Christina Wolfgram
Updated August 06, 2015 8:30 am

How do you answer that age-old question, “What if you won the lottery?” Usually, when I daydream about suddenly having $1 billion (because that’s about how much money one wins in the lottery, right?), I try to imagine some selfless ways to use my winnings before I start shelling dollars out for a personal jet filled with golden retriever puppies. “I could buy my parents a mansion,” I think. “It’s what Beyoncé would do.”

It turns out I’m not the only millennial interested in giving back to mom and dad: a recent study by TD Ameritrade shows that 1/5 (that’s 20 percent!) of Americans between the ages of 17 and 34 are financially supporting their parents. These awesome millennials are much more Beyoncé than I am, spending an average of $12,000 a year providing for their folks — not by winning the lottery, but by working hard and staying savvy with money.

Matthew Sadowsky, director of retirement at TD Ameritrade, spoke to Yahoo! Finance about how this information shatters the “too lazy and poor to move away from home” millennial stereotype created by the media in recent years. “To the tune of roughly 20% of millennials that we surveyed are providing financial support to their parents,” he said. “It’s not just the case that millennials are sitting at home after college, and parents are ready to get rid of them.”

Sadowsky shared that millennials have funds to spare for their elders because they are not shackled with as many financial responsibilities as past generations. “[Millennials] don’t have children yet in many instances,” he said. “In many instances, they don’t have adult children, so certainly they’re more focused on providing for their adult parents.” The Atlantic reported similar findings, concluding that millennials are not as likely to buy a house or car compared to their parents and grandparents when they were younger.

Even though this penny-pinching trend is totally awesome if it’s providing financial freedom, Sadowsky warned that millennials should prepare for the future and avoid unnecessary stress by planning to continue allocating part of their income to their parents. When this generation does start to accumulate homes, cars, and kids (cha ching, cha ching, cha ching), their parents probably aren’t going to start making any more money and will continue to be dependent on the extra help.

But what if, after years of setting aside moola for mom and dad, it’s they who win the lottery, no longer needing your support? Sadowsky said, “Wonderful. You have more money down the road to take a great vacation.”

Sounds like a win either way.

(Images via iStockPhoto, here, and here.)