Surely you have heard the story of Michael Rotondo, the 30 year old New Yorker whose parents had to evict him to get him to move out of their home. Obviously, their intent was to encourage him to grow up and take responsibility for his life. The case went through the legal system and Rotondo moved out. So it was a success, right? Not exactly. Rotondo moved in with a relative. He basically swapped one couch for another. It should come as no surprise that he doesn’t have a job.
There is nothing wrong with helping our children, as parents that’s what we do. But when a child is old enough to support themselves, the best thing we can do is get out of the way. By the time an able-bodied adult reaches their mid-twenties, they should be self-sufficient and living on their own. We all have to make our way in this world. A lot of maturing takes place when a young adult realizes they have to live with the consequences of their decisions.
Parents, I am not saying never help under any circumstances. If you have an adult child who has been financially responsible over a period of time and he or she experiences a setback, help them. It’s a good investment and any loving parent would do the same. But if you have an adult child who is continually coming to you for money due to insufficient earnings and/or overspending, something has to change. A child like that will never have the motivation to do the right thing until you stop coming to their rescue.
There is a right way and a wrong way to set your child on the path to financial independence. The right way is to teach them how to make good decisions and how to handle money. For example, just because you can afford to get them a car for their sixteenth birthday, it doesn’t have to be whatever they want.
Encourage your child to earn their own money. You can buy an older family car that’s been well taken care of and they can drive that back and forth to work until they save up enough money to buy their own car. That’s what my parents did, and I did the same for my children. It helps your child develop a healthy appreciation of the value of money. Here’s a picture of my youngest son standing beside the car I bought him after he turned 16.
At the age of ten, my parents began giving me an allowance and they opened a savings account in my name. I saved my allowance and enjoyed watching the numbers increase in my account passbook.
At the time I wanted to be a photographer so I saved up to buy a 35mm camera. I was 13 years old when I purchased an Olympus OM-1 via mail-order for the handsome sum of $165. I no longer have the camera, but for nostalgia's sake I bought another one just like it on eBay.
As I said, there is a right way and a wrong way to develop financial independence in our children. The wrong way is to set a bad example by how we live our lives and never discussing anything with them of a financial nature.
Doing things the wrong way can have unfortunate consequences. Take Joel and Lisa Guy for example. In November of 2016, a family friend discovered their dismembered bodies strewn about their Knoxville home. Police arrested 28-year-old Joel Guy, Jr. and charged him with two counts of capital murder. It turns out his parents were in the process of cutting him off financially and he wasn’t too keen on the idea.
Here is a photo of Joel Guy, Jr. Take a good look at him. If one of your children ever has that same crazy look in their eyes, seek professional help immediately.
Financial enabling is providing money to someone so they can keep doing what they are doing. If they're doing cancer research, it's a good thing. If it's providing financial support to an able-bodied adult child who refuses to work, it's a bad thing. So is handing over money to a chronic debtor to save them from one financial crisis after another, or serving as an emergency fund for someone who refuses to save.
Financial enabling relieves the recipient of the need to solve their own problems. They think, why solve my problems when I’ve got this idiot to do it? I can live carefree! Tra la la, tweedle dee dee, I’m as happy as can be!
Enablers don’t see that their generosity fuels the dependency. Their enabling takes away any motivation on the child's part to do better and become self-sufficient. Enablers often believe this handout will be the last. But of course it never is.
It’s called enabling for a reason. You are enabling your adult child to continue their bad behavior. They know you’re going to be there to fix everything and make it all better, so they don’t have to do anything for themselves. They don’t have to work, they don’t need to save, and they don’t have to resist the urge to buy things they can’t afford.
A recent survey found that 80 percent of parents with children 18 or older have paid for some or all of their child’s expenses. 56 Percent have helped pay for groceries, 40 percent have paid for health insurance, 39 percent paid cell phone bills, 34 percent paid for car insurance, 21 percent paid for rent, and 20 percent have paid for their adult child’s entertainment.
Entertainment? Really? If junior can’t afford to go on a date, maybe he should get a job.
Are you still supporting your adult children? Are you a financial enabler? The way to stop enabling is to recognize what you are doing and stop doing it. It helps if you have a history of doing what you say you’re going to do. When my kids were growing up, I did exactly what I said I was going to do, every time, without exception. I did not make empty threats. I calmly informed them exactly what was going to happen if they didn’t stop doing what they were doing.
That’s the trouble with many parents today, they don’t do what they say they’re going to do. How many times have you overheard a parent say, “If you do that again, you’re going to get it," or “I’m going to count to three, and you better stop before I get to three"? But then the kid keeps doing it and there are no consequences. Nothing ever happens, and kids know it. Is it any wonder they behave like little monsters and do whatever they want?
It’s never too late to change. Sit down with your adult child and explain that you are setting a deadline. By this date you will have a job and have somewhere else to live. Give them two or three months, no more. Tell them if they don’t have a job and somewhere else to live by then, you are going to call an Uber and have them dropped at the nearest homeless shelter.
Then do it.
I know this is hard, believe me when I say that. I have two adult children, one just over 30 and the other just under. Over the years I have had discussions with them about this and it is not fun. There will be more discussions because at the moment neither one of them has a job. No, they don’t live with us and we are not financially supporting them. I have made it abundantly clear, that is not an option.
The harsh truth is, you may never be able to retire if don’t stop supporting your adult children. You are taking funds that should be going into your retirement savings and diverting them to your children. Children who are younger than you, healthy than you, more energetic than you, and more capable of working than you. Stop supporting your adult children. Stop enabling them. Just stop.
Set a deadline and follow through on it. Someday they will thank you.Photo credit: Pixabay