Mellody Hobson talks about how to let our kids spread their wings and fly financially on today’s “Money Mondays” segment.
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly half of middle-aged adults gave financial support to a grown child last year. Half. You can blame it on the sluggish economy or the rough job market or say we’ve raised a generation of slackers, but the end result is the same: A lot of would-be empty-nesters are continuing to house their adult children. And if they’re not providing room and board, they’re subsidizing rent or paying for insurance. That’s all fine and well if your child has just hit a rough patch and you can afford to help, but many baby boomers are finding themselves sandwiched between the needs of their aging parents and their grown children, and they can’t take the financial strain. In that case, it’s the kids who need to need to be pushed into financial independence.
How do you suggest approaching that?
In an ideal situation, you have the time and money to set them up for success. Instead of cutting them off cold turkey, experts agree it’s best to give them a few months notice. One way to help them transition is to offer to match any money they save up to whatever amount you deem appropriate. With this method, you ease your child into self-sufficiency incrementally. For instance, if they live at home, begin charging a modest rent before simply giving them an eviction notice.
So how do you have “The Talk?”
Plan what you’re going to say and then just cut to the chase. Be direct and honest. If you need to focus on your retirement, share that with your child. Let them know that you were happy to help while you could (or while you were willing, if you’ve simply decided it’s time to let them sink or swim). And to that point, a little tough love can go a long way. It might be hard to stomach as a parent, but you may need to watch your child try and fail a little to learn some valuable life lessons. Too much support for too long can be a disservice to you both.
According to a recent Harris survey, 26% of parents have taken on additional debt in order to help their children. Approximately 10% have put off retirement and another 10% have put off moving due to the costs of supporting an adult child.
It’s not such a shock when you consider that the average student loan debt load has doubled in the past 20 years from $12,000 to $24,000. That debt has been harder for recent college grads to pay off with the ailing economy and a ruthless job market, but the tide is turning now, and it may be time to give your kid a firm nudge.
Any other tips for parents in this situation?
First, I’d try to spare people the situation in the first place, and to that end, I encourage parents of college-aged kids to watch their child’s borrowing. Student loans for living expenses are all-too available, and an 18-year-old with an infinite expense account is dangerous. Try to keep the borrowing confined to direct school costs—tuition, fees and books. When Ramen, bean bag chairs mini-fridges end up on the tab, it can get unmanageable pretty quick.
My parting advice is when you bite the bullet and decide it’s time to take your kid off the family payroll, just to be as empathetic and emotionally supportive as you can be. Tell your children how capable you know they are of taking responsibility for themselves financially, and remind them that you will always be there to serve as a sounding board and provide advice, counsel and emotional support.