How Parents Can Find The Right Time To Cut The Financial Cords With Their Adult Children


Mary Jo Cutlas often talks to her daughters about responsible spending and elicits a familiar response.

“My kids always roll their eyes at me and say, ‘Yes, Mom, we understand the difference between needs and wants.

The fact that “coming of age” is now a verb reflects the confusion many parents face over whether to provide financial support or pursue personal responsibility for their grown children.

Cutlas learned that balance in her work as program leader for the Extension Department of Family, Health and Wellbeing at the University of Minnesota. She has been discussing money with her daughters, ages 14 to 20, since her early childhood.

More than two-thirds of parents of young people have made or are making financial sacrifices to help them, according to a survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted last month by . Parents say they sacrificed savings for retirement (43%), paying off their own debt (49%), saving for emergency savings (51%), or reaching financial milestones (55%).

On the other hand, many baby boomers believe that grown-up children should pay their bills gradually, from 19 to 22, and Gen Z’s preferred 21 to 24 range. Yes, the study says.

Here’s some advice on how parents and children can bridge that divide.

face the harsh truth

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the stalling of adulthood as many families have formed isolation bubbles. The Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center reported in July 2020 that for the first time since the Great Depression, the majority of young people were living with their parents.

Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of adults surveyed by Pew in 2019 believed that children should be financially independent by age 22. However, the percentage was only 24%.

Wages haven’t caught up with costs in recent years, but Jack Stoltzfuss, a Shoreview psychologist, believes baby boomers and Gen X parents are more emotionally attached to their children than previous generations. We consider ourselves hesitant to set financial boundaries.

“If the financial support you’re giving young adults creates more dependence than independence or self-sufficiency, then I think that’s a problem,” he said.

Some frustrated parents with unmotivated 20-somethings seek professional help to help their child make the leap into adulthood. There are also times when a financial her advisor initiates a conversation with a client.

Not all parents are acceptable.

“The tough conversation for me is, ‘We have to stop supporting our adult children,'” said Grant Mayer, financial advisor and founder of GTS Financial in Bloomington. I recall a former client who, against his advice, took out six figures of student loan debt that he was due to pay in his seventies on behalf of his adult children.

find the right mix

Experts say reasonable financial support can include things like allowing adult children to live at home, covering health care and sharing family meals together. I agree.

Joyce Cerrido, a professor and financial behavior expert at the University of Minnesota, advises parents trying to motivate their adult children back home that their clothes, cell phones, credit cards, and other monthly We recommended that we refuse to cover the bills of

“You can’t make them work,” she said. “But you can stop welfare checks.”

Stoltzfus advises asking yourself three questions before giving your parents money. Am I acting primarily out of love, not fear, anxiety, or shame? Am I acting according to my principles?

learn to say no

Do not do everything for adult children. If you want to help your son or daughter buy a car, offer to contribute a portion of the purchase price.

“That way they can stay in the game, and I think they’re more likely to be more self-sufficient that way,” Stoltzfus said. “If I only buy cars for them, they don’t have any skins in the game.”

After seeing parents go too far for their adult children, financial advisor Meyer agreed.

He describes his typical client as akin to “the billionaire next door.” Some of those who amassed this wealth feel guilty for not helping their adult children more.

“Over the last 15 years of my experience, I have seen clients continue to enable and financially support their adult children, but it has not benefited them.”

Wealthy parents feel the most pressure by rationalizing extravagant gifts so that their children will inherit the money when they die, Serido said.

call to action

If you don’t develop a sense of responsibility and self-control in your 20s, it’s very difficult to do so after you’re 30, or even 35, according to Cerid’s research.

Stoltzfus sees parents fear exacerbating anxiety and depression around their adult children. But slowing down the cycle of failed launches can push young adults into even greater tailspins.

“I think the answer is to challenge yourself to step up with the help of your mental health. Get a job, take a class, volunteer, exercise,” she said. Stoltzfus said, “Just sitting here is not a reasonable option.”

When frustrated parents contact him in cases of extreme launch failures, he helps them come to joint agreements, but advises parents and adult children to counsel separately to develop a five-year plan. Start from

“I’ve never had a young adult say, ‘I want to stay home with Mom and Dad,'” he said.

Even young adults with disabilities are often able to work and in some cases live independently from their mothers and fathers.

Katras believes she has set the right tone for her children to become independent. Her one daughter in college earns her own money and becomes responsible for her own student loans.

There are conditions if my daughters go home after graduation.

“If you’re in a low-motivation situation, you might have a tough relationship,” says Cutras. “There’ll have to be a timeline and you’re out.”

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