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Meet the sons and daughters giving pocket money to their parents

Nicole Xie and her parents standing against a wall decorated with graffiti.
Nicole suggested giving her parents money when she started working two years ago.

Supplied: Nicole Xie

It might seem odd to some of her Australian friends, but 28-year-old Nicole Xie doesn't think twice about splitting her pay cheque with her parents.

In a ritual that plays out in many families of Chinese background, Ms Xie regularly passes on hundreds of dollars when she receives her wages.

The Melbourne credit officer transfers $600 a fortnight for her parents' utility bills, council rates and living expenses, even after moving out of the Point Cook family home last October.

Ms Xie plans to help her parents financially for as long as possible, to reciprocate the support she received while growing up.

The practice of subsidising the lifestyle of ageing mums and dads is central to Chinese culture, though often not expected by parents.

It's more common for children to contribute in low-to-middle income households than in wealthy families.

"Being an international student, my parents have paid a lot to get me to where I'm at now," said Ms Xie, who migrated to Australia in 2009.

Ms Xie said she suggested giving money to her parents after she started working two years ago, and calculated the amount she could afford after setting aside cash for her must-haves and a portion for savings.

Pookong Kee, director of University of Melbourne's Asia Institute, said there was a cultural expectation for Chinese children to take care of their parents.

When children started working, and had the capacity, they were expected to "return the care" their parents gave them when they were young, he said.

Nicole Xie stands on the tram tracks in Melbourne.
Nicole Xie wants to give her parents money because they supported her when she was young.

Supplied: Nicole Xie

Westernisation threatens tradition

An important value in Chinese societies is "filial piety" — the duty of respect, obedience and care for one's parents and elderly family members.

While some children see financially supporting parents as their responsibility, others feel pressured to do the same as their siblings or risk failing to live up to expectations.

"There are so many examples in the Chinese upbringing of children, where stories are [told] about how filial children look after their parents, so it's a very deeply ingrained kind of a value," Professor Kee said.

Professor Kee said giving money was sometimes more of a token than real financial assistance.

In Singapore, taking care of elderly parents is part of the law.

The Maintenance of Parents Act enables Singapore residents aged 60 or older, and who are unable to support themselves, to "claim maintenance" from their children if they are able provide it but aren't.

"Parents can sue their children for lack of maintenance, in the form of monthly allowances or a lump-sum payment," the National Library Board Singapore's website says.

Housing boom forces change in plan

After graduating from high school in 2007, Liana Tran ambitiously started saving for a house for her parents.

"Back then, I didn't know how hard it would be to buy a house in Sydney, but I started saving anyway because I heard from my cousin that the hardest part of owning a house is having the deposit rather than making the repayments," the 27-year-old said.

Liana Tran stands next to her mother, father and younger sister.
Liana Tran has been putting aside money for her parents' retirement for the past decade.

Supplied: Liana Tran

Ms Tran, an engineer, has been putting aside between $100 and $500 almost every month over the past decade.

She decided to use the savings for her parents' retirement when she realised she couldn't afford to buy a house for them.

"They are currently OK financially, but they don't have much saved for their retirement," she said.

"It's just something small I can do to give back to them as thanks for looking after us."

Ms Tran said her parents had helped her with a deposit to buy a one-bedroom apartment last year.

Although her parents don't expect her to return the money, she also sees her monthly savings as a repayment plan.

Kids pay the bills to ease golden years

Melbourne mother-of-two, Helen Wong, and her siblings contribute to their parents' needs in their own ways, such as paying for bills including health insurance.

Helen Wong stands next to her husband in a park.
Helen Wong, pictured with her husband, appreciates the sacrifices their parents made for her.

Supplied: Helen Wong

Ms Wong, who is currently taking a break from her career, said her parents did not expect their children to support them financially.

"They know that we have our own families to care for," she said.

"They have always been selfless putting our needs and wants above their own — and still do today."

Ms Wong said taking care of her parents, who are both retired and living in Melbourne, came down to culture and family values.

"I know how hard it was for them to raise us — a migrant family.

"Putting my folks into a retirement home is not even on the radar. Rather, [my siblings and I] talk about who has the extra room to take them in."