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How to Get Your Adult Children to Stop Relying on You Financially

By: Scott Van Den Berg, CFP®, ChFC®, CEPA®, AIF®, CRPS®, CMFC®,  AWMA®

Having two young adult children of my own and one still in middle school, I understand first hand the time, effort, and emotion involved in helping them financially transition into adulthood. We jokingly call it "adulting" in my house. Whether it's as simple as giving a hand to your adult children by covering their phone bill or as significant as contributing to a down payment on a home, as children transition into adulthood, many may be hard-pressed to find a parent who loses the desire to support their kids, both emotionally and financially. This is why it can be so hard to wean your adult children off of your bank account.

If you’re helping out your kids into adulthood, you’re not alone. A 2018 Pew Research Center found that only 24 percent of young adults were financially independent by age 22 or younger, compared to 32 percent in 1980.  While one can consider parental financial support a hindrance to one’s ability to become fully self-sufficient, there is another grave side-effect: your shrinking retirement savings. 

So how can you bring an end to financially supporting your adult children? Ease the process with the four suggestions below.

Be Transparent in Your Communication

When first letting your children know that you will no longer pay their phone bill, help out with groceries, or give them an envelope filled with cash for the holidays, make sure to explain why. Remind them that this is not about your lack of care or love for them, but rather it is for their long-term benefit and ability to provide for themselves, long after you’re gone. 

Let them know that it may affect your ability to retire comfortably or to cover potential health costs in the future. By appealing to their compassion and treating them as fellow adults, you can actually give a sense of empowerment to your children.

Give Your Children an Adequate Timeline 

If your kids are used to a monthly check, phone support, or even one-off amounts of money when in need, it can be a shock to immediately cut off the financial supply. Giving your children time to organize their finances and emotionally prepare to fully support themselves is one way to lead them towards successful financial independence. 

In addition, giving them a timeline creates an objective boundary that might be hard to set otherwise. If you wait until you think your kids can handle it, or until you feel “ready,” the time may never come. Choosing a date and sticking to it puts the decision in stone and makes it easier to follow through.

Provide the Tools to Succeed

I have found that educating your adult children on best practices for managing their money can increase their confidence while giving them the means to budget, spend and save properly. You can give them advice on your own or point them towards a wealth management firm like Century Management, which has various benefits. Having worked with many clients and their families over the past 28 years, it has been my experience that it may be easier to bring in an independent advisor to explain how your ongoing financial support can be detrimental to your retirement and well-being, or that you have other wants and wishes for this money. By having this honest conversation with your kids, it will give them more clarity on the situation.

Having an objective perspective can take the emotion out of the decision, making it more of a logical next step. As a financial planner, I have enjoyed working with kids of all ages organize and better understand their finances. This is a great first step in becoming financially literate and independent. It is my experience that most kids appreciate the opportunity to better understand money, budgets, and their financial future.   

Prepare to Still Feel Responsible

As you put a stop to financially supporting your kids, you may still feel twinges of desire to help them out. The first step towards dealing with these emotions is to expect that they may come up, but prepare yourself to avoid reacting. Even if your adult child struggles trying to figure out how to afford certain expenses, it is ultimately this difficulty that can lead to growth on their end. When faced with financial realities, it will likely motivate your children to prepare, save and budget more diligently. 

Putting an end to financially supporting your adult children isn’t easy, especially with regard to current financial hardships. With 54 percent of young adults dealing with education debt, it can be emotionally difficult not to offer assistance if your kids are struggling.  However, by easing your adult children into independence and preparing them with the tools to effectively manage their money, you can smoothly move towards a healthier financial state for both you and your kids.

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  1. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/10/23/majority-of-americans-say-parents-are-doing-too-much-for-their-young-adult-children/
  2. https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/2019-economic-well-being-of-us-households-in-2018-student-loans-and-other-education-debt.htm  

Disclosures: This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.