Still Supporting your Adult Children?
written by Mike Ballew January 21, 2024

Did you know that almost half of young adults aged 20-30 live at home with their parents? Is this the best way to foster responsibility and self-reliance in our children?

As parents, we care deeply about our children’s well-being. We want them to succeed and be happy in life. 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 own way in this world. A lot of maturation takes place when a young person realizes they have to live with the consequences of their own decisions.

Gen Z

Perhaps you’ve heard about the challenges employers face when hiring Gen Z employees. They come onboard expecting perks that normally come with tenure. Things such as vacation, private offices, and managerial positions. When those expectations are not met, they walk. 

And why not? Gen Zers who live at home with their parents have no responsibilities. To them, a job is more like a hobby. They have no mortgage, no bills to pay, and no family to support. 

A Practical Approach to Parenting

Parents bear much of the responsibility for the current state of affairs. They have coddled and helicoptered to the point where we see increasingly weaker generations. Think back to WWII. 18-year-olds slogging through muddy trenches of France in freezing cold weather to rid the world of Nazis. Real Nazis, not someone who triggered them with a microaggression.

The way to set your children on the path to financial independence is to teach them how to make good decisions. One practical approach is to encourage them to work at a young age. Have them drive a beater car back and forth to work until they save enough money to buy their own car. This helps develop a work ethic, as well as an appreciation for the value of money.

Financial Enabling

Financial enabling is providing money to someone so they can keep doing what they are doing. If they are doing cancer research, it's a good thing. If they're an able-bodied adult who refuses to work, it's a bad thing.

A classic example is providing an endless stream of money to a chronic debtor to rescue them from one financial crisis after another. Or serving as an emergency fund for someone who can’t be bothered with saving or planning for the future.

Enablers don’t see that their generosity fuels dependency. They remove all motivation for the adult child to become self-sufficient. Enablers often believe that this handout will be the last – but it never is.

It’s called enabling for a reason. You are enabling your adult child to continue their bad behavior. They know that you’re going to be there to fix everything and make it all better. They don’t have to do anything for themselves. They don’t have to work, they don’t have to save, and they don’t have to resist the temptation to buy things they can’t afford.

Still Supporting your Adult Children?

A study found that 80% of parents of young adults pay for some or all of their expenses. 56% pay for groceries, 40% pay for health insurance, 39% pay cell phone bills, 34% pay for car insurance, 21% pay for rent, and 20% pay for their adult child’s entertainment. 

Are you still supporting your adult children? Are you a financial enabler? The way to stop enabling is to recognize what you are doing, admit that it’s wrong, and stop doing it. It helps if you have a history of doing what you say you’re going to do.

The trouble with many parents today is they don’t follow through on 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." But the child continues the behavior and there are no consequences. Nothing ever happens, and the kids know it. Is it any wonder they behave like little monsters?

The Last Word

Parents, we’re not saying never help your children. If you have an adult child who has been financially responsible 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, something needs to change. They will never have the motivation to do the right thing until you stop coming to their rescue.

The truth is, you may never retire if don’t stop supporting your adult children. You are taking funds that should be going to your retirement and giving them to your adult child who is perfectly capable of supporting themselves. Someone who is younger than you, healthier than you, and more able to work than you. If you are still supporting your adult children, you need to stop.

Photo credit: Freepik Eggstack News will never post an article influenced by an outside company or advertiser. Our mission is to help you overcome uncertainty about retirement planning and inspire confidence in your financial future.
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Eggstack founder, Financial Planning Association member, engineer, and software developer.