Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Not-So-Financially Grown-Up Kids

While I'm not certain that Jung got it right about Synchronicity, there are still plenty of examples in daily life. Witness my thoughts about giving money to my children, which coincided with a "Ask Amy's" column in Today's Washington Post and a new entry on World of Wealth. [You may have to register to get on the Washington Post site, but registration is free.]

Amy's inquirer and Meg's family are at opposite ends of the issue. How do you handle it when you don't have the money to keep on giving the way you used to, or how do you make decisions about giving the money, when you do have it. Meg, of course, has the "problem" of how to graciously accept the gifts--we should all have her issues!

I note that many of the personal finance bloggers and those who comment on the blogs either have no adult children or have no children at all. Frankly this makes it easier for them to stand back and insist that one's adult children "stand on their own two feet." I will be interested to see how it works out for them as they do have families, and their children become adults. Given that many of us took to baring our financial souls on the internet because we were not exactly role models when it came to our own finances, will we be surprised if our kids aren't all that good at it either?

I've never had large sums to give to any of my daughters, but like the parents who wrote Amy for advice, my children do expect me to cover meals out, to help them with payments here and there when they run into trouble, to cover tuition and books for college (fortunately, my granddaughter is using the local community college for her higher education), and generally to "be there" for them financially. I don't think any of them has a clear idea of what I make or what my expenses are.

I have two conflicting mindsets about all of this. On one hand, I adopted children who were damaged, both emotionally and organically. I knew it was unlikely they would ever achieve my level of education or income. So helping them out has been built in to my parenting, and that did not end when they became adults and left home. On the other hand, we all have to be realistic. I cannot afford to support five families. I have to prioritize what I'm willing to give my children, and I do make an effort to equalize the monies that I give out.

I estimate that, on average, I spend about $600 a month on my children and grandchildren. Not all of that is spent in any given month, but I spend more than that three times a year when my granddaughter's college tuition comes due. So, $600 a month on average. That is money that could go a long way toward reducing my credit card debt.

I have not completely worked out how I feel about this expense. Right now, I include it in my budget. And right now, it is all financially doable. But I wonder how it will play out if/when I find myself in the position of Amy's letter-writer.


MEG said...

Thanks for the mention! I'll definitely have to check out Amy's article.

MEG said...

After reading the Washington Post article (which I didn't have to register to view), I can say that I definitely feel for those parents! Grown children - especially those who are more financial stable than their parents - should always sincerely try to pay! It's the least they can do - literally.

I have to admit that I still expect my parents to pay when we go out as a family, but we rarely do that -and I and my siblings are still young and as a group are not financially independent (2 are still in school). I have begun to insist on purchasing my own airfare home for Christmas though.

But my mother and father and their siblings always try to insist on paying when my grandparents take us out - even though it's their parents who are markedly more financially stable. Usually an embarrassing fight over the check ensues, and my grandparents always win. But I'm sure they appreciate the gesture!

Sharon said...

This is a tough one. Sometimes I think I "give" my kids too much because I certainly would be unable to sustain it.

Will you be able to support your kids when you retire? I'm prone to the "die down" plan, where you give a smaller amount each year until you don't give them anything and they are used to it.

At least that's what I think I will do. Thanks for the post, it's given me some perspective on my situation!

Fede said...

You're right, most of the bloggers don't have kids, me included, by choice. I, however still take care of one of my siblings (long story), so in addition to keeping my own house, l also pay his mortgage and all his bills. It's becoming more trying as time goes by and some of my rentals are no longer producing. It will come to a head soon, and l hope he can stand on his own two feet from then on, but sometimes, l'm afraid it's gone on for so long, he may have a hard time letting go. In my culture, when l go out with my nieces, nephews etc. l pay as the older one, that's just the way it is, so l try not to do it too! My not having kids has enabled me to be able to help my siblings with their children's schooling. My father passed away 14 years ago and every single penny from my portion of the estate goes to helping them. It's set up in a bank account and whoever needs it most when dividends are paid takes it. I have told them they will all pay me back when l'm old and retired..l will pass my days visiting each one for a month or so, there are so many of them it would take like 2 years to make a circle, so they can put up with my shenanigans.. :o))

Anonymous said...

Tough call. Especially with today's status. I paid for my Grand daughter's college because she worked two jobs and carried a 4.0 gpa in high school. But then again I could afford it.
Could change after retirement.

I believe a parent makes those decisions on their ability to pay.

You can't take it with you.

Tessie said...

I don't have kids either, but I can tell you what it looks like from the point of view of being the child of parents who don't believe in giving financial assistance AT ALL to their adult children - It's great! Oh, they did give me a nice chunk of change for my wedding 14 years ago. 'Could've knocked me down with a feather. I really appreciated that, because I wasn't expecting it at all. But I didn't need it - my husband and I had already saved up for it!

I had to learn to stand on my own two feet at a fairly young age. I don't resent my parents for that at all. I was VERY highly motivated to get a decent job out of high school and work my way through college, because I knew I had to learn to take care of myself (I paid for every penny of my college education). I moved out when I was 20 years old and haven't looked back since (they didn't kick me out of the nest or anything, I was just eager to be truly independent). My parents gave me a great foundation in my childhood- 12 years of private school, for which I am extremely grateful. I have a great (adult) relationship with my parents, and I appreciate them very much for giving me such a strong work ethic. P.S. When we go out to eat, we all pay for our own meals.

Revanche said...

I read the article and that notion seems completely foreign to me. I mean, once you're an independent adult with your own income, you should be treating your parents. Obviously, in your kids' case, it's a bit different but the kids in this article sound more than capable of paying for their own meals.

I'm another PF blogger without children of my own, but my parents and older brother are dependent on me, and in many ways, I've been forced into a parental role with my brother because they couldn't tell him to stand on HIS own two feet. They couldn't tell him much of anything at all, really.

It was hard enough picking up after him, as they did, as I got older. Standing up and telling him to get his act together and make an honest living and actually forcing him to toe that line was infinitely harder. It was a hellish (and still is) experience, made even more difficult by the fact that my parents needed me to play the heavy whilst they continued to enable him in small ways.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do next about him, except that I don't care if I do have good enough income to support him, I'm not going to keep doing so. He's 30, he needs to learn basic life skills.

I'm pretty sure that if I ever have children of my own, "standing on their own two feet" is going to be a major theme of their childhoods. It's just too heartbreaking to have to repeatedly try to rehabilitate a kid who wasn't taught and held to that standard.

Louise said...

yes, the realities of having children are a bit different to the expectations beforehand!

I always touted the 'they will stand on their own two feet" mainly because I got very little from my parent, in fact I have ended up paying thousands for their bills.

But then I had my own kids and life just isn't that cut and dried in reality! I've always told them we will give them a good education, but don't expect an inheritance or a big wedding.

Both are still in college. DD often shouts us now that she is working, she takes us to the pictures, buys us a meal, or a gift sometimes which is really nice.
as the moment we are in the middle of an ageing parent that has expenses and two young adult children trying to 'launch'! i'm looking forward to the day we just need to worry about ourselves financially again.

Miss M said...

Well in about 20 years I may be able to blog about having adult children, but until then I can only give the perspective of an adult child. My parents usually pay for meals out, though we'll pick it up from time to time or will cover some part of the bill. The last time my parents really helped me out was when I bought my house, other than that they haven't supported me since I finished college 10 years ago. I have friends/peers whose parents are still helping with rent, food and bills. To me that is counting on your parents too much, at some point their parents won't be able to fork over the cash. What then? I do think it's best for parents to encourage their kids to stand on their own two feet, or they'll never learn to do it on their own. But that doesn't preclude being there to rescue them if/when they are in trouble. Parents should help out their children as much as they are comfortable to, no more. I recently wrote about how my family drained all my grandmother's money over the years, many commenters pointed out it was her choice to give it to them. Now that she is gone they will have to learn how to survive without the handouts, it will be interesting.

Sylvia said...

I'm guessing that many of us - when we first had kids - thought that the financial obligations would be onerous for a number of years and then they'd be "launched" and we'd have more money to spend. Life doesn't always work out that way. In the end, I try to give as much as I think I can and am grateful that I am in a position to help my kids out when they need a hand. I didn't have that luxury growing up and when they were little and I was raising the three of them on my own there just wasn't any money to spare. Now that I've retired they realize that I'm on a more limited budget and we're all okay with that. it's an adjustment for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Mine grew up poor (the children of a divorce). I supported them as well as I was able, and through their own efforts, they succeeded in getting a good education and are doing well in life. The down side (for me) is that I'm not very important to them now. I can't do much for them, but their in-laws can and do, and consequently they have a much larger role in their lives. I have so often wished I could have given them more.