor financial planning in some Muslim communities. Although 67% of UK adults are financially literate, research by Muslim Census in November 2022 found that just 52% of Muslims over 45 feel confident in their financial knowledge. 

“For the most part, our parents’ generation has not planned well for their retirement,” Amin says. “They haven’t thought about retirement savings, they don’t really use pensions, or stocks and shares ISAs. So, when it comes to the end of their working life, and suddenly the cost of living is through the roof, they don’t know how they are going to cover expenses. That’s when that pressure falls on young people.”

Saad, 24, from Essex, says this lack of future-proofing is having a significant impact on his own savings and long-term plans. Shortly after starting his tech job in August 2021, he offered to cover the cost of groceries at home, where he lives with his mother, grandparents, his maternal uncle and his aunt. In September that year, he was asked to pay towards a bill as a “one-off”, but then it remained a monthly expectation. 

“In an ideal world, I’d like to contribute half as much and save more, but if I try to have that conversation, they don’t take it very well,” Saad says.

“My uncle became the main breadwinner of our family in his late teens, so now that he needs financial help I’m expected to step up. It’s having a knock-on effect and the cycle is continuing into the next generation.”

On average, Saad now contributes between £600 and £700 per month, which is around 25% of his take-home salary. Though he plans to buy a house of his own one day, he worries that his family have become “too reliant” on him. 

“I’m not sure how they would cope once I move out, or when I get married and I have other responsibilities, like providing for my future wife,” he says.

In some Muslim cultures, traditional gender roles also create an added pressure for young men to contribute at home. In Hyphen’s findings, almost six in 10 young Muslim men (58%) reported that they help with household expenses compared with five in 10 young women (48%).

Daniyal, 21, is a third-year architecture student from London. Although he doesn’t pay bills, he will often buy groceries with money from his part-time retail job. Sometimes his mother, a single parent of seven, will ask him to contribute to big expenses. Most recently, he helped pay for renovations around the house, including getting new carpets and flooring. Without sufficient earnings from work to cover these costs, he used money from his student loans.

Though he admits that he could be using this money to improve his own financial prospects – he would like to start up a side hustle in the near future ​​– Daniyal says he feels a sense of responsibility to help out. 

“I have six sisters, so being the only man in the house, it’s expected of me, but I’m also happy and willing to do it,” he explains. “I just want my mum to be able to kick her feet up and not worry about money.” 

While Hyphen’s findings suggest that thousands of Muslims across the UK could be supporting their parents with household expenses, Amin says there are steps young people can take to improve their personal finances. 

First and foremost, she encourages all her clients to monitor their spending and put a monthly budget in place. “Getting clarity on your finances is the foundation for having good control over your money,” she says. 

The second most important thing, as Amin describes it, is “putting your money to work for you” through investing. “Muslims struggle the most with this because a lot of them don’t want to accrue interest. There are plenty of Sharia-compliant savings accounts that offer great returns for putting your money in, and you get profit, not interest. You can also invest in sukuks, which are like the halal version of traditional bonds.”

“It’s clear that young Muslims have more pressure on them,” she adds. “That’s why financial planning now is more important than ever.”

 Some names have been changed

Read more on Hyphen’s exclusive Gen Z poll

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