Mom can I borrow $100? Dad I need some money for a down payment on a house, our daughters dance class payment is coming up and we are short can you ‘lend’ us some money to cover the fees, as it would be heart breaking to take her out of dance? We are running short and need some grocery money this week – could you help us out? The grand boy needs braces and we don’t have the down payment, can you give it to us? Any of these scenarios sound familiar?
The reality is that once a child grows up and becomes and adult, there is no guarantee that they won’t have a trouble-free, financially sound life. There are obviously times when everyone could use a little financial assistance, and as parents, cutting the purse strings to needy children completely can be difficult. That being said, there are also quite a few ‘adults’ out there, with families of their own who are still literally hanging on to their parents purse strings and depending upon them to get them through a life that they have built without realistic financial goals.
Before just writing the checks to keep your adult children afloat, experts advise that you take some time to find out about the situation. Ask about their whole financial picture, about what their plans are to get back on their feet to possibly avoid this situation in the future. If the problem is mismanaging money, and not planning well throwing money at the situation is nothing more than a temporary solution. Aiding an adult child to remain financially irresponsible has been proven to only continue the habit, and the more you say yes and the more you give, the more comfortable the kids will be at asking and expecting money. In other words, their safety net in times of trouble should not always be using the parents as the rescuer. Additionally, eventually you will grow tired of constantly ‘lending’ money and will feel taken advantage of. According to psychological experts, grown children should keep their money matters as private as possible and should learn to continue a habit of co-dependence. Not only does this money lending and borrowing create friction, it also makes it more difficult for parents of adult children to truly respect healthy familial boundaries.
Still, these are your children and you may feel bad for their situation and may want to help. Sometimes assistance can be given by giving advise, helping them secure a loan of their own to help get them through (which will force them to repay the loan), or helping with child sitting so one parent can get a part time job and bring more money into the home. Another way of assisting grown children who are hanging on to those outdated purse strings is to sit down with them and help them budget and finance and perhaps help them come up with a financial plan. Sometimes, a new pair of eyes on a situation could be just the thing they need. And, if they cannot afford dance class for the grandchildren, then perhaps the child should withdrawal from dance until the family is better situated. In fact, teaching our young children the importance of money and money management should be a parenting goal.
If you have an adult child who has recently been laid off from a job or has recently experienced a life change that dramatically changes their financial picture and is simply asking for a loan then you have to decide if you are able to give it. You also have to make sure that this lent money is really a loan, or if your child will ever be able to pay it back. And if you truly expect for the loan to be paid back, then there should be payment plans and promissory notes made ahead of time. Certainly, unfortunate things happen to hard working people. And if your child is not one to constantly ask for money, and is sincerely in need of temporary help, and you have the ability to give it then do so. But make sure that clear expectations are set as to whether you expect repayment or not.
Most importantly, make sure that before you make a loan, or give a gift to your child to help them during tough times YOU ARE FINANCIALLY sound yourself. Unfortunately, many parents of adult children go out of their way to help their children, and put themselves in the hole along the way. Learning to say no, especially if you cannot afford to help, does not mean that you don’t care. It simply means that you cannot, and your adult children should be able to understand that.
Additionally, adult parents need to know when to say when. If your child is constantly asking you for a little bit of money here and there, then you need to set limits and boundaries. Consider what will happen when you get older, and will not be around to always save your child from financial doom? And if you have loaned money, but see your adult child spending money on things they really don’t need, then close down the Bank of Mom and Dad until they can learn how to be financially responsible for themselves.
The reality is that no one can tell you what should or should not do when it comes to handing your adult children. When it comes to money, you have to ascertain how you feel about lending, whether the lending is a constant gesture, and what will truly benefit your child’s life. If you feel your child is taking advantage of you, but you are determined to help out anyway, start making payments to the dance company or the grocery store directly, rather than handing out cash or checks made out to the kids. And, if you are unable to help or feel that, you constantly have to help financially then say no, and let the kids know that the purse strings are being severed. After all, although they are your children, they are also adults who need to learn to work through tough times and make adjustments in their life to live a life THEY can afford, without your help.